Sharon Phelps celebrates first major solo exhibition Salt of the Earth at Kidogo

Sharon Phelps, aka Shabbi.
Sharon Phelps, aka Shabbi.

NAMING her first major solo exhibition Salt of the Earth has double meaning for Chittering artist Sharon Phelps, otherwise known by her childhood nickname, Shabbi.

Not only does it match her personality, but she uses a lot of seaweed when firing her clay in the three kilns she has at her home studio.

“I dry seaweed, put it into a big, almost casserole-like pot, called a saggar and all the salts and minerals from the seaweed go into the clay as it climbs to the high temperature and that’s where you get your colour,” Phelps said.

“I use horsehair as well and that does its own design as it skips and dances across the pot and you get these wonderful messages in black and white.”

Phelps said she was a prolific worker and adored creating with clay and acrylics on canvas, featuring 38 ceramic pieces and 22 paintings in her exhibition.

“For me, I love to have that change,” she said.

“If you’re constantly making pots you can get a little bit stale. And when that happens I go to the next room and splash around with paint, which is exciting and then go back again.”

Phelps said a lack of confidence was behind it taking so long to hold her first major solo show, having entered various exhibitions over the years.

“I went overseas for the first time on my own this year to visit my brother in northern England,” she said.

“I get lost going around a corner and realised if I could make it to the UK, I could do anything. Why not an exhibition? And I’ve reached a stage now in my work that I’m thrilled with it to show everyone.”

Phelps said a second trip this year, to Broome, had also provided great inspiration in her use of colour.

“My environment is always an influence,” she said.

“There is nothing more beautiful than nature at work.”

Salt of the Earth – A Solo Exhibition by Shabbi is at Kidogo Arthouse, Bathers Beach, Fremantle from September 20 to 26.