I’m leading a group to Ubud in May 2016, for the clay-bending-mouth-watering workshop, ‘Food Meets Plate’ at Gaya Ceramic Art Centre. This month we’re meeting some of the inspiring artists whose knowledge and vision will turn our time in Bali from a trip into a transformative experience.
Last week I spoke to our workshop host Hillary Kane, and if you’re just joining us, catch up on our conversation Creative Callings.
This week we’re checking out the workshop accommodation, at the inspiring, art-filled guest house ‘Ubud ArtVilla‘, owned by Australian ceramic artist Bruce McWhinney.
Bruce McWhinney is an Australian artist with over 30 years experience in ceramics. Nature and travel have been the main inspiration for his work; be it wood fired ceramics, sculpture, painting or drawing.
I met Bruce about 15 years ago when I was a student at Brookvale TAFE, where Bruce and a group of exceptional designers and potters were building a dynamic ceramics department on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Brookvale TAFE continues to thrive, and while Bruce is as passionate as ever about Australian Arts education, his vision now incorporates a much wider classroom that includes building creative communities in other parts of the world…and Bruce is literally building them.
One such project is Ubud ArtVilla, a unique guesthouse in the quiet hamlet of Penestanan, just minutes from the bustling town of Ubud.
Here the concept is to infuse hospitality with Bruce’s long time love for Balinese arts and culture. In this place each day, guests soak up stunning architectural design, idyllic gardens, wood fired ceramics, paintings, drawings, and sculptures at every turn.
ArtVilla is managed and operated by Wayan Suparta and his family, who bring local knowledge and Balinese custom to every moment, enabling guests to discover the real traditions and culture of Bali during their stay. ArtVilla is the perfect place for anyone who is seeking to revitalise or woo their inner artist, and for two weeks in May 2016, Ubud ArtVilla will be home-sweet-home for ‘Food Meets Plate’ workshop participants.
Claire Atkins: Hi Bruce! I had the pleasure of staying at Ubud ArtVilla last year while I attended a workshop at Gaya. I have to say, that living with and using your woodfired ceramics every day was one of the best parts about staying at ArtVilla. Each morning, breakfast was served on stunning ceramic pieces that quietly called for our consideration. Do you think that living with handmade ceramics affects us?
Bruce McWhinney: Woodfired ceramics for me is the ultimate expression of working with clay and fire. The spontaneous effects coming from the fire on each piece is quite individual and embue the work with a human warmth that makes using it a daily joy. What I love most is that I never tire of the work and it keeps me captivated by the evidence of nature.
Can you describe your design process, and is your approach different when you’re making ceramic pieces intended for food?
Making tableware is very much about understanding the function of each piece. One can only be a good functional potter if they use their work and learn what makes it a pleasure to use and live with. After decades of making ceramics, my forms have been pared right back to the simplest possible. This allows space for the fire to complete the piece and also gives a calm reassuring presence about them. Teapots must pour, cups must be easy to hold with a lip that feels good up against one’s mouth, and plates should provide a smooth finish. Having said that, while I strive to give the most, it often takes time to appreciate what is there in each piece. But so it is in life and art.
You divide your year working and living in Australia and Bali, with residencies throughout the world thrown in! How has travel, and living so intimately with the Balinese impacted your own art practice?
This is a big question. Bali has provided a cultural retreat where I can make work and share it with people from all around the world. My aim in building the ArtVilla was to create a place where people could experience living with hand made things and discover the joys of using wood-fired ceramics. Bali has taught me patience, detachment and to see the funny side of life. Things do not always go according to plan but the caring nature of the Balinese makes it all worthwhile. Travel is a passion but being able to work in different places makes it immensely more rewarding. When doing residencies one is privileged to experience life as an insider. I get to know people over a longer period, and hopefully share our different experiences of the world. Sightseeing is fun but it doesn’t sustain me in the same way.
What do you hope your guests will experience at Ubud Art Villa?
What I would hope for is that people coming to ArtVilla would experience Bali from the inside. Connecting to the culture and traditions of Bali is made easy through Wayan and his family who staff ArtVilla. Combine that with the joy of making pots at Gaya, and discovering the local food and gastronomy would be a great thing. But, staying at ArtVilla would also mean extending the experience by using, learning about, and living with woodfired ceramics every day.
Thank you so much for joining us Bruce.
So, what do you think?! Will you join us? Visit the workshop page now for Early Bird fees, Ubud ArtVilla accommodation, and booking details. Private room options at ArtVilla and Art Manor are limited, so please don’t delay in contacting me to secure your place as bookings are rolling in!
Be sure to join me next week when I’m talking food and Bali with the indefatigable Janet De Neefe! Janet is the founder and Director of the Ubud Food Festival, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, she’s also an author, a mother of four children, aaaand the owner of some of Ubud’s best restaurants and bars!