The Creative Folks

© 2019  


11th July 2019

Xanthe Murphy moved to South Australia from Sydney earlier this year when she was accepted for a ceramic associate position at the Jam Factory earlier this year.

Since moving to SA Xanthe has continued to grow her ceramic skills and has developed a clear aesthetic using rustic natural colours.

When we talked to Xanthe, we learnt more about her inspirations and what a day is like at the Jam Factory (spoilers: it sounds like so much fun).

When studying for your Bachelor of Design, what drew you to ceramics?

I started off studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts at UNSW Art & Design but swapped to Design in my second year. I had to pick my majors there and then so it was really a spur of the moment decision. In my first class I realised that I really enjoyed it and my love for clay has grown ever since. I also studied object design and textiles which have become a big part of my practice.


What is a day like at the Jam Factory and why did you apply for the program?

The JamFactory is an amazing place to be a part of, it is made up of creatives at all different stages of their careers. I am a part of the associate program that offers mentoring, studio space and career development opportunities in the four studios; ceramics, metal, furniture and glass. There is nothing like it that I know of in the rest of Australia and definitely not Sydney. One of the best parts about being an associate at the Jam is that no two days are the same. I might spend one day throwing beakers for the studio production range, the next painting my own work and then teach my weekly wheel throwing class. There are often opportunities for cross disciplinary learning as well with so many other talented makers to learn from. 


What has been the hardest adjustment moving to South Australia from Sydney?

The hardest part about moving to SA is being apart from my family. I love spending dinners talking about ideas, and using my tableware for meals with those I love. I also really value talking to my dad about ideas for projects and troubleshooting the best, most efficient way of making something (he is an incredible builder who restores heritage terraces) so finding other ways to do that is something I am still getting used to. But I really love it here and everyone I meet is incredibly kind and welcoming!


What is your favourite thing from your time in South Australia so far?

Being at JamFactory is my absolute favourite thing about my time here. Everyday I am surrounded by likeminded, passionate, generous creatives who inspire me to be the best maker I can be. 

I am also in awe of the natural landscape of SA. When I first arrived in January I went to Kangaroo Island for a couple of days. The difference between the coastline of NSW and SA in incredible, the hidden untouched beaches on KI with white sand and the bluest water were just spectacular!

What is the best lesson you learnt from your time in creating ceramics?

The first lesson I was taught in my first ceramics class was “don’t get attached to anything”. A hard lesson to learn but quite important. The nature of ceramics is one that can only be controlled to a certain extent, there are so many variables involved; the way you make, the clay, raw materials, glazing, firing, even the weather. There is always a level of unpredictability which I love, but knowing to not get attached to something I make until it is out of its last firing means less heartbreak when things don't turnout as planned. I recently heard it described as ‘the agony and the ecstasy’ which I love. 


Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I aim for my work to be highly functional, so that is always my first point of inspiration. Currently I am working on a series of pieces that have underglaze paintings on them, inspired by the patterning you see in the landscape as you fly from Sydney to Adelaide. A little homage to my interstate migration and the spaces that link them. I have spent my whole life loving the ocean, so a lot of my glaze inspiration comes from the depth of colour within the coastline. I am also inspired by my mum who has impeccable taste, loves serving ware and feeding people - the ceramics trifecta! If I am designing something new my first thought is often ‘Would Mum like it?’.


When was a moment that you felt proud of yourself for the work you’ve done?

My proudest moment as a maker so far has to be when I completed my honours project. It was a really involved process of academic research and writing that informed the development of a design piece. To date it is the largest project I have undertaken, involving seven lights and a modernised Kintsugi kit I developed over the course of a year. I had the biggest sense of achievement presenting the project to my honours leader. Exhibiting it at the Art and Design Annual I could really reflect on all the hard work I had put in and how beautiful the end product was. 

Name another local creative that you draw inspiration from or who inspires you.

There are so many local creatives I love! One that springs to mind is Studio Enti where I used to work in Sydney, I draw a lot of inspiration from Naomi’s beautiful ceramic practice and the way she runs her small business. I am still learning about the art and design here in South Australia, but i am inspired by my peers at JamFactory every day, especially my fellow ceramic associates Hannah Vorrath-Pajak and Michael Carney. 


What do you have planned next?

By popular demand I am teaching another two ceramic tea set workshops on the 14th of July at the Gathered market, which I am really looking forward to! The last workshops went so well, it was a such a fun day playing with clay, being creative and getting a little bit messy! And everyone came away with their own beautiful, personalised tea set - I was very proud!

You can book your ticket to this event here

After that I will be continuing to develop more functional work to have for sale on my website and maybe even some lights. The sky is the limit!