Since the earliest days of this blog, I’ve wanted to photograph and write a story about ceramicist and sculptor, Gidon Bing. My very first introduction to his work was seeing his water pitcher, which, along with most of his other creations, I have coveted ever since. This jug has a very particular style; beautifully rounded and smooth, almost like a very modern take of something that might have been used during the Roman Empire. Quite often his work is oversized and dramatic, yet without any fuss and easily recognisable as his.
A few months ago, in preparation of NZ Month, I got to visit two of Gidon Bing’s studios. The first stop was his boat shed, which he uses to work on his sculptures, prints and also as a studio space for clients to view his collection. We then later drove to his ceramics studio, situated beneath his home.
The Boat Shed would have to be one of the most enviable workplaces that I’ve seen. He told me that he’s had it for about nine years now, admitting (although hard for me to believe) that it’s long enough for him to take it for granted.
The shed is unassuming from the outside, and is one of many tin sheds lined up on the street. As you step through the door, you arrive at the back room where Gidon showcases his work. Here you’ll see most of his ceramics and sculptures displayed on, and complemented by vintage industrial and Bauhaus furniture and lighting. It’s one of those spaces that you could spend a long time in. Everywhere you look, it’s visually interesting. All the details in that room tell the story of Gidon’s artistic style.
His workspace in the next room has that wow factor. There his desk looks out over the boat ramp and onto Hobsons Bay. Seeing this you wonder if this guy could ever get stressed. A place where, while he was working not long ago, he watched a seal play around on the water’s edge.
Wedged outside the door on the boat ramp is one of his ceramic bowls. He told me that he made a makeshift fire pit with it while he was on, what he described as, an “epic Skype call”. He needed to boil up a coffee but his gas tank had run out, so he found a solution. It was at that moment I knew that this guy didn’t live an ordinary life. I was curious to move on to his other studio.
Before working as a full time artist, Gidon was immersed in the world of academia, completing a PhD in comparative religion, anthropology and political science; he even lived in London and worked in tech start-ups during the craze. Art however has always been close to him. Throughout this time and during much of his childhood, he always created something with his hands. He learned pottery as a child and later went into woodcarving, which led to a business making children’s bentwood chairs.
Gidon lives today in the home that his Grandfather, who was an architect, designed and built in 1947. The basement where he now has his ceramics studio was once his Grandmother’s studio for her leatherwork. Here she’d make leather gloves for Smith & Caughey, a long-standing Auckland department store. He recalls coming down here as a child, watching her and the women she employed at work, and seeing all of the leather craft tools hanging on the walls. I imagine that it must feel pretty inspirational working from this space now as an adult. Interestingly, he’s only been using this space for about three years. He’d never considered using the basement as a studio, because he was accustomed to working from much larger spaces. But in the end he realised that printmaking, metal work, woodwork, ceramics, plaster and resin didn’t really work together so well. So he gradually separated the spaces, mostly because it was more practical, but also because he had young children and needed to be around for them.
Gidon didn’t receive any formal training in arts. It has been something that he was exposed to through his family, who held crafts people in high esteem. They came from a tradition where stonemasons and brickies worked in conjunction with the architect, and were an important part of the process of creating things, whether it was furniture or lighting. Whenever there was an opportunity for him to learn from someone with artisan skills, his mother would ask if they could teach him. Fortunately, for those of us who admire his work, they did. But I suspect that his greatest teacher has been life itself.
Thank you Gidon for taking the time to share your two incredible studios!
You can view all of Gidon Bing’s work on his website.
In case you missed it, as I make my way to my new life in Sweden, the month of September is my homage to this beautiful country that I called home for over five years. It’s a dedication to its people and talent. Pop back on Monday for more New Zealand Month.
Photos by Mel Chesneau for Styled Canvas