David Collins is a highly skilled Australian potter producing finely crafted stoneware, functional ware and ceramics.

David Collins’ pottery has strong traditional Japanese influences and an earthy organic aesthetic. Each piece is meticulously handcrafted, durable and designed for everyday use and enjoyment.

The process

“I love working with clay. It is a plastic, fluid substance that can be manipulated into shapes forming useful vessels.

To have the ball of clay on the wheel with an intention to create something new and fresh is intensely enjoyable. I love working with clay. I love the process from wet, malleable material to fired vitrified pottery. The process of raw clay to finished product is long and involved, but with experience the stages are achievable and even the end result predictable. This allows then for the creative process to bring about a fusion of materials, physical work and brainpower. There is a lot of waiting working with clay; pots drying ready for the kiln, loading the kiln, glazing the pots then firing the kiln. This waiting is like a meditation where each stage the results thus far are considered. The opening of the kiln at the completion of the process is both worrisome and wonderful. Will the end result thrill or disappoint?

I make these pots at Woodhill near Berry in my studio amongst the gum trees looking out onto the escarpment. My gas-fired kiln is my friend that entertains me when I have completed a body of work, rewarding me with the experience of seeing and using the successful result.

The simple pleasures in life are the best and making and enjoying a loved piece of pottery is one of those simple pleasures. If you purchase one of my pieces use it, enjoy it and value it.”  – David Collins, Potter

Influences and traditions

“I was first introduced to Japanese pots of the Kamakuri period (AD 1200-1336) during my training. This is pottery from the Six Ancient Kilns, Tokoname and Shigaraki being the ones that influenced my work the most. These pots had a simple rural beauty about them, often roughly finished or seemingly damaged by the firing process. These pots were organic, distinct by their location, where the clay used was characteristic of the geography. The pieces made were for practical purposes; seed storage, funeral urns, bowls and vases.

I use texture through incised lines and asymmetrical rims and distortions of the standard shape. The surface is then treated with an iron or cobalt slip and then covered with a calcium matt glaze. The firing process in a wood fired kiln melts all these competing ingredients into the end result. This organic, random means of creating art, leaving much to the vagaries of the kiln appealed to me and I have been working to give my individual interpretation of this method for forty years.

Using a gas fired kiln is far more predictable than pots made in ancient times, but awaiting the results of each firing are both exciting and nerve-wracking, as an unexpected surprise will often lead to new ways of glazing or making. I’m proud that my pots have been strongly influenced by work done hundreds of years ago.”  – David Collins, Potter

Shigaraki ware

“The name ‘Shigaraki ware’ describes a collective group of ceramic products made in Shigariki Village in Japan. The remains of old kilns in the ruins of Shigaraki village date back to the Kamakura period and early in the Muromachi period. The development of kilns in Japan during the medieval period is thought to have taken place through the development of the downdraught kiln that allowed higher temperature firings (1300*C). This became known as stoneware.

The development of kilns in the Bizen Provence was known as the ‘Six Ancient Kilns’. Shigaraki was one of these. The pots produced there were prized for their mistakes rather than for what was planned before hand. Ash was deposited on the pots and melted to form a glaze and their rough and uneven surfaces were valued for their non-perfect finish.

Tea drinking was common in Japan since early times. The tea master by the name of Murata Juko re-established the tea ceremony to reflect the concept of wabi-suki, the belief of emphasizing simplicity, humility, and intense appreciation of the immediate experience.

The natural appearance of Shigaraki pottery helped reflect these principles and fit into the aesthetic of the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony transformed the manner in which the Japanese viewed objects, including ceramic ware.It is these principles that twentieth century potters have tried to emulate. It is what has been the strongest influence in my work. The glaze runnels that flow down the sides of my pots are created by spraying South Coast Eucalyptus ash, burnt in my fire to keep my family warm during winter and then sieved, mixed and sprayed onto the pots. I value the tradition that has influenced me but I have made it my own.”  – David Collins, Potter