Ambition and results

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Kensington local Alexandra Copeland has been creating art since she was four.

Coming from a community of potters in Warrandyte, Alexandra learnt from a very young age that she had a knack for the arts. With the help of her parents’ friends and the next-door neighbour, a career of experimentation had begun by the time a local group of artists invited her to join their club.

When Alex wasn’t out drawing houses or structures with her new art group, she’d make her way next door with her brother to their neighbour’s art room for helpful tips.

Looking to others for help is how Alexandra gained her skills as an artist. This sourcing for help started early when she was in high school, where she met her partner Leigh. Decades later and the couple is still together, collaborating on pieces and helping each other out around the house.

“He did Year 12 physics and chemistry, which you really need to be able to work with the glazes on the pots,” Alex said.

“So, I do it intuitively. I think to myself that if I mix a bit of this with that and maybe I’ll get that colour. So, I ask him if it’ll work and he says, ‘no you’ve got to do such and such’. He’s got quite a good knowledge of chemistry, so we do a lot of experimenting and he’s been a huge help to me with his knowledge.”

She said creating ceramics was a trying process, even after years of practice.

“It can be tedious because if you want to cover the whole surface of big pots with oil paints, you’d just paint it like that. But with the glazes it’s ‘dab, dab, dab, dab, dab’. So, all the colours that have been put on those have been dabbed with a little, small paint brush. The whole trick is to make it look easier than it really is.”

Looking around Alexandra’s home in Kensington, she excels at making the tricky look easy. Lines of ceramics sat along every ledge, paintings hung from all walls, and drawings littered the table as if someone had just been to a large sale.

“Don’t mind the pots everywhere,” Alexandra told North West City News upon entering her home. “I’ve got some buyers calling around so I’m just preparing for their visit.”

Alexandra’s price tags fall anywhere from $450 for a Cherry Basket Bowl, to $1500 for a Plum Blossom Haiku Pot.

One of the many outlets that has featured Alexandra’s pieces is QDOS Fine Arts in Lorne, where she still actively sells collaborative handwoven carpets that she makes with Afghan craftspeople.

“I’ve got a connection in Afghanistan where I’ve got Afghan weavers weaving my designs,” she said. “I’m employing some Afghan weavers because since the Taliban have taken over last year the economy has collapsed, so it’s very hard for people to find jobs over there.”

“I’m very lucky because I’d organised it before that happened, I’ve had it going for about 20 years where they weave rugs to my designs. I take them to proper galleries, and they sell them for me.”

“Leigh and I ran our own little gallery where I sold my own work and that of others. But even working in the gallery, I’d just be thinking of my art and thinking about what my next painting was going to be.”

When starting out in the potting world, Alexandra had to seek out exhibits to show off her works. Unlike upcoming artists today who can post their material on social media sites like Instagram, she found herself marching into exhibits and art centres, pots in hand, asking for her shot in the spotlight.

“My attitude was to start at the top and not at the bottom and if they rejected me, I’d go to the next one, and then the next one, and the next one,” she said.

“I went to a gallery at that stage, and I decided that that was the most desirable one, it was the one I wanted to show with.”

“I took some pots to them, and I remember that I drove there, and I was incredibly tense because it was mucked up because I hadn’t calculated how long it would take me to find a parking spot. So instead of walking in there all relaxed with my pots under my arms, I sort of came stumbling in and feeling really tense and everything. I showed them the pots and I wasn’t expecting them to say ‘yes’, but when I showed them, they said ‘when can you do an exhibition? We love it’.”

“So, I started off on the right foot with them. The most amazing thing that I still can’t believe, the National Gallery of Victoria bought a piece, which usually takes you your whole life to do that. I didn’t believe them at first, I thought they were pulling my leg.”

The beauty of ceramics, as Alexandra notes, is in their durability.

“Ceramics will last forever; they’ll last for thousands of years. Even if they get smashed, the shards will still be there. People will go through the tips in 1000 years and still see the shards.”

So, to whoever is reading this in 300 years, take the time to hunt down a ceramic. It might just be one of Alexandra’s.

If you would like to see Alexandra’s artwork for yourself, check out her socials.

Instagram: alexandra_e_copeland.  Facebook: alexandracopelandceramics •

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