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Ceramics spark a new creative direction

Visit Ballarat

16 Feb 2021

Filed underMakers & Growers

For local creative Debbie Hill, ceramics was never her first discipline – but once she got the chance to fully explore working with clay she knew this is was what she needed to be doing. 

“Three-years-ago my potter friend enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Ceramics and convinced me to join her, this became my ceramics ‘journey’ and I cannot imagine not doing it now. Everything about ceramics is amazing…”

Who Mourns, Ark Series. Hand-built and etched porcelain by Debbie Hill.

What drew you to ceramics? 
I remember the first time I ever ‘played’ with clay was at secondary school, I had a wonderful teacher who was very inspiring, but unfortunately after he left the school ceramics was not part of the art program. I spent more time drawing and painting and that continued for many years.  

When I moved from the city to the country, I met a friend who was a potter and I began to play again… for a while. The constraints of not having a studio or the kiln sent me back to drawing. For the last 20 years I have been primarily a drawer, but I have spent a lot of time drawing on three-dimensional forms including books and origami forms. I lectured at the Arts Academy for 10 years and spent a lot of time with the ceramics staff and students… I just loved the honesty of the ways that clay could be manipulated, I would watch from a distance as the lecturer would walk the students through a variety of processes, all the time thinking – I want to do this.  

Three-years-ago my potter friend enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Ceramics and convinced me to join her, this became my ceramics ‘journey’ and I cannot imagine not doing it now. Everything about ceramics is amazing, the process, the understanding of glaze, the options of functional and/or sculptural ware, hand-building, wheel thrown, the tactility of the medium is a big draw for me, holding a piece, feeling it’s weight, glaze and texture is very satisfying. 
What inspires you?  
My work is inspired by the world that I inhabit. I draw directly on subjects/themes that I read, hear or see around me, things that I am fascinated by and passionate about, these include: the environment, death, religion, memories, myths, societal issues and sciences. Within my work all these elements play a part to create a whole. 
How has living in Ballarat inspired any of your work? 
Ballarat has a broad and varied arts community which lends itself to providing the entire community a window into many different areas of creation within the city. Whilst none of my work has been directly influenced by living in Ballarat, it’s a great place to live and create. The opportunity to engage with the arts either at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, with other artists, with like-minded individuals from all walks of life is in itself inspiring. 
What do you hope to evoke in those who view your work? 
This is an interesting question, as I have found that the audience will often bring their own thoughts and ideas to the work. I do hope that people can engage with what I am doing and possibly think about looking closer at their immediate surrounds and to engage with all aspects of the environment that are sometimes not easily seen…unless you really begin to look. 
It’s not only ceramics, you’re also a very talented at drawing. What inspires your drawing? 
Thank you! My drawings change with each series that I do, the changes are mainly with the mediums and grounds that I utilise but the inspiration remains the same as those that I am working with, when creating my porcelain forms. 
What does Ballarat as a UNESCO Creative City of Craft and Folk Art mean to you? 
What a wonderful opportunity to be bestowed on Ballarat. Bringing forth the many and varied crafts within our community can only be a good thing for both the creators and audiences. Ballarat has always had a strong connection to especially ceramics (pottery), so it’s positive that recognition of this is happening. For me personally, it’s an opportunity to be exposed to new artists to the area, new crafts and ideas, the opportunity to possibly collaborate with other creative cities and to have the support of the city to continue creating. 
For those interested in ceramics, what piece of advice do you have for them? 
Buy what you like, hold it, use it, admire it – all in the knowledge that you are supporting local artists and that you have something truly unique. 
And to wrap up, what’s Ballarat best kept secret?  
Ballarat has a lot to offer on a number of levels, but I think my favourite place is walking or riding along the Yarrowee Creek Trail. It’s hard to believe that this area is located so close to the city yet can make you feel like you are miles away from anyone. The wetlands are a fascinating place with fabulous flora and fauna, I think we are lucky to have somewhere like this to enjoy in town. 

Find out more about Debbie’s work at


The City of Ballarat acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land we live and work on, the Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung People, and recognises their continuing connection to the land and waterways. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend this to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.