Early experiences with clay

I was inspired to get involved in ceramics and pottery in particular by my grandmother  Eva Sounness.  Eva Sounness was a pioneer West Australian artist who was painting in the 1930’s and  began using clay in the early 1960’s  after attending a UWA summer school with Eileen Keyes. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s school holidays for me meant  going  to stay with Grandma on “the farm”. The farm was a sheep and wheat farm called Paper Collar Gully near the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia. If I and my cousins were not doing farm work with the men, we were probably being encouraged to play with clay by grandma. Being the oldest boy I was often required to dig and process clays from around the farm and help with kiln building and firing. At  morning tea time family arguments could break out as to what constituted a good mug, as working on the farm seemed to involve drinking 8-10 cups of tea in a day, it was important! My cousins, the artists Warrick and  Cecille Williams would have similar memories.  Grandma’s  research and testing led to the manufacture and marketing of Paper Collar Clay by her son Richard. Back in the days of heavily reduced stoneware with iron spots it was very popular among West Australian potters. In the late seventies as an anxious ,depressed and somewhat “off the rails” teenager, I went to live and work on the farm full time. This involved hard work and sport followed by sport and hard work. If I got sick of this (and I did!) time was spent learning the rudiments of pottery and drawing in Grandma’s studio. I attended a number of workshops during this time. Ivun England, Bela Kotai and Greg Daly being the ones that come to mind.

reCollections of a Jamfactory

Stoneware Tableware Design,John Ullinger, AustraliaJamfactory circa 2000 






The Jamfactory Craft and Design Centre, Adelaide,  Australia is celebrating  its 40th anniversary this year. An exhibition curated by Margot Osborne in Gallery 2 at the Jamfactory entitled reCollections contains some of my work. This work was made during my second tenancy at the Jamfactory 1999- 2002 . reCollections is an exhibition of works from private collections and a sharing of the story from the owner of their relationship with the piece. Adelaide Arts writers Margot Osborne and Lance Campbell both contributed pieces of my work. Margots contribution was some pieces of the tableware design shown. Lances piece was a small bowl of mine in which Lance had placed a cherished cricket ball many years ago and they have stayed together ever since, a kind of testament to Lances and my love of sports and arts.

Australian Craft Awards 2013 shortlisted

2013 Australian Craft Awards – Key Dates

22 August – Entries CLOSE
11 October – Extended close date
12 October – Judging
28 October – Finalists announced
30 October – Rating closes
1 November – Awards Night

John Ullinger | Homewares – South Australia

Photo Credit : Photo by John Ullinger


This product is for the winemaker seeking to individualise and differentiate their wine from their competitors. By using site specific soil additions and a choice of porosities each batch of vessels is unique to the vineyard for which it is created.
Stored and treated carefully these vessels will last indefinitely.

Project Creator

John Ullinger
John Ullinger

Project Team

I have been collaborating with the people at Yangarra Wines, Mclarenvale South Australia for nearly a year


In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the use of clay and other vessels for wine making as modern winemakers look to break away from monocultural practices. I am an experienced potter and an avowed ceramic history and technology nerd and put quite simply, I could not resist getting involved.

In Ancient times, clay amphorae were used extensively for wine making and the transport of wine. The ancient vessels were very porous and so the wine did not keep well, this means that the ageing of wine as we now know it apparently did not exist. The ceramic technology of the time did not allow the potters to create non and/or low porosity vessels and the millennia old practiceof winemaking in clay vessels was largely superceded by oaken barrels. Oak barrels were spread throughout the ancient world by the Romans and became the dominant wine making vessel to this day.

Design Challenge

I have engaged in an extensive testing program of clay porosity and the additions of site specific subsoil from the vineyard to the clay body. As far as I can tell, I am the first to use site specific subsoils ever… In this way the local soil profile is used to assist the winemaker in communicating the “terroir” of the wine in a unique and real way.
These are handmade items that echo the classical forms and processes of antiquity however with a contemporary and minimalist approach to design. The small hole in the top and the absence of handles are at the specific request of winemakers in order to fit into a modern winemaking environment

South Australia


This award celebrates creative and innovative craftsmanship for homewares. Consideration given to materials, concept, originality, function and aesthetic.

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