Honor Freeman is an Adelaide based ceramic artist. She researched and experimented with the colour yellow for her ceramic soap during lockdown, after realising the fundamental change of perception on handwashing. The journal is an in-depth hand-written research on colour theories and “poetic potential of the simple and ubiquitous material good”. By studying the everyday object soap, Honor offered insightful research and reflection on cleanliness and personal hygiene under the pandemic.
“Yellow is a colour (and its myriad variations) that I’m especially drawn to. I would go as far as to suggest that I am currently in my yellow phase: mustard, lemon, chartreuse, citrine, straw, ochre, gold, daffodil, sunshine, canary, saffron, turmeric, honey, sulphur yellow.…during this pandemic I also learnt yellow was once the colour of the flag flown to mark houses of infection, and later symbolised disease in ships and ports with international signal flags.”
We asked Honor three questions about her experience of isolation, completing this journal and her hope for the future. These are her responses:
Describe the experience of the period of isolation for you.
(I am aware that this time has offered much hardship and challenges to many people and to offer some context I acknowledge that my family has been in the fortunate position to have had job security, my studio is at home and we have been in good health.)
The birds are still singing, the sun is still shining (except when it’s not), and life continues on.
Things feel momentously changed, and yet everything oddly very everyday - similar to a feeling I recall having when my children were born, or when a loved one dies - big events, but the days keep rolling on.
It has been an unsettling time, particularly watching the impact globally.
It has for me been a time to slow down and reflect, to read, to spend more time with my children observing the rhythms of nature and to finally learn (ironically) how to make soap.
Whilst my physical time in the studio has been somewhat interrupted having had small children home over the period of isolation, I haven’t found it to be an especially creative time. But I’ve been doing a lot of “showing up” in the studio, plodding and tending, getting lost in the repetitive tasks that are so necessary in a ceramic studio: making slip, mixing colour, making glazes, preparing kiln shelves, all these processes give the time and space for dream thinking….when the hands and body are busy in a task the mind wonders and oftentimes this is when the ideas for new work will come.
What does your book represent and how did you approach the challenge?
Used cake soap has for some time featured in my work. These ordinary objects of decay have a poetic power and evoke a surprisingly strong nostalgic response. In the current global pandemic, the humble bar of soap and the context of my work has a new resonance. With that in mind I took this time to interrogate further the history of soap, hygiene and cleanliness through the ages (socially, culturally, politically).
I suppose I’m attempting to make sense of this tumultuous time by reading and researching and looking at what’s come before. Trying to understand this strange time by looking at it through the lens of hygiene, focusing on the powerful yet small and unassuming bar of soap.
What do you hope will change in Australia as a result of the pandemic?
As the world takes a deep breath, it’s our chance too, to take a deep breath, to re-set.
I hope, perhaps idealistically for a lot of things to change…. a focus and commitment to green energy, more affordable and flexible access to childcare, the consideration of an introduction to a basic wage, compassion and respect in our community and a greater equality for all. I hope for a renaissance of sorts for the arts. A return to and embrace of the arts, with everyone understanding more keenly of its value to our communities. How it gathers us to share stories, to have ourselves and our worlds reflected back to us anew so that we might better understand ourselves and our world.
Honor Freeman is an Adelaide based ceramic artist whose practice involves crafting objects that belie their materiality and purpose.
Completing her studies in 2001 at the SA School of Art, Freeman took up an Associate and later a Tenant position at JamFactory Contemporary Craft & Design.
Her work has been curated into exhibitions at institutions throughout Australia, including the MCA and Samstag Museum. She has undertaken international residencies at Guldagergaard, Denmark and in the US at Indiana University. Freeman’s work is held in public collections including the NGV, AGSA, ArtBank and Washington DC’s National Museum of Women in the Arts. Most recently she undertook the Guildhouse Collections Project at AGSA, the outcome of this residency Ghost Objects, was exhibited in the 2019 SALA Festival.
View Honor Freeman's journal here:
Image: Honor Freeman, Design/Isolate Journal (details), 2020.