Avis Gardner (formerly Avis Murray)

BA.Hons Degree in 3 Dimensional Design Specializing in Silversmithing.Secondary subjects: Ceramics, Textiles and Painting.

Awarded the Goldsmiths Hall Scholarship placement at the Dutch Chain Works, Voorschoten, Holland.

Trained in Ceramics at John Cass College, London.

Certificate Three in Childrens Services

Member of Sculptors Association, Victoria

Member of Australian Ceramics Association

Member of the Society of Bead Researchers

My relocation to Australia in 2007 has given me the opportunity to expand my personal practice and has taken me down pathways I could not have imagined.

My work with children and the community is what Ken Robinson describes as, Finding my Element, a working combination of my skill with my passion. A teacher I worked with said to me, Your passion is contagious.

I am emotionally driven by my belief that we are inexorably linked and totally responsible for our environment. Many of my projects are Natural Science based and through this engagement with their immediate environment increases participants awareness and wonder at the world around them, which in turn increases their desire to protect it.I have always had a love of detail and fascination for the minutiae of life often passed by. Microscopic imaging has altered the way in which we view the world and has opened our minds to unimaginable wonders before unseen.

David Attenborough: RESTORING THE WORLDS SENSE OF WONDER

Simon Barnes, The Sunday Times.February 13. 2016

A sense of the fragility of the world is intimately connected to an appreciation of its wonders. This sense of wonder can be called childlike, but that doesnt make it childish. In maturity, wonder develops into a perpetually life-renewing thing.

David Attenborough is always being asked how he got his passion for the wild world: he always responds, How did you ever lose yours? Because I never met a child who wasn’t interested in natural history. Nature restores our childlike wonder of the world and our belief in dreams and possibilities

Children today are very aware of the many environmental crises facing the planet today and can feel helpless resulting in anxiety. I always include positive actions they can take themselves to protect it.

I find collaborative art projects are incredibly powerful in many ways, my aim is always to inspire, open minds and provoke curiosity, endeavouring to discover participants own inner passions. They promote connectedness, whether to environment or through personal relationships and can increase a sense of belonging which offers a resource that can be life long. There is an enormous sense of pride and ownership in the work produced which people enjoy sharing with their friends and family and events stand out in their memories. I have been particularly inspired by observing families working together and the interactions between different members of the community who would otherwise have had no opportunity to converse with each other. To my mind art is integral in our lives and vital for a healthy community. It is not just about being an artist it is about activating the imagination.

The wonderful thing about imagination is that you don’t have to be an artist or an inventor..it works for everyone…

Christensen.James C. A Journey of the Imagination: The Art of James Christensen, The Greenwich Workshop Press (1996).

In 2013 I was invited to give a talk followed up a by an essay, based on the word, Supportive in relation to Art Play and my experience of working with children by the Professional Art Forum at Art Play. This was part of Research conducted by Melbourne University on the best practice of working with children. It is available online on the Art Play section under Artists Essays of Melbourne City website.

I am fortunate as a multi media Artist to be able use a wide range of materials in 2D and 3D. I am very conscious of the therapeutic effects of working with sensory mediums such as clay and felt. I also love to work with natural materials in a new and innovative way, learning different techniques which inspire people to look at familiar objects from a new perspective.

Having spent many years working in solitude I have enjoyed the exposure to experienced and educators/environmentalists. I am extremely fortunate to have inspirational regular employment at the Melbourne University Early Learning Centre in Abbotsford and enjoy working in partnership with Artist Liz Walker, Our collective name being, Natural Selection.

< I won the Best Ceramic Entry in the Warranwood Art Show which resulted in me being offered a solo exhibition at Montsalvat in March 2015.

This was a personal highlight for me as it was a much needed affirmation of my practice and I thoroughly enjoyed the intensity of focus it allowed and development of my concepts. My life long love of Mixed media and experimentation with all kinds of technical processes is now fully reflected in my practice. Pieces inspired by sketches and samples I created 40 years ago are combined with new concepts and materials in the form of assemblages and Wall Art. Small jewellery pieces now cast in bronze and brass allowing for the addition of wonderful coloured patina and as a result of one of my Artist in school residencies, I have learnt to make Felt, an element I find so compatible with my designs.

So my Solo exhibition at Montsalvat entitiled Unearthed, marked the beginning of a new body of work using materials and techniques I am excited to explore further.

I love the alchemy of clay and silver and enjoy technical processes and experimenting. There are so many steps along the way. I have many failures and then fantastic surprises. It is always exciting opening the kiln, which keeps me hooked. The outcomes stemming from these technical processes are unpredictable and that really is the key to my affinity with them; it is like life. My experimentation with the dynamic chemistry between media and techniques is how I physically express my ideas which are driven emotionally by the interplay of human relationships between each other and the natural world; to which I believe us to be inexorably linked and totally responsible for.

The symbolism woven into my work is driven more by what I know and believe than what I see. I have come to recognise many of my beliefs within indigenous cultures from all around the world.

Art, whether it be sculpture or adornment, was, and still is created to represent spiritual values that are basic to the survival of the community.

Dubin. Lois Sherr. Introduction. African Beads-Jewels of a Continent by Evelyn Simak and Carl Dreibelbis . Africa Direct (2011) Page 15

Back in 2006 I read a book called The Gift by Lewis Hyde. It touched on areas I was working on at the time and marked the beginning of an ongoing theme in my practice.

The nature of my work is suited as Gifts, especially for stages of transition. I particularly like to make pieces that have meaning, whether it be for a joyous occasion or a sad one. The value of these gifts goes beyond the monetary one.

There are many times in our lives when we experience times of transition.These can be from events which alter our circumstances and also by our natural progression through life. These can involve a symbolic death of our old selves, allowing the new to enter. The giving of Gifts at this time is especially important to ease and safeguard the transition into our new life. In many traditions there are complex rites in gift giving.

Not only are the gifts themselves significant, but so too is the spirit in which they are given.

To make visible the giving up we do invisibly.

Lewis Hyde

In my practice I also explore many other types of gifts, such as finding something inside oneself, or receiving love from another and the bountiful gifts ever present in nature.

. All presenting the question..

What in life is truly valuable?..

My

SCULPTURES

My new series of sculptures are entitled Travellers.By focusing on ritual, I am attempting to illustrate the complexity of the endless choices to be made in our lives and how we often seek direction or reassurance from the intangible.

My first Totem, back in early 2010 was really the beginning of an exciting new path and they have become a signature design in my current practice. I found not only were they perfect for my subject matter but they worked extremely well for collaborative projects and individual design workshops. I have undertaken successful school placements as well as run adult and adult/child workshops and see it as a great form for community Art projects.

The Totem, itself a homage to ancestral descent,whether real or myth lends itself perfectly to personal symbols and its composition makes it suitable for groups of differing ages and ability.

In my own practice it enables me to remove and add pieces,often changing from my original concept and showing me scenes I had not envisaged and incorporate different techniques in one piece.

My sculptural pieces offer me an opportunity for a more illustrative form of self-expression and while recurrent themes run through my work and there is a definite message within each of them,they are also open to interpretation of the viewer,hopefully touching the tutelar spirit within.this I see as being just as valuable as my own thoughts�

....as Amulets traditionally made by an artisan, have no potency until possessed by their owner

I first became interested in

FUNERARY ART

after recognising the series of many transitional periods of my own life.

My research made me realise the discomfort around the topic of death, the lack of ceremony present in our modern society and the resulting lack of aesthetic in the mundane containers provided for ashes. Many people seemed to have ashes in their cupboards or attics, not quite knowing what to do with them. Often they are waiting to be buried with another, still alive.

The idea of making vessels for ashes seemed a natural progression for my practice, beautiful enough to be displayed within ones home, garden or for burial. A contemporary expression of an ancient custom. It is greatly rewarding to make vessels, sculptures or jewellery that can aid the sometimes difficult, yet so important, ceremonial process surrounding death, a true Gift of Love

This area of my practice was more established in the UK , I hope to develop it here and internationally. I was pleased at my inclusion in the Arts to Ashes, International Exhibition based in the Funeria Gallery in Graton, California.

The discovery of female cremation at Lake Mungo at least shows that 26,000 years ago, women were considered worthy of complex burial rites..What emotions inspired those rites, love,fear,or religious awe, we will never know..but all show a concern for the deceased, which is the essence of humanity.

Josephine Flood

My

TREASURES OF THE EARTH JEWELLERY

has been described as:

A unique contemporary expression of the ancient desire to ornament ourselves with beautiful, valuable and spiritually resonant beads. and having a quality of Found Treasure... Alex Copeland.

Every piece is individual, hand made by myself, using fusions of earth oxides, porcelain and precious metals employing traditional methods and new technology.

The painstaking processes and attention to detail required for my practice needed discerning beads to mix with it.

All my silver spacer beads and findings if not made by myself are hand made tribal 99%silver.

As in many areas of the commercial world, much of the bead and jewellery industry is host to all kinds of abuses, from destroying reefs and water sources for coral, shells and pearls, to mines/quarries for gemstones, which erode the landscape and contribute to water pollution. Then there is the processing, which is labour intensive, with very few safeguards for the workers or the environment.

Fuelled by our �throw away� consumerism and �healthy� competition, the market is flooded with cheap trinkets, which beguile us all (I am far from immune). Invariably this use of the earth�s resources ends up as land fill or floating in the sea, along with all the rest of our rubbish. I do not profess to buy only �green� beads, but I have become far more aware and try and recycle beads, source from ethical suppliers and Collectors beads, antique and ancient , whose value can only appreciate.

These too have responsibility attached, alongside beautiful contemporary natural stones of which many are still Hand-fashioned, I have been naturally drawn to ancient, excavated beads along with Old Trade beads, their having travelled journeys covering several continents, many of them Treasured and Sacred.

These old beads are finite in their supply as are the earth�s resources.

They lay comfortably next to my beads..even though their makers are separated by lifetimes,cultures and sheer distance.

HISTORIC BIO

In 2004 the time came in my life when I needed to return to creative work that was truly personal.

�Allowing myself the time to find my own path again was quite challenging but very exciting and I was fortunate to have great support from my children. After experimenting with different ideas I developed the memorial ware range. I also came full circle by returning to my love of mixed media jewellery which I began at college.

I participated in several joint exhibitions and was offered a solo exhibition at The Gallery in The Friars (Canterbury) in November 2005 encompassing all of my disciplines. My chosen theme was Expressions of Love and Transformation. My work became available through different outlets (see stockists). I regularly took part in the annual Teignbridge Open Studio event �9 Days of Art� and became a member of �DesignGAP�.(The Directory of British Designers).

In 2007 I made a decision to relocate to Melbourne. The whole process of moving was quite consuming during that year arriving in Australia in early December. The contents of my workshop arrived here in February 2008 and with the encouragement, friendship and support from old and new friends here, I have begun the challenge of establishing myself in Melbourne!�

JEWELLERY is the most ancient form of personalisation and creative expression... often holding so much emotion�

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My CERAMIC FIGURATIVE PIECES are descriptive of tender moments and expressive of the precious and fragile qualities of humankind.

My FUNERAL/CREMATION URNS evolved entirely from my sculptural pieces. My own experience of loss has given me a level of empathy I would otherwise not have had. It has also made me aware of the changes within our society that have left us lacking in certain areas, creating a need to find new and meaningful ways for marking ceremony and rites of passage. This range was taken up by the Co-Op Funeral Service in South West England and is being produced by Lauren Gray, a potter in North Devon.

RESUME

After her training Avis lived in London, exhibiting and selling her work through various shops and galleries including Liberty in London. She moved to Dartmoor in 1979, attracted by the inspirational landscape with diverse natural habitats and steeped in history.

Art/Design

Combining work and children took her on a different path and she became a freelance designer/illustrator, this work included designing greeting cards for some of the best known names in the U.K. High Street, Smiths, Boots, Hallmark etc, nine books for Readers Digest, and kitchenware designs for Creative Tops a company supplying well known retail chains such as Matalan, Betterware etc.

Her design experience and wide knowledge of a whole range of disciplines has been acknowledged across the world and many designs are currently still in production.

Also, designed Miniatures for Popular Imports of Shanghai, Needlepoint for Louie of San Francisco and took private commissions for Illustration.

As a designer one has to have the ability to translate other peoples concepts into reality and assist them in the process of finding out what it is they really want. The years I have spent working as a freelance designer have proved invaluable in terms of self-discipline, perseverance, observation and draughtsmanship.�

Dartington Pottery / Ceramics

Avis�s natural affinity with clay when introduced to it at college led her to gain experience in a wide range of ceramic techniques. This included hand building, modeling, mould making and experimenting with all kinds of decorating styles as well as different firing cycles.

The �Rainbird� design launched in 1993 marked the beginning of Avis�s relationship with Dartington Pottery. It was taken directly from one of her greeting card designs. The pottery has played an important role in her life as one of their designers and for One-Offs, which have become highly collectable. The news of its closure in 2006 was made easier by its relocation to Grayshott Pottery in Surrey. Avis continued to decorate large one-off pieces and exhibit with them. In 2007 she was asked to design and teach the decorators a set of Limited Editions for the pottery to continue in production after her departure to Australia.

Designs for production included:

Specials: Rainbird, Leaf (using lustre), Dreamweaving, Tropic.

Tableware: Pansy and Fig (in collaboration with Clare Woodhall), Stripe, Rowan

I have been fortunate to have had the unrivalled experience of reduction stoneware at Dartington, offering a palette of alchemical colours with which to experiment and explore my passion for painting and drawing.�

This led on to work with many other Potteries using different processes i.e. Island Pottery (Bermuda), Grayshott, Dartmouth, Naya, English Country, Honiton, Leo Ceramics.

Avis also worked with Original Style as colour consultant in the development of their hand painted tile range and training of outworkers.

Working with Clay is to combine all elements, it is the Earth itself mixed with Water and as such is the most malleable of substances.Air and Fire transform it into an entirely rigid structure locking within it the memories of time.�