Reanne Brewin's teacup, titled 'Parched', will be our seminars' Welcome by Tea souvenir vessel.
Brew. Win. That's how I read Reanne Brewin's surname when she was announced as the Australian Tea Cultural Society Ceramic Cup Competition winner last month. The fitting name is not the only serendipity in the ceramicist's achievement: it's Brewin's third attempt at fashioning a cup for us and she'll be supplying these bespoke teacups to not one but three seminars in our Tri-City Series this year. And the design, titled 'Parched' for its dry look, echoes both the landscape of a sunburnt country and a thirst for tea.
"It's made with Keane's paper clay, which is a porcelain clay body and they mix paper with it," says Brewin of the unusual texture. "It allows me, as I'm rolling it out, to really stretch it and the cracks form in the clay body. But because it's got the paper in it, it still holds its integrity."
The result is something that looks like the cracked earth of the outback, which she then cuts to a template and folds, origami-like, into a slab-built square-bottomed teacup with a round rim. "Then in the glaze firing, I put a glaze on it and then I wipe all the glaze off and it just stays in the cracks," Brewin explains. "I have been exploring this technique for a while and feel it gives homage to the dry arid lands of our great continent."
Brewin came to pottery while undergoing art therapy during a bout of post-natal depression; she first began painting and drawing before her teacher referred her to a ceramicist. "When I found ceramics, I realised that it was something that I was going to pursue rather than always just doing classes," she says of taking to the craft. "It slows me down. This world that we live in at the moment is very fast, and everything happens in a second. Whereas in ceramics nothing happens in a second, but you can really sink into the process."
A three-year Diploma of Ceramics then led to a home studio and kiln and a decade of selling wares at Bellingen Markets. But only recently was she able to accelerate her artistic career. "When I was offered a redundancy from my day job three years ago, I decided it was time to fulfill my dream of becoming a full-time artist. I now teach two days a week and run weekend workshops, which is my bread and butter, and enter competitions and take part in exhibitions to extend my practice."
It was at this point she found the AUSTCS Ceramic Cup Competition through the Australian Ceramics Association. Three entries later and she's created a winner. "It was a great acknowledgement of my work," she remarks, "and the kick-on, too, of being noticed by the Australian Ceramics Association in a bigger way than just being a member has been an interesting thing – a boost to the ongoing quest to be noticed as an artist."
While Brewin does drink tea – "mainly herbal" – in small amounts, it gives her more pleasure to see her work contribute to the ritual, a nod to an interest in Japanese ceramics and its tea ceremony. "I love making vessels to honour the tea ceremony and am excited when someone wants to purchase one of my teapots."
A presentation on Reanne Brewin's artistic practice will feature in the AUSTCS Tri-City Seminar Series – tickets now available for Brisbane (10 September), Sydney (21 October) and Melbourne (5 November). All delegates will receive a handmade cup as a seminar gift.