“Listen to the colour of your dreams” The Beatles sang in Tomorrow Never Knows. That is the way it is with Toowoomba ceramic artist Alexis Tacey, who specialises in beautiful dinnerware.
Alexis produces dinnerware that complements the presentation of food and her dream is to have an exhibition of her work in France. This year marks her 18th year as Lecturer in Ceramics at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba.
Of her dream, Alexis says, “I’d make the work in France and then have exhibition there.” She now makes an annual pilgrimage to France with her husband Henry Hancock and son Axel. “It is several years away but I have decided on the location near Curemonte just out of Brive-la-Gaillrade. The venue I’ve chosen isn’t a gallery; it’s an old church from Roman times with an earth floor all made out of limestone. It’s in the middle of a paddock, which is covered with walnuts when they are in season, and every month the friends of the church have changing exhibitions.”
As much as Alexis loves having exhibitions in Toowoomba and Brisbane, says she would also very much like to have an exhibition in Japan where her career in working with clay really began taking shape in the 1980s. After earning a Diploma of Arts (Creative) she spent 12 months with Janet Mansfield, OAM – a revered figure in the world of potters – in Sydney. That led her to study studio ceramics in Japan for four years, which included a three-year apprenticeship with another renowned industry figure, Yoshida Yoshihiko. “Once I’d seen Yoshida’s work, I knew I had to study his methods,” she says. “I put in an application to the Australia Council for an overseas grant, which was successful and initially I went to Japan for one year. While I was there, I got to exhibit in Tokyo and Nagoya as well as taking the opportunity to see Neolithic pots and jars, which were about 4000 years old, in Xi’an in China where the Entombed Warriors are.”
Finding her financial resources stretched on returning to Australia in 1987, Alexis capitalised on her knowledge of Japanese culture by joining Opal World in Queensland and managed the group’s shop in Cairns, where she had been born. Within a few years she had saved the funds needed to establish a ceramics studio, complete with a woodfired kiln, on the property of her parents, Jim and Lexie. In addition to making her own pots, she filled the role of coordinator of the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery until becoming a USQ lecturer in 1994.
In 1996, Alexis received a Bachelor of Arts degree, with Honours, from USQ and soon afterwards was introduced to Henry whom she married in 2002. With Henry being a landscape gardener and designer, the couple have since developed a property at Cabarlah where Alexis has a second studio.
“I love my life with Henry and Axel, I love what I do and I love my job at USQ … and to exhibit in France is my dream.”
Words by Graeme Kelly | Images by Cindy Laine