And O Design’s Yumi Ando is happily consumed by her ceramic jewellery business during her waking hours, and her love and attention to the form is evident in every piece she creates. But jewellery design isn’t a simple leap from formal study into manufacture, or learning all you need and then jumping right in with commercially accepted ideas.

We visited Yumi in her home jewellery studio and she shared with us her path from growing up in Japan to relocating to Australia, studying interior design then finding her way to a self-taught ceramics practice, and what keeps her regularly inspired.

. . . . . . .

Did you study ceramics or jewellery design, or are you self-taught?
There isn’t much ceramic or jewellery related formal training under my belt aside from short-courses from time to time in Melbourne, and some basic pottery classes I took in Canberra over a decade ago. Luckily, I am blessed with a good eye for things, a knack for detailed manual work, and perhaps a fair serving of patience.
When I moved to Melbourne I studied Interior Design and Decoration at RMIT and I thought my career path would travel pretty straight in that direction.. however I was wrong. [I realised] ceramics provides almost everything I appreciate in an artistic sense. Flexibility to work with organic forms, immeasurable options in design, colour and feel, the ability to grow the stories of my pieces and their development over time.

It has taken many years to learn all of the techniques and little details that go into my making process. Hours of experimentation, trying different combinations of raw materials, adjusting firing temperatures, selecting the best tools for particular effects - it has been a self-taught process. Part of the joy and excitement with ceramics is the unknown. No two pieces are ever truly identical. Sometimes things go wrong, leading to disaster or sometimes an unexpected revelation, and other times everything goes wonderfully. I think you grow as a person through all this, and your designs naturally change with you, like a constant evolution from one idea to the next, with a thread of continuity between them.

Part of the joy and excitement with ceramics is the unknown. No two pieces are ever truly identical. Sometimes things go wrong, leading to disaster or sometimes an unexpected revelation, and other times everything goes wonderfully.

Can you tell us if/how the history of ceramics in your native Japan influences your work?
My cultural background incorporates a country and upbringing which highly respects craftsmanship and functional design. But the Japanese influence on my work is probably mostly subconscious. As I’m creating things, it never really crosses my mind and the pieces are formed instinctually. That is to say, I don’t purposefully set out to stamp a Japanese influence or traditions upon my work, but when they are there and prevalent, I accept them. One can’t simply ignore one’s upbringing or home, as I consider my work a very personal endeavour, so naturally some of my heritage is going to show.
Every once in a while, I like to return to Japan and visit my family, letting my eyes feast on the whole experience. The craftsmanship of old homes and temples, beautiful gardens, dynamic little art galleries, traditional paper and fabric shops all excite me and add to the brush of fresh air. It is also an opportunity to collect some unique tools and materials for my work, which brings a little piece of home into everything they touch.
From the beginning of my journey with ceramics, I never set out to attempt to conform with tradition or work through firm stages of mastery with the medium. This is the creative side of my personality perhaps, and also the influence of Australia’s pride in freedom, nature and individualism at play. I work within my own personal world where each piece is a direct reflection of who I am, as a person, and the stories I’d like to tell.

You have a beautiful studio workspace! How have you set it up to help with inspiration and production of your work?
The great benefit of incorporating your workspace into your home, is that it need not be a dry, simplistic or depersonalised zone. My studio, although rather cluttered at times, is a place for me to escape into things I love to do, surrounded by things that I adore. This isn’t to say that sometimes I don’t escape to the soft comforts of the lounge, and keep our rabbit company while whittling away at some work.
My studio, although rather cluttered at times, is a place for me to escape into things I love to do, surrounded by things that I adore.
A large window has become a leaning-post for an all-too-large mass of plant life, between which I have a view of the neighbour's garden and the odd foraging blackbird. The walls and most of the unused areas have become homes for artworks and other objects of inspiration. Being an older house, storage is severely limited. As a home for slabs of clay, tools, brushes, glazes, and not to mention thousands of small pieces in varying states of completion, I’ll be honest and use the word “cluttered”. It's not a chaotic space by any means, everything has its place, there just aren’t many empty places available. It's organised, workable, and intimate.

What does a typical day involve for you?
One might expect that by working in a home studio, that each day might blend into anonymity, but it's not the case. There are always personal challenges to climb, be they forming the initial pieces, firing, glazing or assembly, and no two days have the same schedule.
The process is organic. There aren’t eight hours in a day when you operate like this, sometimes there are only a few, sometimes there are twenty-four. Either way, the most important thing is to enjoy the process, relish the freedom and make ample time for experimentation. This is probably the most important and enjoyable part of the process, making time to play and bring some new ideas to life.For a portion of most days I’ll also quietly tap away on a laptop.

What is your favourite corner of the world and how does this inspire your creativity?
The adventurous side of me loves to travel, and trips away always lead to returning home with a head brimming full of fresh ideas. A little space and time away is a wise investment, and a break from studio life can really help put everything back into perspective.
There is something about the allure of South East Asia which always calls, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia over the years. It is eye opening to visit craft-villages and see some of the historic and commercial pottery districts in these countries, and appreciate the hard-working way they create such ornate and beautiful work. Obviously quite a few pieces from these countries have become part of a personal collection.

Anything can be inspiring really, it's just a case of opening up to what's around you, and taking the feelings home and transferring them into your art.

The natural world, be it through scenic views, mischievous animals or sunlight upon rice-fields has always felt very healing in these countries, especially if you endeavour to leave a majority of tourists and commercial facilities in your wake.
My husband and I are avid explorers, and can often spend hours poking around on an unexpected detour if something catches our eye. We’ve ridden an old scooter around the Golden Triangle, stopping to watch elderly ladies weaving on an old loom. We got terribly lost once on a walk in some of Thailand’s highlands, which eventuated in a swim in the Mekong (not a smart decision), an endless uphill hike, and eventually a ride home in the back of a local’s old truck. These kinds of trips always bring funny stories and fond memories home.

We don’t always really need to travel too far however. There are some favourite places in Victoria where we like to dig out the old kayak, rattle our bones on corrugated dirt roads, dip our feet in a river, investigate where gold was once mined or dig around for a few spears of worthy quartz.
Anything can be inspiring really, it's just a case of opening up to what's around you, and taking the feelings home and transferring them into your art.

. . . . . . .

Say hi to Yumi on Instagram @and_o_design

July 25, 2017 by Obus Clothing

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.