Monument pot range by Cameron Williams exclusive to Robert Plumb
Robert Plumb has worked with potter Cameron (or Cam as he is best known) Williams for over a decade, creating large-scale hand-thrown pots and planters designed to work in architectural settings, gardens, courtyards and balconies. As we launch his latest collections – Monument and Chess – a series of geometric planters and stools in a rich bronze glaze – we take time to review his life and work.
Cam knew from the age of 16 that he wanted to be a potter and by 24 he was undertaking the commission of a lifetime – making over two hundred pots for New Parliament House in Canberra. “They wanted four giant pots for the Members Hall and 12 for the veranda of the President’s courtyard, but then there were over 200 placed throughout the building. Even these were large – up to 900 mm in diameter”, he says. Young and ambitious, with some experience in this scale, he said yes first and then set about getting the equipment and people he needed to make it happen. “They wanted them all in 10 weeks but it took 10 months”, he recalls.
He was taught by, and trained with, some very respected potters, Rod Bamford (who is now head of ceramics and glass at London’s Royal College of Art) and at Lyebird Ridge Pottery in Springbrook, Queensland, he worked under master potter Errol Barnes.
“We made a lot of utilitarian pieces – casseroles and cups – but importantly I learnt how you could make a living out of pottery”, says Cam.
But it was undoubtedly his move from the intimate size of a hand held object to the massive scale of his current production for which he has made his name.
“I have an obsession with big pots but it is indeed a process with pitfalls. There is a high failure rate and the whole process is challenging”, he says. He now has two kilns, the largest of which is so spacious it would accommodate a car and he gets a delivery of 30 tonnes of local clay per year (for consistency and stability across his output) which needs to be stored on his property.
It is hard to imagine the physicality of the work, not only managing 5kg-20kg of clay on the wheel itself but then getting it to a drying room, bisque firing and then firing for the glaze. Every bit of the process is vulnerable to failure.
“The process can be one of managing disappointment. I always prepare myself for the worst when opening the kiln because there is a good chance they haven’t all made it”, he says.
His relationship with Will Dangar, co-owner of Robert Plumb, has been fruitful for them both. ”Will drove down on his motorbike to see me when I was living in a tin shed on a bush block with my family and we developed the Bondi pot range which is still a best seller”, says Cam. The idea was always to show the handmade qualities and to contrast that organic feel with the built form. We produce a lot of large scale vessels in satin white glazes which work particularly well with greenery”, he notes.
For the current Monument and Chess range Cam collaborated with Robert Plumb on a design process which saw the introduction of a new sense of geometry across large pots and stools - which work equally well inside as out. “The stools are really useful pieces – for a bathroom, poolside or in an outdoor setting as side tables’, says Cam.
The glaze is a moody bronze – firing at 1100 degrees using a blend of copper and manganese produces a tone that has depth and a rich, timeless quality.
“We are delighted that Cam has worked with us to produce this new range. He has been throwing pots for a long time but has never lost his desire to experiment with shapes and glazes and combined with his rare skill with scale we have something really unique to offer our customers’, says co-owner of Robert Plumb, Kristin Nilsson.