Wodonga Council

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A Life in Clay

7 Mar, 2023

Yackandandah artist John Dermer has been creating with clay since 1967 and his current exhibition, at Hyphen - Wodonga Library Gallery, celebrates the best of his works over 55 years.

Mr Dermer, who is a world leader in salt-glazed works, describes the pieces he kept for the A Life In Clay exhibition as "gems", or "magic pots".

Terra sigillata works are very rare because you have to be mad to try – they have an eighty per cent failure rate in the creation – but when a magic pot comes out of the kiln, all of the trials, tribulations and failures fade into the background because one magic pot is sufficient to keep me going,” he says.

This first major retrospective of Dermer’s work in the Albury-Wodonga region presents his work from 1967 to present and celebrates his deep understanding of form and skilful use of traditional ceramic techniques.   

Dermer has received numerous awards and commissions throughout his career.

In 2006, he was awarded the highly prestigious Saltzbrand Keramik International Award in Koblenz, Germany and in 1987, he won a major commission for Australia's new Parliament House.

Today, Dermer continues his passion for ceramics working from his studio in Yackandandah.

Dermer was overwhelmed when he first saw his creations set up in Hyphen's Artspace Gallery, commenting, "wow", to those around him when he walked into the room.

"What these guys have done is superb," he said.

"The space, the lighting and iteration ... they have just done it so well.

"It's like looking back through your lifetime."

Hyphen Curator Bronwen Garner said the gallery was thrilled to exhibit the works for the public.

"One of the jugs is particularly interesting. It's got a very fascinating story behing it because he made it when he was working for Wedgewood in the seventies in England," she said.

"He made it one night when he was sitting in his flat in England. And when he fired it, he put it in a Milo tin and put it in his pot belly stove.

"That's why it has all these beauitful coal marks from where the flames have flipped up or the heat has flipped up on the ceramic surface.

"So it's a very unique and special pot in this exhibition."

The exhibition also includes some of Dermer's tools which he makes by hand using bamboo that he grew.

He also made curved tools from Huon pine.

The exhibition will be on display until May 7.

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