This story first appeared in Design Online in May.
FIONA MCDONALD rediscovered her childhood love of ceramics after connecting with a group of artists and makers in her home town of Torquay along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.
In the three and a half years since then, she has developed a stunning collection of hand formed fine porcelain vessels, bangles, wrist cuffs and tea sets. The fine porcelain pieces are quite translucent and very light which imbues them with a sense of fragility and transience. This idea is hinted at in her business name, Ichimu, a Japanese word meaning a dream or something fleeting.
“I have a great appreciation for Japanese art which is very much in the moment,” McDonald explains. “I aim to capture that kind of esoteric feeling in the illustration.” She will consider her work a success if it makes people “stop and have a think, even if they just pick up a piece and touch it. I find that quite exciting.”
One of the defining features of the Ichimu collection is the fine line work apparent across the range of products. McDonald says her experience as a graphic designer with a particular interest in pattern based design comes into play here. “I have such a collection of patterns that I have done over the years. A lot of them are very complex so for me to be able to strip them right back again for the ceramics is quite liberating,” she says of the designs she has filed away. Her design background gives her a strong feel for colour and confidence in the colour combinations applied to each piece.
The large illustrated vessels which were launched over six months ago after six months in design development, allow McDonald a larger canvas to add colour and texture. Each vessel is hand formed from a piece of clay which she dissects into various sizes. Each piece is then rolled into balls and wrapped in a wet cloth ready for shaping.
“It is kind of exciting and sometimes frustrating because what I image they are going to become sometimes doesn’t eventuate. But it is such a lovely process and there is always something at the end that I love,” she says. The formed piece is then air dried and fired in a kiln at 1000 degrees. “Then I usually sand them under water with wet sandpaper because the dust is not good to breathe in. Once they are dried I glaze them and once the glaze is dry I will illustrate them and they go back in the kiln.” The Ichimu logo is stamped into each piece to ensure its authenticity.
McDonald is excited to launch a range of lighting at Decor + Design which she hopes will capture the attention of interior designers. This range has been in development for almost 12 months and was inspired by McDonald’s love of light. Many times she has called for her seven children to race outside to see how the light is reflected in colour across the coastal sky at different times of the day. She hopes her porcelain light fittings will invite that same sense of wonder.
“Porcelain is so fine that when it is illuminated you can see all the marks and texture within the piece,” she says of the lighting range which will share the same characteristics of her other work. Due to the hand formed nature of McDonald’s work, all Ichimu designs are individual. “No two pieces are ever the same,” she says.
McDonald is a member of Craft Victoria and says she often receives commissions for tea sets and sets of three or five large vessels in particular colours to suit her clients’ home decor. Her work is in the permanent collection at Ceramics Victoria and has been exhibited at Boom Gallery in Geelong.
Visit Ichimu at Design Bazaar at booth DB8