Five minutes with artist Sarah Tracton

Don’t you love hearing the stories behind the success (whatever that word means!)? And being exposed to new minds and mediums?

Today I have all that and more in store for you.

Let me introduce you to Sarah Tracton. In industry speak, she’s a “multi-disciplinary 2D and 3D artist”.

To break that down a little, not only is Sarah an award-winning filmmaker, but she recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics at the National Art School in Sydney.

It was during this course that she refined a technique of building architectural porcelain slabs from pouring wet porcelain slip onto a smooth plaster surface. The result? A marbled effects akin to landscape topography. Each piece is unique, with vast variations in coloured surface patterns.

But that wasn’t enough! Sarah has since turned these slabs into pendant lighting – creating unique statement pieces. So enough from me – let’s hear from Sarah and see her work!

Where does the inspiration come from for your work – both your 2D and 3D work?

I practice with equal intensity across drawing and ceramics mediums. I am intrigued by the intersection between function and design. 

Creating lighting canvases my experience of rehabilitating my hearing with bi-neural cochlear implants.  Light has a powerful effect on those who experience sensory deprivation in the form of hearing loss.

With sound has come an illuminating light. Upon receiving two cochlear implant surgeries, the atmosphere became brighter; colours and the tactility of materials became more intense. The vibrancy and connection to the world around me comes into my forms and illustrations.

What do you think it is that makes your work unique?

New materials and their possibilities in the studio truly excite me.  I create porcelain lighting in small batches by my own hand, which is akin to the equivalent of clay slow cooking. The beauty of this labor intensive process is that no two pieces are alike, each forming their own unique characteristics, personality and aesthetic. The porcelain I use contains luminous, translucent qualities set amidst iridescent colouring. 

What is the process like from the first idea to the final piece of art?

Each light is individually hand crafted over severals weeks from initial design to final glaze firing. The lights are fired twice, towards 1280 degrees. Between firings, the pieces are wet/dry sanded to ensure smooth surface qualities. 

My studio is rather like a science lab, in which no part of the process can be rushed.

It is a rigorous journey of trial and error, and knowing the tenuousness of wet and dry clay in order to avoid cracks. Witnessing the collision between water, heat and atmosphere is often fraught – clay can be temperamental and patience is essential!

In the process of drawing I enter a meditative and hypnotic state in which I experience creative immersion in total silence.

Where do you go or what do you do to ‘recharge’ your creativity?

Always food related! Sourcing quality produce and embarking on new culinary experiences are my go to. Clay and epicurism and very much in sync in this way. 

What have been some of the challenges of self employed life?

Balancing the high costs of materials, with inevitable breakages as the lights undergo their kiln firings to 1280 degrees will always be a challenge – but part of the fun. 

And what about some of the highlights?

When something is created 100% by hand, each piece is unique in a way that cannot be replicated in a homogenous mass-making process. The process of making objects by hand creates an authenticity of experience for both the maker and user. 

I transitioned from constructing vessels to lighting as it is a ultimate piece of design that sets centre stage in an interior. It has longevity into the future.

It’s a thrill knowing that something I created by hand can be adaptable and functional for everyday life.

My first solo exhibition – Hearing it for Silence – at Abbotsford Convent and winning the People’s Choice Award at the Macquarie Group Emerging Artist Prize were two highlights this year. 

What is your big hope and dream for your work?

To keep achieving that elusive state of flow in creativity, while exploring endless material possibilities. 

What a woman! A big thank you to Sarah for sharing a snippet of her story with me. Follow her journey on her website and Instagram.

Talk to me!