With a career extending over five decades, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott is considered Australia’s most celebrated potter. Deceptively simple, her works built on the tradition of functional ceramics and bridged the assumed divide between craft and fine art.
In 1955 Hanssen Pigott began her three-year apprenticeship with Ivan McKeekin at Sturt Pottery in Mittagong before furthering her training overseas with key studio potters including Ray Finch, Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew. Six years later, attracted to long wood fired French stoneware Hanssen Pigott established a pottery at Acheres; rural France. During this time Hanssen Pigott saw a retrospective exhibition of Italian still-life painter Giorgio Morandi; an influence which later lead her to form groups of pots into still-life arrangements.
Hanssen Pigott returned to Australia in 1973 and settled in Tasmania, establishing up a pottery workshop at Linden Rise. She later undertook a year’s tenancy at the Jam Factory Workshop, Adelaide in 1980. At this time she started to decorate the interior of her pieces with blue geometric patterns inspired by Nigerian indigo dyed textiles.
Hanssen Pigott subsequently moved to Queensland where she was potter-in-residence at the Queensland University of Technology until 1988 when she established a pottery at Netherdale, near Mackay. In 2000 Hanssen Pigott moved to Bundamba, Ipswich to be closer to support and resources. Though international exhibitions regularly drew her away, she remained in Ipswich for the rest of her life.
In July 2013 Gwyn Hanssen Pigott passed away after suffering a stroke. Amoungst many career highlights, she received a Visual Arts and Crafts Emeritus Award in 1997; an Australia Council Fellowship in 1998; and an Order of Australia medal in 2002, all in recognition of her service to the arts as a potter and teacher. Hanssen Pigott has also exhibited extensively overseas including at Tate, St Ives and a survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2005. Her work continues to inspire a school of followers and is a leading presence in the contemporary ceramic movement in Australia.