Tamworth potter Sasha Jury-Radford sits at a table in her home studio, making the most of the natural light from the window, rolling, pressing, and carving chocolate coloured clay with earth stained hands into ceramic tea strainers.
We joke that the upside-down mound shapes resemble tortoise shells, or, right side up, a squadron of planes about to take off.
Sasha and I met earlier this year when she contacted the store to order Robert Gordon organic swatch mugs. I had admired Sasha's work for some time, but this was our first opportunity to talk. When I delivered Sasha's mugs I asked if she was interested in collaborating to make ceramic tea strainers.
Taking a year off from full-time high school art teaching, Sasha was eager to develop some prototypes. After researching the shape of tea strainers using images, and looking at her own collection she developed a range of samples. We simplified the design and colours, choosing the blue, brown, and cream New England north west inland palette, and Sasha's signature floral tissue transfer. The resulting tea strainer is beautiful, lovely to hold, and balance on a cup or mug when pouring a pot of loose leaf tea.
Sasha grew up at Walgett, two hour's drive past Moree in north west NSW, sharing the company of a mother, Dawn Jury, who "dabbled in a lot of craft - remember Hobbytex?"
"I played around with whatever she was doing," Sasha says.
"It was a harsh place to live environmentally, but I loved walking to the Barwon and Namoi Rivers and exploring the textures of the dry tree roots exposed by erosion and picking up found objects.
"My father Bill Jury, who was Lebanese, had a mixed business from dry cleaning to selling toys and sporting goods. I am an only child, but I had a lot of multicultural friends, Chinese, Swiss, German, Dutch and Aboriginal."
Play evolved into practice with Sasha majoring in sculpture at the Australian National University School of Art and completing a diploma in ceramics as a mature age student, while juggling family life with husband Darren and children Sage, now 15, and Xavier, 12.
"I prefer hand built work and make my own moulds."
Sasha is best known for her white clay and tissue transfer vessels sold through Weswal Gallery, and Tarnished Interiors, Tamworth.
2016 has been a gift for Sasha, taking the year off from teaching to seek out inspiration through travel, art exhibitions, and staying up late and making. She is working towards exhibiting at Blackville Art Show and Market in October and Weswal Gallery in November.
Collections of ceramic orbs and boxes of twisted branches wait in clusters to be shaped into nests for the exhibition. Other works in progress are textured cylinder stem vases, and a miniature village of buildings evocative of Sasha's travels.
"I love teaching, but it has been nice to have a break from the paperwork and be still."