If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to stack the rolling blue surf of Bondi on to the shelves of your home, Milly Dent’s namesake ceramics are your answer. Named as one of Vogue Living’s “Top 25 Australian designers to follow on Instagram”, Milly creates tableware that is as beautiful as it is functional. Aptly described as “usable art”, all of her pieces are personally hand-poured at her studio in Sydney’s inner east.
Initially trying ceramics as part of her bachelor degree, Milly says she was attracted to ceramics because it felt good in her hands and she “thoroughly enjoyed the process and was super excited to see what [she] could do with the material”.
Having grown up in Queensland, Milly relocated to Sydney in 2010 to study a Bachelor of Design and says the move was one of the best decisions she has made. Milly explains, “There is just so much going on, and I am someone who always likes to be doing something, seeing something, tasting something, listening to someone speak – anything. Also, the proximity to the sea is incredible. We are so lucky to have so many beautiful beaches at our fingertips! It’s where I spend my lunch break in summer.”
Intrigued by cycles of nature, Milly draws much of her inspiration from the natural world. Her fascination with rain, fire, birth and growth are explored in her experimental work rather than in her functional tableware, but “you can see them shining through in certain elements of my work”. She also takes photographs of the ocean, referencing its colour palette and vastness in her work.
Milly uses photography to capture every-day shapes and textures that she finds interesting. She always makes time to look through them, sketch out new ideas and experiment. From this process, she prototypes shapes and plays with her concept until she finds something she is happy with and begins creating a mould for the piece.
Each piece takes around ten days from concept to completion. The mould is poured, then removed the following day and burnished. It is then left to dry, bisque fired, sanded, glazed, and fired again! Milly says that the process of making ceramics has definitely taught her patience.
The shift from creative hobby to full-time job can be a big leap but Milly says that, for her, the shift was more gradual. “I was super lucky in that I never had to make that ‘big leap’. I was making things for myself and people became interested and started to buy my stuff, so I was making more and more until it just happened to become my full-time work.”
While she may have been able to ease into a creative profession, Milly has still had her fair share of big changes to handle. “Investing in a kiln and setting up studio was a big move and one which scared me,” she says. “However, I was able to do it with a friend, which took off a lot of pressure and the excitement kicked in and drove the whole thing.”
The best parts of being a full-time creative, in Milly’s opinion, are being able to swim in the ocean during her lunch breaks, to do what she loves every day and receive positive feedback from her work. There’s almost no downside, apparently, but some bits are harder than others – namely, answering emails and doing admin tasks when she’d rather be creating!
I asked Milly whether she had a favourite piece: “My favourite piece is the marbled gem cup; to look at, to hold and to make,” she said. “Its colouring is always truly unique, it’s both utilitarian and sculptural and it gives me the greatest challenge technically.”
Looking to the future, Milly is excited about prototyping and making some lighting pieces, as well as trying her hand at larger sculptural pieces for exhibition.
To see more of Milly’s gorgeous ceramics, click here to visit her website.