Local artist profile: Tracey Koolen

October 8, 2023 BY

Kicking back: Tracey Koolen said mistakes don’t exist in ceramic artistry, and each completed piece is part of a journey to the next. Photo: SUPPLIED

THIS week we chat with Central Victorian sculptural and ceramic artist Tracey Koolen, who upped stumps from her decade-long engineering career 30 years ago to focus on her passion for ceramics.


What motivated you to become a sculptural and ceramic artist?

My journey in clay started in the clay pits of regional Victoria at age 11. I would sit in the clay pit and create for hours. Time stood still. I would use river stones ground to make colours to decorate my pieces.

Throughout my schooling life I was always drawn to creative arts and design. I became a draftsperson whilst also attending many workshops in clay, having small studios wherever I resided.

After 10 years in the engineering field, I decided to commit to my passion for ceramics. Over the next six years I absorbed all I could, obtaining a Diploma in Ceramics in Melbourne and a degree in Visual Arts – Ceramics at La Trobe University in Bendigo. I was motivated to dedicate my life’s work as a sculptural artist.

Moving to Maldon 28 years ago gave way to a new path in my designs. Nature and historical found objects were my biggest inspiration. From seedlings sprouting through the earth to metal cogs from machinery that dug the earth. Using the clay with the introduction of the metal gave the appearance of old meets new, creating a new beginning. My work has been described as bold, striking, whilst also fluid and cosmic.


What are some highlights you have from your career so far?

Solo and group exhibitions, large scale commissions and teaching ceramics. Castlemaine Art Gallery, Bendigo Post Office Gallery, solo exhibition at Bendigo Pottery are amongst many exhibitions that I have been proud to be a part of. My greatest achievement of recent is opening my studio to teach all that I have learnt to anyone that loves to get their hands in clay.


How can people check out your work?

Situated in picturesque Maldon, my studio is in the township. Classes in all things clay construction are on offer, from wheel throwing to hand building. There are also weekend workshops and individual classes, all of which can be accessed through my website at Koolclay Art, socials under Koolclay_art or contact me directly to have a viewing of my studio.


Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

The Australian Ceramic Open Studio is an event that happens biannually – an excellent opportunity to visit the studio of your local regional and state potters. I will be opening my studio on 11 and12 November where you can visit, have a chat and check out some of my students and my work.

Mica Grange Sculpture Garden will be open to the public on Saturday 28 October and runs for seven weekends. The spectacular gardens showcase many regional sculptors and works are for sale.


What would you say to young regional aspiring sculptors and ceramic artists who are thinking of making a go of the creative life?

Taking the leap from a secure career 30 years ago to the unknown creative world of clay was daunting. As I settled into my new world I became determined to live my life as a ceramic artist and now have the pleasure to pass on my knowledge.

For all you budding ceramic artists out there, welcome to the wonderful medium of clay. Each piece of work you make is unique, no mistakes can be made and each one is a journey to the next.