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Hayden Youlley

photography by Michael Greene & words by Edana Isobel Jamora



“To begin with, I dined there on Monday, and once a week is quite enough to dine with one's own relations.”

― Oscar Wilde

"Crafting by hand everyday gives me a satisfaction that I have never experienced in any other job. It gives me a feeling that I am somehow fulfilling my intended purpose and that the idea of who I am as an individual and what I am doing with my life are aligned." Hayden Youlley is a Sydney based ceramicist, focusing on simple aesthetics and contemporary function. Yet, within the simple layers that make a single creation comes many an inspired thought process that takes pottery-making into a deeper, emotional visceral level.

After spending an entire day at his intimate sun filled studio in Sydney's Marrickville it's hard to think that Hayden feels much difficulty with self expression. He explains how he finds expression of self through art to be always difficult and challenging. "Expressing yourself through art is always difficult. Many times what you want to say and what someone else hears are two distinctly different things." Whilst trying to keep his work as simplistic and self-explanatory and accessible as possible in order to capture and engage people on several levels, there is still a continuous balancing act that needs to be exercised. 

The idea of simplicity filters through all forms of the creation process, Hayden's latest Paper Series is a beautiful paper white ceramic range that resembles the textures of crumpled paper. "The techniques I have learnt and developed while working with clay have given me the ability to achieve the concepts, forms, and textures that I picture in my minds eye. I use these techniques at present to explore and combine binary opposites such as- hard/soft, permanent/impermanent, light/heavy - into functional objects that seek to engage and surprise users upon close inspection and interaction. The act of crumpling paper reaps the feeling of destructive permanence however there is something about the series that translates beautifully into seemingly intentional and well-thought out creases. 

"The art of making pottery is at all times fun, dirty, challenging, rewarding, engaging and mesmerising. It requires calmness, clarity, strength, co-ordination, fines and balance." Creating pottery is a correlation between creation, touch and feel. "It is a very hard skill to mater but a very addictive skill to learn." There is a silent art that takes place that connects all of the five senses. Hayden expands on the idea that inspiration evolves through taking form within itself yet at the same time, after having a certain something percolating, having some direction is an important tool when making choices in what could easily be seen as a chaotic creative decision making process. "When creating you tend to feel your way into a design. I plan and measure my work to a point then let my hands and eyes feel out the correct size, shape and proportions that bring the most balance and harmony." There is a point in the creation process where the amazing unexpected and unintended happenings result in the birth of new ideas and possibilities. For Hayden, this is when creations start to take a form of its own and the major decisions are about rearranging the original idea to fit into the current creation or whether to decipher if its best to pull back and stick to the original plan, save the new idea for another project and ultimately save yourself from sidetracking from the original path. 

"I've always been passionate about design and craftsmanship, but didn't find a creative medium that allowed me to express myself fully until I chose ceramics as a major at while studying at COFA." In every artistic journey there is a specific point in life that triggers interest in art form which then pushes the artist into the direction where it seems viable to turn practicing art into a career. Whilst studying at COFA taking a Bachelor in Design, Hayden took the course structure as an opportunity to experiment with various design disciplines which introduced him to ceramics.  "Things really clicked for me as a designer when I found ceramics in second year because I felt like I'd found a medium that game me the freedom to create in the moment and the ability to explore whole ideas from start to finish. The endless possibilities malleable clay offered to explore my ideas about surface, scale and volume really sparked my interest. Once I started working with clay, I realised that it appealed not only to my fascination with materials and process but also to my sense of independence as a designer. It's the only medium I have worked with that I can use to make a product by doing each step in the process myself- from designing and prototyping to realising and manufacturing."

For Hayden, the process of designing, prototyping and producing ceramics, both sculptural and functional, involves the right mix of instant satisfaction, challenge, surprise, problem solving and beauty to keep him interested in exploring all possibilities. "That's the fanciest way I have found to say that it is really fun and rewarding way to get your hands dirty and throw mud around all day."


To find out more about Hayden Youlley visit: