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Meet The Designer

Mountains of inspiration

winter 14

WHEN TALKING TO LANDSBOROUGH ceramic artist Johanna DeMaine about her 43-year-long career, she often uses the words ‘luck’ and ‘good fortune’.
But it’s evident that skill and dedication are the key reasons for Johanna’s success and longevity.
She took her first pottery class in 1971 when she was working as a young teacher in Gladstone.
It was a life-changing experience.
“My friends suggested I take adult ed classes with them. I wasn’t interested at first,” she says. “But then they ganged up on me!”
She soon became hooked on making pots. 
“From that point on, clay had me. I loved the challenge of playing with the heat and the fire and getting glass to sit on the surface of a pot.” 
Johanna set herself up with her own kiln and wheel and started making pots full time.
Since then her style has evolved as she’s learned new techniques and found fresh inspiration. 
Today Johanna has a studio and gallery space tucked away at the foot of the Blackall Range, where she lives with her husband Ted, works daily making her pots and teaches others the skills she’s learned over the years.
Her work has been purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, been presented to royalty – the Queen and Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark have received pieces of Johanna’s work – and has a permanent home at Art on Cairncross gallery in Maleny. 
Her latest works are beautifully decorative and complex, made up of layers of matte and shiny textures, and incorporating paintwork, lustres and etching.
Each piece has a narrative which weaves its way around and within the pot, a tactic which Johanna uses to draw the viewer into the piece.
“You tend to see yourself mirrored in the lustres,” she says.
“I try to capture the viewer and invite them into the work and allow them to interpret it in their own way.”
Johanna’s vast knowledge and diverse range of skills is a result of years of reading, experimenting and teaching.
Her studio is stocked with an impressive home library of books and journals dedicated to her craft. 
“My mind doesn’t stop researching. I’m always picking up a book and wondering, ‘How do you do that?’”
Throughout her long career, Johanna has weathered serious illness, family setbacks and ongoing house and studio renovations, yet her one constant – apart from Ted – is potting.
And her work still manages to challenge and delight her. 
“It’s the continuous learning that I enjoy. I’m teaching myself new skills all the time. I experiment a lot. I’m always waiting to see how a piece comes out of the kiln.”
Funnily, this passion for her work wasn’t always there. 
“I skipped every art and craft lesson at teachers college,” she laughs. “I used to play 500, canasta and ten pin bowling. They were my passions in those days.”
Originally from Holland, Johanna was six when her family set sail from Rotterdam to migrate to Australia.
They settled in Maroochydore where she lived until she went to teachers college in Brisbane. 
“Maroochydore was just so different back then. As kids we roamed that country. We’d go hunting finches in the sides of the creek and my brother would catch parrots with a long pole with a bit of fishing line tied to it.”
During Johanna and Ted’s early years together they spent time between the coast and Ted’s homeland of England.  
“We did a lot of travelling,” she says.
“We climbed to the base of Annapurna by ourselves. Being in this amphitheatre of peaks, it was totally awe inspiring.”
Her surroundings, especially mountains, have continued to inspire Johanna over the years, and the peaks and ranges of the Sunshine Coast are motifs which show up regularly in her works.
“Driving to Brisbane, you go past these amazing monoliths,” she says.
“Driving up to Maleny, it’s so spectacular. If it’s cloudy or misty, the mountains look like they’re floating.”
Pandanus, pine trees and butterflies also feature often, reminiscent of the natural environment around her.
Johanna introduced gold and lustres into her work to capture the light of the coast. 
“You can’t escape the beautiful light here – it’s everywhere,” she says.
“And the colours. The blues are blue and the greens are green.”
Being aware of her environment and being able to adapt and grow is part of Johanna’s secret to being content in life. 
“You have to be in control of your own future,” she says.
“I’m lucky that I have the ability to dance to my own tune. You can do anything you want to do in life. You just need to know what you want to do.” 
Johanna’s work will be on display from July 5 to 20 at Art on Cairncross, 3 Panorama Place, Maleny.  5429 6404 or Gallery open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm.
words kate shannon photos anastasia kariofyllidis