Whether you look to the shops, galleries or influential tastemakers for the 411, there’s no questioning that handmade ceramics are experiencing a global renaissance. More locally, it’s a shift in Australian homeware trends that perhaps hasn’t been matched in momentum since the heydays of Pates or Bendigo Pottery. Today’s popular pieces make themselves known through refined organic shapes, Greco-Roman-inspired silhouettes, wildly tactile surfaces and pigment-rich glossy glazes. From everyday plates and cups to more elaborate candelabras and table lamps, if last season was all about the chalice bowl, then this one is all about the statement vase. Or as designer Henry Holland suggests, it’s “all about the vase, no treble” – a playful reference to the similarly titled song by American singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor.
Stationed in London, Henry has this year introduced a dozen spectacular vases to his eponymous Henry Holland collection. They’re recognisable by the designer’s interpretation of nerikomi, a mesmerising pottery technique that can be traced back to Japan’s Tang dynasty (dating from 618 to 907), and joined by eight equally eye-catching candle holders. All of the new releases lean into the aesthetic already established by Henry’s signature tableware; a collection that debuted soon after the designer took the career leap from fashion to ceramics, that’s now stocked by the likes of London’s Liberty department store.
Marbled ceramics: Vases and candle holders by Henry Holland
Described by Henry as a “meditative process” involving the stacking, folding and rolling of different coloured clays into slabs, the nerikomi technique results in a ripple-like “haphazard patterning” that’s particularly exaggerated when formed into vessels. It’s a slowing of pace, far removed from the “frenetic world of fashion,” he says. Building upon the core range of colours, this recent release sees a new two-tone colourway join the lineup, namely terracotta and white, “which you’ll be seeing a lot more of in 2022,” Henry predicts.
Delving into the nitty-gritty of the new pieces, the designer insists the silhouettes of the handmade vases and candle holders were stumbled upon by chance. “[They] came from playing around with the moulds that I use to create my dinner- and serve-ware,” Henry admits of the new shapes, discovered in his East London studio where space is often hard to come by. “We are always stacking things on top of each other and I was enjoying some of the shapes that we could create,” he recalls.
By stacking and then modifying the shapes already developed in the debut collection, a solid sense of cohesiveness has appeared across Henry’s broader ceramics offering. “I really like this idea of continuity that runs across both the tableware and these vases,” he says. “You can see elements taken from the mugs and bowls translated into an entirely different product but still with the same DNA.” This is particularly evident in the half-circle fins of the vases (brought forward from the handle shapes of the mugs) and the bellies of both the vases and candle holders which mirror the proportions of the existing tableware.
“This collection also gave me an opportunity to experiment with scale,” Henry adds, pointing to the plus-sized statement pieces in the range, including the “big-boy” Tudor and Profumo Maxi vases which, the designer concedes, “took a lot of trial and error to perfect”. So many attempts, in fact, that the extended hours in the studio raised an eyebrow or two at home. “Because I was spending so much time in the studio at night working on these vases, my husband thought I was having a secret affair,” Henry says with a laugh. “So in reference to that, I’ve named these pieces after love affairs – but affairs which had actual people involved, and not, like me, slabs of clay.”
You can see elements taken from the mugs and bowls translated into an entirely different product but still with the same DNA.