There are as many magazines discussing the world of clay as there are descriptors for people working in it —Ceramics Art and Perception, Ceramic Review, Ceramics Technical, New Ceramics, The Log Book, The Studio Potter and our national title, Journal of Australian Ceramics. These cater to all the potters, ceramicists, ceramic artists, makers, crafters, hobbyists, mudslingers, studio artists and designers out there. Each has its readership and shortcomings.
Now we have the arrival of one more.
Wiping the slip off your fingers, picking the stoneware from your fingernails and brushing the feldspar from your hair you can now approach Yarrobil. Conveniently it’s arrived in a thick, re-sealable plastic sleeve—great for keeping the studio grot from its gorgeous matt cover and perfectly weighted pages.
I guess it’s hard to judge any mag by its first issue (even if it does have a well designed cover) but with the Mansfield clan behind it, Yarrobil’s pedigree is without question —primo.
Yarrobil sets itself the challenging aims of‘publishing intelligent, lively and accomplished writing that is devoid of jargon’— in other words, pithy critical discussion (I was just about to add ‘liminal discourse’…. but that would never get past the Mansfield editorial team!). Fans of UNmagazine will therefore be bitterly disappointed as they will understand the majority Yarrobil – though with machete and packed lunch they can launch into Matthew Blakely’s ‘The Heart of the Matter’ . His wood-fired sculptural pieces are wonderful… but his long piece starts with lamentations on the lack of the general public’s knowledge of geology as relevant to the Leachian potter and ends with his next firing in a small wood kiln, to 1120°C in a neutral atmosphere and with a gently reduced cool to 1000°C.
Blakely’s was the first article and it got me worried, mud lovers don’t need more of this —its ilk has been seen before, especially in Ceramics Technical— you know, the one that has the 10 page articles analyzing crystal structures of ancient Bhutanese celadon glazes under digital microscopes, but doesn’t help you reproduce them. Luckily things get better.
From there we launch into a residency piece (standard fare in a clay mag, but always enjoyed; when we’re not on a residency we like to read about them), which coupled with Mike McWhinney’s (the most enviable of potters spreading his time between Sydney and Bali) piece sends us overseas for a while.
Thankfully there was not the ubiquitous ‘western ceramicist on holiday in third world country and discovers they have a ceramics tradition, backed up with digital SLR whose instruction booklet was lost’ article to follow.
There’s a bit of contemporary in situ clay work from Karen Harsbo, a comprehensive number from Sandy Lockwood with gorgeous images, the wood-fire smoke is a little thick in this issue it has to be said, as well as probably one of the most erudite and insightful articles from Owen Rye I’ve read in a while. Dr. Rye is seemingly on the editorial panel of every mud mag produced at the moment and after reading this little number, deservedly so.
Some of the more unique articles come from those writers who are not makers/teachers themselves from a writer living with ceramics to a photographer and collector and an arts journalist, these pieces give us a perspective from the other side of the clay splattered bench.
The Studio Potter, an American publication produced bi-annually for over 40 years, is probably the world’s most comprehensive clay publication. There is no fluff, it’s astute, often irreverent and counts some of the finest critics and craft minds amongst its regular contributors. Yarrobil’s concepts and goals are similar to that of TSP and looking at the contributors for issue 2, which amongst others includes big hitters; Garth Clark, Jacques Kaufmann as well as serial kiln builder Fred Olsen, they are heading in that direction.
May their bowls never dunt, their glaze never craze (unless they want it to) and their kiln give them more than they expected.
Andrei Davidoff is a ceramic artist and sculptor based in Melbourne, Australia. His functional ceramic pieces are predominantly wheel-thrown and are made from local clay in his Melbourne studio. They can be purchased in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and London through several stockists. Andrei completed his Masters in Fine Arts at RMIT University in 2012. His sculptures explore architectural structures and spaces through interventions.
Mark Brabham says:
Thank you Andrei. Waiting for my copy of Yarrobil. Articles and perspectives from a range of collaborators are interesting and necessary. Strong, critical reviews from respected writers are vital for this sector and engender gravitas from the discerning buyer that may not be currently engaging with this sector. How to kickstart a program of critiques, rather than descriptions, for every exhibition in Australia? Maybe a benefactor would donate say $10000 to a review fund administered by craft?