The Ceramicists: Milly Dent vs Susan Simonini

The Ceramicists: Milly Dent vs Susan Simonini

Found within the trendiest homes on Instagram, handmade ceramics are a modern-day homewares staple. We sat down with two ceramicists driving the local “makers” industry.

By Hannah Doody | 2nd November 2015


Milly Dent

What made you want to work with clay? I took an elective class in ceramics within my design degree and just really enjoyed working with the material. I loved the control you had over each and every stage of the process including prototyping and production, as well as the element of surprise in terms of glazing and firing.

How did you arrive at your trademark marbling effect and geometric shapes? The shape came first, I wanted to design a piece that was equal parts interesting and functional, and once I had the form I started playing around with methods of decoration. The marbling happened a bit by accident but I was thrilled with the results and just stuck with it.

How did your brand really take off? A couple of friends had or were working for blogs so I was lucky enough to be featured through them. Also, not surprisingly, Instagram was amazing in terms of reaching a wider audience and gaining exposure. Lots of people in the health food industry have my products and use them in their food styling, which I love to see.

Milly Dent marbled gem cups

Assorted Milly Dent Designs

You have had your work exhibited in a number of galleries; what’s next for the Milly Dent brand? Who knows! New and exciting things seem to be popping up all the time so I am excited to see what happens. I hope to launch a new range of work following Christmas.

Do you have any upcoming plans for collaborations with other designers? Yes, I have a few collaborations on the go. I am making work for Melbourne-based clothing label Handsom, and Sydney-based natural home and body brand Theseeke.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I enjoy a good swim in the sea.

What do you love about Brisbane? The sunshine! I also love the Brisbane River, West End, James Street, and I love Brisbane because that’s where my parents are!


Susan Simonini

How did you get your start in pottery? I completed a bachelor degree in fine art at Queensland College of Art and exhibited my paintings and screen prints for many years before taking up ceramics in early 2013. I put a few pieces for sale on Etsy and things really took off from there.

Has your decade of experience in painting and screen printing contributed to your clay designs? My love of painting, my layering of colour, and the use of positive and negative space are definitely reflected in many of my surface designs. Even some of the shapes of my hand-formed plates are very similar to shapes found in my paintings.

What does your creation process look like? I roll and shape the clay by hand, so no two pieces are the same. It is the imperfect form I love – the uneven edge, the organic shape, the imprint of a finger left by the maker. When a piece is leather-hard, I smooth and shape it a bit more, apply slips or colours if needed, and then bisque fire it. I decide on the decoration – some forms are simply glazed, but even then I try to leave some of the surface unglazed to create contrasting tones and textures.

Susan Simonini ceramics

Left: Susan Simonini noodle bowl, right: Rustic hanging planter

Where do you draw inspiration? I find inspiration in many things. I look for shape and form in the things around me, particularly in nature and the coastal landscape. I devour art books and design magazines, and Pinterest is a great source for ceramic inspiration. Most of the time, something just randomly triggers an idea and I have to write it down for later exploration.

You teach pottery classes; what do you enjoy most about that? As I work alone most of the time, I love the social interaction that comes with teaching. Also, the teaching and learning process is a two-way street – I am often inspired by my students’ process of discovery.

Do you have any plans to expand your brand? I am developing a beautiful hand-painted porcelain range that I hope to have available in shops soon. So far my pieces have not been available in retail spaces outside Queensland, so it would be great to expand to Sydney or Melbourne.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I am an avid longboard skateboarder and try to get a ride in whenever I can. My ceramics business doesn’t leave time for much else at the moment!


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Article by Hannah Doody

Hannah is a former journalist at Style Magazines. When she is not exploring new parts of the world, you will find her at music festivals, or on her eternal quest for the best breakfast in Brisbane.


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