The term Artisan is very popular right now. And it's easy to slip into thinking of the term as a specific aesthetic, as an adjective synonymous with 'trendy' or a set of instructions. These definitions open themselves quite dangerously to classification, to oversimplification and mockery. But hidden amongst bakeries filled with Edison bulbs and hired-out handwritten signs, there are artisans like Emma Vinkovic of ERVCeramics. What begun with no commercial intent, but simply as an exploration into a technique she found beautiful. That they fit into so many modern trends toward the local and bespoke, to Hygge and a more general obsession with ceramics— these are only incidental crossovers in Emma's motivations to create the work she finds personally beautiful.
Emma is the daughter of Andrea Vinkovic, an accomplished sculptural ceramic artist. Whilst Emma initially had no interest in working with ceramics herself, she recalls seeing a picture of a vase and asking how the artist had gotten such a glaze. Andrea replied that the particular vase wasn't a glaze at all, and offered to show Emma the technique. Emma took the technique and used it to produce a series of vessels, but believed she had no reason to continue producing, and her ceramics practice almost finished there. And it wasn't others similarly stumbled on Emma's vessels, that Emma began to consider continuing to work in ceramics: As part of the Australian Design Festival, her and her mother had hosted four Perth designers to their home. The public were invited to meet the artists and see the home and studio. Andrea had put out some of Emma's pieces, and the interest was immediate. Emma now produces these beautiful ceramics full-time.
Despite using a comparatively niche technique, there are no trade secrets going on in Emma's practice. Pointing out some multi-coloured vessels in her latest batch, she gladly tells me they are the result of accidentally mixing two stains, many of which are indistinguishable until the ceramics are fired. The result is a delightful set of two-toned pink and gray marbled cups and bowls.
Emma tells me there are two moments which keep her making ceramics, the first being the unpredictability of the kiln and the nature of the clay: "when you first take them out of the mould and when you crack open the kiln after the glaze firing. The clay really has a mind of its own, I can control the colours and the amounts and so on, but I never really know how it's going to come out in the end. Sometimes I think it's going to have strong colours and it turns out really pastel, or that it's going to be subtle and there's just this wave of colours". The second, she says, is when taking the vessels out from the kiln: "Sometimes I'm really excited, and sometimes really nervous because while I have some idea of what it will look like I can never be absolutely certain. But that's the exciting thing about ceramics - it's all chemical reactions."
ERVCeramics are on Instagram and Facebook, and are stocked at William Topp, Mundaring Art Centre and Monde Design Store.
Drinks with all of their ingredients in their name are always a hit. A simple Gin and Tonic may well be the best almost-a-cocktail that there is, and in dire moments I can't say I've ever been above a Vodka Soda or a Rum and Ginger Ale (Just garnish it with lime and call it a dark and stormy). If I were a bit more inspired perhaps I would have worked out some clever alliterative name like a Watermelon Whatever Weather or something classy like The Duke. Unfortunately I'm above terrible at naming things, so if you can remember the optional inclusion of ginger, the Watermelon Apple Strawberry Mint Juice has not only all of its ingredients in descending order of quantity, but if you use juice as a verb, it also becomes it's own preparation instructions.
The juice I make is based on a similar drink which saved my life one particularly hungover morning in Melbourne (If you're reading from Melbourne and haven't yet risked life and liver at Spleen, you haven't yet explored your city to its fullest). A week ago I made a batch and posted the recipe on instagram, the next evening I did the same, but had the thought pass it through a fine mesh strainer. Both are delicious, but the straining is an absolute game changer. I also occasionally add Gin to make it a night time drink, or when I find the current four prefixes roll off the tongue just a little too easily.
Watermelon Apple Strawberry Mint Juice
It's right there in the name, guys.
Cut an inch sized chunk from a half watermelon, cut into long staves.
Run two Pink Lady apples and (optionally), a thumb sized piece of ginger, through a juicer.
Stem four strawberries,
Wash 5-6 mint leaves.
Blitz everything in a blender.
(Optionally) pass everything through a fine mesh strainer. When the strainer starts to choke, empty the juice back into the blender, and tap out the slush into the sink.
Let's talk for a moment about my favourite cocktail: Dating back to the 1850s New Orleans, the Sazerac is a simple mix of Whiskey, Sugar, Water and Absinthe. It's cocktails like the Sazerac which caused patrons to ask for simpler whiskey cocktails to be prepared 'The Old Fashioned way', and such coined the name of the most classic cocktail of all time. Whilst since debunked, another rumour persists that the egg cups or 'Coquietiers' used in their preparation are responsible for the origin of the word 'Cocktail'.
Originally made with the Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils cognac from which it derives its name, a pest epidemic in 1970s France forced the bars of New Orleans to turn to local ingredients, and Rye Whiskey became the new spirit base. With Cognac back in full force, in my opinion the best Sazeracs are prepared with half Rye and half Cognac.
Traditionally a nightcap, the Sazerac is a heavy drink best sipped on a porch or in front of a fireplace. When a craving hits I make no qualms about using Jim Beam Rye and Black Bottle Brandy, but if anything is going to show off your good stuff, it's this.
The Sazerac requires an absinthe rinse. To rinse, simply swirl a teaspoon of absinthe around the glass and then pour out the excess. If you think this is the drink for you, it's well worth throwing some absinthe in an atomiser, and giving the inside of the glass a couple of uniform sprays.
1oz Rye Whiskey
3 Dashes Peychaud's Bitters
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
0.5oz Simple Syrup
1 tsp Absinthe
Rinse a brandy snifter with absinthe.
In a mixing glass, stir Rye, Cognac, bitters and simple syrup with ice.
Twist a lemon peel over the glass and brush the skin side across the rim and stem of the glass. You can threw the peel in the drink or leave it out.
I prefer out.