In Conversation with Ghost Wares' Matthew Vrettas

    Step inside the light-filled studio of ceramicists Ghost Wares and you’ll find neatly aligned rows of meticulously crafted mugs, teapots, vases and flatware in a range of muted hues. Walk a little further and you’ll usually find Matthew Vrettas seated at his wheel, towel over knee and hands over clay. Ghost Wares have been spinning beautifully restrained pieces since 2016, and have been based in the Convent’s Sacred Heart precinct alongside a host of other creatives since its restoration in 2018. Now, the studio is branching out into visual art, hosting their very first exhibition in the Convent’s St Heliers Street Gallery. Entitled ‘Aggregate’, the exhibition will run from 30 May – 23 June and will explore how components make up the whole.

    We chat to Matthew Vrettas about how Ghost Wares came to be, their design philosophy, and how they’ve translated their unique ceramics into art.

    Tell us about Ghost Wares and your design philosophy. 

    Our intention is to make objects that will last; that are timeless but still playful. We want people to relate to the objects, but we feel they need an element of restraint that gives them a sense of longevity. In saying that, we also try to make things we would like in our own home. No single piece is necessarily driven by a big idea – it’s a range of pieces influenced by our experiences and how we feel at a certain time.

    An important part of the design is our focus on clay itself. By bringing out colour and texture through the clay, rather than adding details to the surface, we are able to avoid a piece feeling decorated – each piece is an expression of the raw material it is made of. We feel this gives the objects a sense of integrity.

    How did you first become involved in pottery?

    Stephanie Yap and I began pottery classes as a weekend hobby, not knowing much aboutceramics. At the time I was working in architecture and interior design and I found that ceramics enabled me to create and see a finished product relatively quickly. I was able to experiment more freely and create many iterations of ideas. When we started Ghost Wares I was still working full time at my day job and making the pieces in a backyard shed. Eventually I was able to cut back on my architecture work and focus on pottery full-time. Slowly we’ve been investing in more equipment and have finally made the move to a more permanent studio at Abbotsford Convent.

    Ghost Wares products have a distinct, minimalist aesthetic. Did this emerge naturally or as a conscious choice? 

    We began making ceramics because we wanted to make objects that we like, and we are still doing it for the same reason. We want these objects to last us a long time and remain relevant to us, so we do our best to make them as well as we can and design them in a way where we will hopefully still like them in the future. I want each object to feel precious and relatable, yet restrained enough that it feels timeless. I think these ideas and feelings naturally lead to a kind of minimalism in our pieces.

    ‘Aggregate’ will be your first visual art exhibition. What motivated you to exhibit at the Convent’s St Heliers Street Gallery? 

    Being a creative community, the Convent offers many opportunities to help develop and exhibit work – one of these is the chance to host an exhibition in one of the Convent’s galleries. This would be my first exhibition of this kind, and it allows us to take our first steps into this side of the creative industry. It lets us justify focusing on a project that is not a part of the main business, giving the opportunity to further develop as designers and makers.

    How have you articulated the brand’s aesthetic and tactile qualities within the exhibition?

    Our ceramics use the materials that create their structure as their final finish. In the same way, the objects in this exhibition show the differing parts they’re made from, which expresses the overall idea of the work.

    'Aggregate’ is an exploration of how components make up a whole, from the textured clay of each individual vessel to the larger landscape they create.

    Aggregate’ by Ghost Wares runs at St Heliers Street Gallery from 30 May – 23 June.

    Watch a video of Matthew in action on our Instagram.

    Lead image credit to Ghost Wares and Edward Vanzet. All other images thanks to Ghost Wares.