Home is Where the Art is

“I called it Frolic because I wanted it to be playful, a bit of fun on the side of my main gig,” says Vicki Fanning. Sounds a bit saucy? “I’ve always been quite provocative in my work,”she admits. She’s in her Matakana home studio creating new silicone and glass art pieces (definitely sexy), as we discuss the ceramic tableware business she began in 2014.

Frolic Ceramics was created to fund Vicki’s fine art practice and be easy to produce, enabling more time with son Sam. But although it’s a relatively high-production scenario, each piece is handled around 12 times, and Vicki likes to highlight the handmade process by celebrating bumps and drips as beautiful imperfections.

Vicki did a degree in ceramics and glass at Auckland Unitec in the early nineties (she and her partner, artist Mike Petre, met there). Art and travel was funded through catering, gardening, pottery work and art school life-modelling. She catered film shoots, including King Kong and The Water Horse. “I made Naomi Watts a birthday cake during King Kong – hazelnut with chocolate ganache!” she says nostalgically.

2001 saw her getting art-serious at Whanganui Polytech, with subsequent works exhibited nationally and in Australia, Oregon and Denmark; she’s been a three-time finalist in the Australasian Ranamok Glass Prize. Vicki’s trademark is flamework – shaping thousands of snippets of clear glass by blowtorch and attaching them to playful items – blankets, cushions, teddy bears, big knives and yes, Viking weaponry.

Vicki loves the contradictory nature of glass. “It’s solid but liquid, it can both protect and be dangerous... We could say we’re now in the glass age, since it enables all the technology we’re totally reliant on, from screens to fibre optics and lenses.” Vicki’s recent work, ‘User Generated Content’ is informed by this concept – sleek, ceramic torsos with undeniably sensual bumps and holes which suggest the mirror-selfies of gym bunnies on social media.

Vicki had a charmed childhood in Kaipara Flats and Mahurangi East with her twin sister and another set of twin siblings. Her parents were ‘makers’. “Mum hooked rugs, spun and knitted. Dad built everything, including boats, while working at the Satellite Station. And they were both major gardeners.”

Vicki inherited the gardening gene in er, spades, as evidenced by her vegetable garden, massed hydrangeas and the glorious dahlias she sells in summer. Vicki and Mike’s cleverly renovated 120-year-old farmhouse, stuffed with art, is regularly visited by busloads of visitors for fundraisers (there’s a Hospice Homes Tour in November).

“I try to be creatively holistic about my work, the garden and food. So for a tour, or a Frolic sale day, I’ll put flowers in the jugs, nibbles on the platters; I like to get it all going on.” A recent collaboration with Kensal Flower Studio saw jugs bursting with meadow flowers sold as Mother’s Day gifts.

As a cook, Vicki knows the colours that work with food – matt charcoal, shiny grey, soft raspberry, cool teal. Alongside classic platters, bowls, plates, cups and jugs, she invents clever niche items – ceramic microgreens containers for example, which solve the practical and aesthetic problems of leaky plastic packs. There are new cake stands, and some simple, chunky candleholders.

Vicki reminds herself that she went back to ceramics to enable her art and family life. “It’s got to work for me, and it’s got to be fun!” she declares. But far from being a frolic on the side, it’s entirely possible that this business could quietly run riot.

Frolic stockists: Tea & Tonic, Matakana Village and Madder and Rouge, Newmarket.

New glass work, ‘Seek and Search’ at the Vivian Gallery Matakana, from July 28.

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ArtJunction Mag