Bait Fish 1993, by Rick Wood
Rick Wood (1949-2007) was a contemporary Australian ceramicist, based in the Mackay region. While working as a crane driver in the 1970s, Wood began taking pottery classes at the Mackay Education Centre, and later established his studio Blacks Beach Pottery. The 1980s were a formative time for Wood, whose inquisitive and hands-on approach led him to carry out his own firing in wood, gas and salt kilns. ‘It took me about two years to perfect processing the clay’, Rick told the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin in 1988 during a potter-in-residence period at the Walter Reid Cultural Centre. This experience reinforced Wood’s penchant for the wood firing process, describing the uncertainty as ‘the most exciting part’.
Rick Wood’s practice is underpinned by a combination of traditional firing and modern design; best represented in his ‘Bait fish’ series. Wood used the bait fish motif extensively, creating vessels, lids and slabs decorated with clouds of small fish throughout his oeuvre. Held in Rockhampton Art Gallery’s permanent collection, Bait fish (1993) is a prime example of how Wood created dynamism and energy in his ceramics. The reflective glaze suggests shimmering seawater, complimenting the lively spiral of fish. Wood spent years refining his technical skill and sought to master the ancient Chinese ‘Ju’ glazing technique, known colloquially as ‘fish-scale crackle glaze’. Through considered layering of form and glaze, Wood in Bait fish (1993) has balanced whimsy and reality to capture the abundance of life in coastal Queensland.