Diving into Tegan Emerson’s World of Ceramics

A special dada-days workshop with our first guest host

Influenced by “organic deep-sea forms and geological times”, Tegan’s art appears as if it has existed for millennia. Her natural forms evoke the memory of ancient artifacts left to succumb to the natural processes of time. Tegan’s art is like the ocean – hypnotic, gentle, serene – almost as if it has re-surfaced from the depths of the earth, only to be enjoyed by the beholders singular gaze. When she is not creating, the Australian artist currently works for Olafur Eliason, co-producing a variety of incredible exhibitions in Berlin over the past two years.

Last October dada-days hosted a ceramics workshop with Tegan as the guest artist. Ten creative minds from seven different countries came together in a garage studio in Son Sardina Palma to learn from Tegan’s expertise. In a welcoming and inspiring atmosphere, Tegan showed us how to apply her coiling and pinching method to create our own unique vessels.

“It’s inspiring when people want to come together and learn something”

Even Tegan, who has been working with clay for over four years, admits, “ceramics can be a tricky craft sometimes.” Similar to the ocean, it can be challenging to control. Working with the clay, not against it, was advice we would return to throughout the workshop – treating mistakes as opportunities for experimentation, not evidence of failure. The idea of relieving yourself from the pressures of perfectionism, allowing the process to become a therapeutic practice – not a stress inducing test, was central to Tegan’s lesson. When we asked the ceramicist what she hoped for students to takeaway she responded, “To embrace the unpredictable and choose personal creative freedom over generic perfection.”

“My favorite part of the process is letting the form come into reality and being surprised by it”

Tegan taught us that beyond creativity, ceramics is also problem-solving and a science. As a craft, pottery can be fascinating for everyone. Whether you are approaching it creatively or more analytically, the only thing that’s truly essential is a curious mind.

The creative atmosphere of the workshop was enhanced by the combination of great conversations and the beautiful setting. Tegan remarked, “I love being in an environment closer to nature and the water; the inspiration feels more direct to the images I am dreaming up in my mind.” When we asked about her creative rituals, Tegan explained that she never works in silence, enjoying disco and funk music instead. However sometimes she switches things up, trading her eclectic playlist in for her favorite podcast, The Great Woman Artists by Katy Hessel. “So many women were left out of the canon of art history. The world would be a richer place if their stories had been known from the beginning.”

So what’s next for Tegan?

Next year Tegan plans to move back to Australia, expanding her artistic skill-set in her home country. She is looking forward to taking a glazing chemistry workshop soon and is also interested in trying her hand at glass fusing. Tegan explains her creative aspirations: “I find it fascinating to work with the elements of the earth, heat, and a little bit of chance.” Although Tegan has many plans for her return home, it is the imagining of her future studio that will be the main target of her energy. If only she could hear music underwater… we are pretty sure Tegan’s ideal studio would be in Atlantis.

Text: Phoebe Preusser and Lucy Ehrlich

Photos: Lucía Maraver