As a ceramic artist, Kate McKay always aims to create something beautiful rather than practical. Either way, there are worse things in life than drinking tea from a unique vessel crafted with skill and passion.
This artist has won the 2022 Veolia Creative Arts Scholarship. This scholarship is her $3,000 grant that is distributed annually to artists throughout the region working in areas such as painting, drawing, composition, writing, creative dance and photography.
It’s a boon for the artist, who has a studio in the family’s shearing shed in the Canberra suburb of Collector, which he shares with his father, potter Alan Howard.
Making art has always been a passion for Kate, known for her functional and creative creations such as stoneware cups, plates and bowls. But she seems to have always had a connection between her job and her family business. She ran her collector’s favorite Lynwood Cafe with her mother, Robbie, and Howard for about ten years.
Scholarships allow artists to purchase slab rollers to help with clay work. This has already been shipped from Germany.
“Being able to use this opens up another area of work,” she said.
“I think I dabbled in pottery after school. I’m 46 now, and now that my kids are grown, I can go back to pottery. Sometimes I feel like that.”
She said the shearing shed where she has her studio creates a creative atmosphere, except for this time of year when she goes to the warm kitchen of her home.
“As you can imagine, the shearing shed is a little weathered,” she said.
But she turned a historic slab hut into the perfect natural space and light-filled workplace with a kiln and a potter’s wheel.
She grew up in Sydney, but the family moved to Collector in 1985. Kate graduated from the Australian National University of Fine Arts in 1999.
“There’s something about this area,” she said.
“I am inspired by the colors and palettes of the environment here.
“I like making traditional pottery, but I am also interested in Japanese glazes.
“When you’re potting something, it’s all about the lines you make, the wobble…I love making things that you use in your everyday life. What an honor, what a wonderful way to turn dinner ideas into art!
“But as I get older, I like to experiment a little more. I’m looking forward to incorporating more sculptural elements into my work.”
The family ran Lynwood Cafe from 1999 to 2009, and the local family business has extended to Collector Wines, run by brother-in-law Alex McKay. Kate has exhibited her work at wineries and most recently had a show in Goulburn with Collector.
“It’s very word of mouth business,” she said.
“People hear about your work and sometimes opportunities come your way.”
Kate exhibited her work at the Collector’s Helen Stevens Gallery and was later invited to exhibit her work at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery.
Her latest exhibition is a group show at First Draft Gallery, Woolloomooloo, Sydney in September. Kate said her work has the best of both worlds, with each artist’s work represented as an actual dinner table setting, which she describes as her Wiradyuri artist’s Amala Groom. This is the culmination of a teaching program that I have worked with.
“The table will be set up in the gallery as a real dinner table,” said Kate.
“All the artists have dinner together the night before, and then we have to put everything away in time for the opening of the exhibition.”
The Veolia Creative Arts Scholarship is awarded annually to artists from all disciplines who are invited to apply for the 2023 award. For more information, visit her website on Veolia.