Each year, Craft invites a Fresh! alumnus to contribute an essay reflecting on their own experience of Fresh! This year, we asked renowned ceramic artist Kate Jones to pen the essay, in the 30th year of our annual program.
Being selected for Fresh in 2014 during my final year of university hugely benefited me. I was at a juncture when I was preparing to leave an environment that had provided intellectual stimulation and crucially, that had given me a critical audience to share my ideas and my work with. During the time I was studying, I formed close relationships with peers and found numerous opportunities to share ideas and to show work; from small crit groups to public exhibitions. I was aware that after finishing my course it would be more difficult to keep the momentum going in my practice.
The Craft Victoria Fresh! award helped to ease my transition out of the safety and the intensity of art school, reassuring me that I would find new audiences and new colleagues in a wider context. Suddenly my pottery was in company with work from designers, craftspeople and artists from other courses and institutions; and although I didn’t understand this at the time, I was joining a significant group.
The commitment that Craft has maintained to the award over the past thirty years by selecting and rewarding new talent annually, has meant that a large and constantly growing number of Victoria's foremost craft practitioners count themselves as Fresh! alumni. Over the past nine years, I have had many conversations in which the question: Which year were you in Fresh!? has arisen and in an industry that can be isolating at times, these lateral connections are invaluable – being a Fresh! alumnus gives me a sense of belonging. Equally important is the outward-facing aspect of Fresh! – the fact that Craft presents this emerging work to the viewing public each year and in doing so reinforces the vitality and importance of formal study for the creative industries.
It is a well-known, and sad fact that the number of graduates eligible for inclusion in Fresh!, particularly in my discipline of ceramics, has dwindled over the past decade due to the closure of course after course. The disconnect between the lack of opportunity for serious study, and the current popularity of crafts like pottery is concerning. A period of time dedicated to study provides an opportunity to gather skills and to take risks in the development of work, before confronting the realities of sustaining oneself in the commercial marketplace. Craft’s Fresh! awards honour the process, acknowledging the depth and diversity of work made possible by this investment of time and energy.
Craft’s ethos creates and holds an important space for makers in Victoria. As an artist, I work from project to project. For me, many of those have originated here; through the numerous exhibition and selling opportunities managed by Craft’s brilliant team, and also in the connections that I have made with outside institutions and markets through the presence that an association with Craft helps me to maintain. But Craft does much more than actively promote my work, and foster me, along with countless others; it upholds the importance of the making of things for our culture.
— Kate Jones