Ella Bendrups

Vege Threads customer & local ceramicist Ella Bendrups, takes us through her Melbourne/Naarm based studio and her daily rituals, clay practise and how she juggles new motherhood.

Images by Lara Cooper.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Ella Bendrups, I'm a ceramic artist who lives with my partner James and 12 month old son Karl in Naarm. My studio is a 40 minute walk from my house, built by my dad at the back of my parent's block in Northcote. I've been on maternity leave since shortly before Karl was born and am looking forward to getting my hands back into some clay. 

What is one of your essential daily rituals?

I make sure I take the time to brew at least one pot of loose leaf tea daily. I find that I'm more likely to take a moment to savour my cuppa and re-centre myself if it is a little more involved to brew. As a no-to-low caffeine drinking person it was game changing to discover the tea selection at Lupicia, I currently have Rooibos Poire and Houji-Genmaicha Kirishima on rotation. 

How did you begin working with clay?

I had wanted to try my hand at a ceramics class since high school, but the stars didn't align until 2015. At the time I was a stylist assistant and I enrolled in a six week beginners course after being inspired by the amazing pieces made by local makers I saw sourced for photo shoots. I wouldn't say I took to it like a duck to water, there were definitely some wonky, squat pieces that looked like they were made by a 6 year old. It was really challenging to enter that beginners mindset again and to overcome my perfectionist streak that I'd honed studying Communication Design and Interior Design and Decoration. I think clay is an incredible teacher, you really have to surrender in your practice and that's not something I think I would have learned or applied more broadly to other parts of my life if I hadn't started with this material. Since 2015 I've done a few one off workshops, but I mostly have a self-led explorative practice. 

"Nature has also been an enduring inspiration, especially in terms of surface texture and form. I'm drawn to the way water shapes and textures rocks especially"

Where do you look for inspiration?

My practice explores ancient clay and stone artefacts and their ability to transcend the times and cultures in which they were created. I've found myself tapping into universal themes of fertility, connection and protection in recent works. Nature has also been an enduring inspiration, especially in terms of surface texture and form. I'm drawn to the way water shapes and textures rocks especially.

Has your practice changed since becoming a mother?

Motherhood is already proving to be fertile ground for inspiration, which I can only imagine becoming richer and more layered as time goes on. I do make some pieces specifically as a way of processing ideas of feelings and there are a lot of words and phrases in my sketchbook which is more unusual for me as I generally sketch only forms. Practically speaking, I'm essentially going from a full time to part time workload, so there will be more time spent turning things over in my head than my hands. I'm optimistic that having more thinking time away from the studio will mean that I can jump right into focused work when I do have a chance to get in there.

Tell us about your studio space.

I work from a micro studio measuring 1.6x4m that my dad built for me. It's had a few add ons over the years as my practice has grown, the most significant being a verandah and connection to three phase power when my larger kiln arrived in early 2020. Even though working in a smaller space can be limiting in terms of the amount and scale of work I produce, I find the benefit of total solitude evens things out (I'd definitely be the reclusive person constantly wearing noise cancelling headphones in a shared space). My window faces North which bathes my works in beautiful light when the sun's out and most of the time the only sounds I can hear are birdsong, which I prefer over music. 

Current favourite artist / maker

I've really been getting into the sculptural works of Niki de Saint Phalle recently, a visit to her Tarot Garden in Tuscany is definitely on my wish list.

Favourite VT item of clothing to wear at the moment?

As someone who has very cold extremities, merino socks are essential for keeping my feet toasty warm. Having cold feet really ruins your ability to enjoy anything and the change from cotton to merino has meant I can get my fix of nature without sacrificing comfort, it's honestly been life changing. 

Find more of Ellas work here.

Worn by Ella