Anna-Marie Wallace discovered a penchant for clay by accident one afternoon while visiting a community arts centre pottery shed to kill some time. Five years later her products dress the tables of some of Australia’s finest restaurants including Melbourne’s Lûmé, Igni, Fleet and D’Arenburg winery’s new Cube restaurant.
Jock Zonfrillo, owner/chef of Restaurant Orana, Adelaide, was the first to order Anna’s unglazed ceramics; her signature ovoid vessels were developed for food service four years ago in a creative partnership with Jock. Anna self-fires her ceramics using a method called saggar firing – an unusual method for functional ware.
A saggar was traditionally a protective ceramic container in which pottery was placed during firing, though now even aluminium foil may be used to isolate individual pieces.
‘Saggars were created to stop the airborne debris in wood-fired kilns from marking glazed surfaces during firing, but now serve the exact opposite purpose: I pack my work into them with the single purpose of containing combustible materials and making marks with them,’ says Anna-Marie. ‘I use a selection of indigenous Australian flora and organic waste from native fauna, foraged from rainforests and diverse ecosystems along the coastlines: the shores of Queensland and Northern NSW beaches.’
Naturally occurring oxides and minerals including those found in pandanus fruit, macadamia nut, snakeskin, crocodile eggshell, dugong seagrass, quandong and eucalyptus are permanently fused with the clay producing unique markings. ‘The results are otherworldly and often described as cosmic by my customers,’ Anna-Marie says, but she thinks they speak, ultimately, of their earthly origins.
Working mostly alone in her rainforest studio, she says she needs to stay organised and focused to keep up with orders: ‘I usually have a few bigger restaurant orders on the go at once. Big at the moment means over 200 pieces.’ Then there are the web shop orders, plus retail shop and gallery store pieces. ‘It’s pretty full on!’
Anna-Marie’s pieces can be bought online, but she likes to remind people to be patient when ordering something handmade. ‘Your special piece is being coaxed through many steps that require time and love.’
Pictured: Wabi Sabi range – plate and chopsticks; Minimalist Range – small bowl (10cm), and wide bowl (25cm, the newest bowl design, perfected over 4 years of collaboration with chefs); ovoid vessel (large) and orb, which together make a mortar and pestle.