Drawing from the bottom of the world: Bridging the Gap update

Bridging the Gap is a little over a month old and it is already 80% funded! I want to extend a big thank you for donating your time, money and awareness to the project. Your generosity is the engine pushing this project forward. (If this is your first time hearing about this project please click here for more information.)

With every day that passes I am closer to my April departure for Australia. I can barely wait to get there and start my work at Ernabella. The prospect of one solid month of studio time has my mind racing with new ideas. I have not had this much dedicated studio time in a few years and I plan to use it wisely.

One area that I will work on with my Ernabella collaborators is drawing. Watching other artists draw will be a major learning experience in its own right. Every artist makes marks in their own distinct way. Drawing is as unique an identifier as our finger print, or the individual hues of our eyes. During my trip I will make ceramic forms that other artists will decorate. I don't often turn over complete decorative control to someone else so this collaboration will be a great learning experience. I'm sure my understanding of design will be altered from witnessing what the Anangu artists decide to do with the forms.

You can see from these images that the Anangu style doesn't easily fit into one category of decoration. In general it is in the "more is more" category with each artist using drawing to craft a narrative. The dense patterns filling up every inch of the surface is similar to my own drawing style. They also use materials that are similar to my own. Their native Australian terracotta is a vibrant red color providing an excellent base for sgraffito drawing with slips. You can see from the teapot detail image below that sgraffito (scratching through slip) is one of my favorite techniques for image making.
Even with our similarities I see many differences between the Anangu approach to art and my own. This project is about exploring these differences and learning from them. One main difference is the role art making plays in the community. It is a central component of story telling which extends and strengthens their culture. This essential role excites my curiosity because the culture is not large in number. While the human impact of American culture numbers in the millions, Anangu culture can be measured in the thousands. The town I will be living in has around 500 members and this is a relatively large settlement for a group that transitioned away from a nomadic lifestyle within the last hundred years. The role their stories, music and art play in protecting their heritage are of great interest to me.

Another difference is the level of artistic training that the Anangu artists have. With few members of the community leaving to go to art schools their art making exists on the stylistic fringe of the contemporary art world. I look forward to seeing how this distance has impacted their sense of design. Many years in academia have sculpted my understanding of design in a logical and some times predictable fashion. While I would never trade that knowledge I am interested to learn from artists who have no formal training. I often find the approach of an untrained eye is not limited by art world fashions and trends. The mixtures of colors, patterns, and themes can be unexpected and beautifully fresh. This outsider stance has produced amazing art work in cultures spread through out the globe. (Click here for more information on other "outsider" art traditions.)

To wrap up this update I want to thank you again for your support. I will be posting more images and thoughts as I prepare for my trip. A quick plug for social media sharing. Your voice carries much farther than mine alone. If possible please post the following messages to your social media sites to help spread word about the project.

FACEBOOK: I just made a contribution to the Bridging the Gap project. I support artistic collaboration and you can too! Get involved by visiting http://kck.st/xdescR

TWITTER: I just pledged to Bridging the Gap. Support creativity & cultural exchange by pledging your support. http://kck.st/xdescR @carterpottery


  1. What fun you are going to have, looking forward to hearing more about this project.

  2. Sounds really cool. Have fun. take lots of pictures.