Jessilla Rogers’ lovingly misshapen clay creations are instantly recognisable. The Melbourne-based ceramicist developed a passion for pots after taking night classes while studying an undergraduate art history degree; these days she’s teaching those classes herself, as well as selling and exhibiting her work in design stores and galleries. She’s come to represent a new generation of young, avant garde Australian ceramicists injecting new life into an old school discipline.
Rogers is at the head of a mini ceramics movement in Melbourne. She shares studio space with Chela Edmunds, the face behind popular Japanese-inspired label Takeawei ceramics, and she’s exhibited work with Tessy King—whose decorative-yet-functional pieces mesh well with her own.
The renewed public interest in ceramics, Rogers says, is partly fuelled by Instagram. Boasting 80 000 followers, her account is incredibly popular. When the young ceramicist started seriously dedicating herself to the craft around four years ago, artists were just beginning to realise the potential of the online platform to showcase their work to a mass audience.
“It just happened to be around the time Instagram took off,” she tells The Creators Project. “There’s no denying Instagram has had a massive effect on people knowing about what I do. And I think that was kind of good timing more than anything, getting on to using it.”
But there’s more to it than that. Rogers sees the resurgence of handmade ceramics as a reaction against impersonal, mass-produced goods. “I think ceramics went out of fashion for a while and have come back,” she says. “I’m in a studio with some older potters and they’ve been through the cycle. I think there was a lot of ceramic production in Australia and then when we started importing cheaper Chinese ceramics, the Australian ceramic industry died for a while. But now people are making pots with their hands again.”
“It’s actually more than just ceramics,” she says. “People want to do things for themselves now. Everyone’s super interested in what they’re eating, in making their own pasta, in riding their bike everywhere, in doing woodwork; re-discovering old forms.”
“It’s like people want to do something tactile again.” she says. “That’s the impression I get.”
Of course, Rogers’ unique mugs and planters aren’t just a throwback. She’s developed a distinctly irreverent, unserious aesthetic that’s decidedly contemporary. “I’m not very interested in finished edges, I like that wonky style,” she says. “But I also design work that’s meant to be functional. It’s funny because the people who are buying these mugs are girls my age, and they’re putting it on the shelf, not even using them to drink out of! They’re scared they’ll break them. But they’re meant to be used.”