In Emma Bartik’s studio on Bidjigal land in Sydney’s south east, nothing is quite as it seems. Teetering mounds of iridescent soft serve threaten to spill over; vessels are punctuated with belly buttons, their corporeal forms marbled with pastel tones and bound by tightly-coiled rope; and slender handprints are carved into the sides of outsized bowls. Their deep impressions double as both a maker’s mark and an instruction. Placement on the underside of the vessel demands that they either be held close to the body or else held aloft in celebration.
“The pieces I make for Voluptuary reference soft bodies,” says Bartik. “It's important for me to have representations of physical bodies that feel joyous… Things that look soft but are hard [are] in this transitionary state that’s representative of ceramics, which go through this process of soft, liquid clay becoming this decorative, tangible object. That process [and] the utility of that is what interests me, in the making as much as in the finished work.”
Before formalising her practice as a ceramicist on founding Voluptuary Ceramics four years ago, Bartik worked as a special effects makeup artist in film and television “creating creatures, forming prosthetic limbs, body painting aliens [and] covering people in glitter.” The influence of that experience is writ large across a body of work that’s not only preoccupied with the physical form but delights in the playful subversion of it.
Bartik employs a slip casting method, requiring that she first make detailed sculptural prototypes that are moulded in a plaster form that can be repeatedly cast using coloured clay in a process that can take up to six weeks. For all the time it takes to bring Bartik’s singular forms to fruition, the sensation she tries to capture within each is fleeting.
“‘Voluptuary’ means ‘for your sensual pleasure’. It's the feeling of a warm hug; of ice cream melting down your hands on a hot day; [and] of your body enjoying itself.”
Every artist is familiar with the challenge of bringing an intangible idea to life in a physical form. Bringing those same ideas to life in a digital platform is an entirely different challenge - one that’s often far less familiar to a creative practitioner who’s also trying to juggle the demands of running a business.
"Having a visual business requires your online presence to be as strong, bold and colourful as the experience that you have with work in person,” says Bartik, who credits her Squarespace website with elevating her business, legitimising her online presence and enabling her to connect with customers as far away as Sweden, Alaska, Dubai and Korea.
“Squarespace allows for the feeling of this to exist in an online place. It gives a home to your business online and allows for this visual imagery to transcend the [barrier] between the screen and the viewer.”
When people first experience her work, either online or in person, Bartik says responses can range from “really joyful [to] a little unsettling.” Connecting with audiences then is “a really important part of my practice”, says Bartik, who will be participating in the Art & Design Fair, powered by Squarespace.
Squarespace will also host a workshop, titled Cultivating Your Creative Flow State, as part of the Semi Permanent Festival of Creativity & Design. The one-hour session will demonstrate how Squarespace’s suite of products helps professional designers operate in their flow state to create more immersive brand experiences.
“The nature of my work is both sculptural in a way that's playful, but also slightly absurd,” Bartik says.” I think the reality of seeing your own reflection in something that is void of hyperrealism, but feels familiar, is really interesting.”
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