Ceramic artist Ashleigh Christelis has spent the last year tracking her emotional well-being through clay. Her #365bowls exhibition is the culmination of this study into creative technique and personal discovery.
“Working with clay, for me, is what oxygen is for the body. I create work that tells bits of my story, and I hope to touch peoples’ hearts with them,” says the Johannesburg-based artist.
Living with Bipolar 2 Disorder, Christelis says the #365bowls project was an attempt to track her year in clay; as a mother, artist and person with a label. “The idea was to make a bowl a day – to track my moods, my techniques, what I focus on, and how day-to-day life manifests in my work,” she says.
“Through Bipolar 2 Disorder, I am gifted with the ability to feel deeply the opposite ends of extreme emotions. The ability to see and experience the light and dark parts of myself and the situations that I ﬁnd myself in. I live in these extremes very deeply. The pendulum tends to swing rather erratically and with great enthusiasm! I often want to see this from an outside perspective, as an onlooker, and so I thought through the #365bowls project this would show itself.”
Christelis, who primarily makes fine functional thrown stoneware, is also using the exhibition to celebrate her 45th birthday. She says that through this project she has revisited artistic techniques that have played significant roles in her growth as a practising artist for over 25 years.
“My main aim was to move away from the litho printing that I have been working on, as I was bored and felt the technique was stale,” she says.
Through the process the artist has faced numerous hurdles; the flaring up of her rheumatoid arthritis, sickness in the family and bouts of self-resignation.
“At some point in September I was going to throw in the towel with #365bowls, I had lost control and there were huge amounts of doubt engulﬁng me. It was then that a dear friend said “Ash, trust the process” so I did just that,” Christelis explains.
“I stepped back, and although my hands were not working as they used to, I decided to stop resisting, stop ﬁghting the internal battle and choose to be in the moment. I’m learning to navigate this new way of being, in the world and through my work, and the #365bowls body of work has shown me how to share my experiences.
“Through sharing this exhibition, I would be honoured to touch just one other person. I hope this journey through mood, process, flow and self-doubt can offer just a twinkle of hope to others’ lives,” Christelis concludes.
The #365bowls exhibition takes place on Saturday, 10 December between 17:00 and 22:00 at the artist’s studio (Ernest Ullman Park Rec Centre, On Minto Road in Gallo Manor). All the works on show will be for sale on the night.
For more information, visit the Facebook event page.