Mollie (Mary) Schollum creates delightfully organic ceramic works, with a focus on glaze, texture, form and intricate detail.
Had you always had an affinity with clay and aspired to become a potter? When did you first establish an interest in ceramics?
I was first introduced to ceramics in 2015 when I was flatting with potter Latasha Wildman (nee Watson). Theresa Watson – Latasha’s mother had recently established the Ceramic College situated on a former church property and I enrolled in a night course - which became another night course and so on... We lived in a house on the grounds and I was very lucky to have access to the studio space and the expertise and encouragement from both Theresa and Latasha. This year I am excited to be studying ceramics at the Otago Polytechnic and looking forward to learning new skills and challenging myself.
You create beautiful hare sculptures, each individually named. How do you create each character? Is there a story behind each hare?
The first hare I made was when I was going through a massive change in life. I have collected hares for a number of years and she emerged from a vague idea of wanting to create a hare of my own.
I never measure or have a plan they just come into being, I am not really even thinking, my hands move and then clay takes shape. Their personalities develop with each firing and they can change from when first built right up to the last glaze firing. I have a collection of what would possibly be called seconds. These girls have done really interesting things, some have changed posture, cracked in interesting ways, and in one case her chest peeled off making her look like a warrior hare in armour.
What does a regular day in your studio look like?
I tend to start quite early and if I have made new items the day before I will clean up the pieces before they get too dry. These then get put on the drying shelf awaiting their first firing.
I will empty the kiln if it is cool and then will glaze any pieces that have already had their first firing.
I tend to have quite a lot of different ideas going on at once so a firing could be lots of small bowls or a mix of sculptural pieces and some of the experimental large pieces that I am currently working on. I try and make something everyday and it is usually in the evenings that I will work with raw clay to make new pieces.
Do you have a favourite spot in Aotearoa where you go to relax and seek out inspiration?
It is hard to name a favourite spot. I love the bush and I love the beach in the winter when it is cold and windy. I moved to Dunedin in May last year so am still exploring here. One of the most amazing places I found is in Central Otago just outside of Macraes. It is an area called Moonlight, beautiful rock formations and hares, its wild and very cold in the winter but just stunning.
I often go to Aramoana Beach and walk there it is a beautiful spot and a very good place to clear the head and get inspiration from the land and sea.
You have a beautiful eye for colour, and your works are named after the natural environment and elements, do you begin with the idea and go from there or allow your works to take shape intuitively?
My work takes shape intuitively. I tend to start with a thought and then let it develop, not thinking too much about whether it is possible but just let the clay find its way. I have recently been making pieces in components that I then assemble for the second firing. When all put together they can move or slump or glazes run together. What goes into the kiln is not necessarily what comes out but it is always exciting to open it and see what has happened and then to build on that.
If you could meet any artist past or present, who would it be?
Artemisia Gentileschi a seventeenth century painter - at a time when women had few opportunities within the art world she was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. Her life story is confronting and she must have been an incredibly forceful woman. And of course Frida! I have been lucky to have been to several exhibitions whilst traveling and her bravery in painting her life and losses is quite overwhelming.
Your works have a focal point of texture and surface, do you have favourite methods of achieving that amazing texture?
I often create textures from things that I have found. My seaweed bowls use seaweed foraged from Aramoana beach on the inside and on the outside of the bowl I press in a rock also from Aramoana.
I am constantly collecting things that may be of use and I have an extensive stick, rock and foliage collection. I also use pieces of jewellery, old buttons, stamps that I have made and rollers from MKM pottery tools.
To view Mollie Schollum's full collection of ceramics, click here