The production of ceramic sculptures has been one of Baxter’s main Art disciplines for over 35 years. Stephen began this journey in the ceramics department @ Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education, Toowoomba, now (the University of Southern Queensland), in 1981, as a first-year Visual Arts Student. He made his first plaster slip-cast mold from a found plastic ball shape. He cast some porcelain bowls, decorated with iron oxide incised lines around the rims, during that time. After graduating as a Painting major three years later, he began working with his mother (Noelle Baxter) in her Hobby Ceramics business, (Auntie Mames Ceramic Art Studio), in Tweed Heads South. Stephen was in charge of the production side of the business while his Mum held classes and manned the gift shop. This is where Stephen honed his ceramics methodology and craft. Baxter explains, “I had access to many Kitch plaster casts to alter and add to in my spare time. I also had access to commercial underglaze colours and sparkling clear glazes. I decorated my slip cast and hand-built concoctions with the bright underglaze colours and then coated them in a crystal clear glaze, ultimately creating unique, humorous, and colourful ceramic artworks”. Some of his works are held in collections such as QAGOMA, in Brisbane. After working @Auntie Mames and various other jobs for several years, around 1990 Baxter built a studio made from found materials on a 5-acre property in Limpinwood, near Tyalgum, 15 minutes southwest of Murwillumbah. Stephen produced works from this studio that found a home @QUT Art Museum and HOTA (Gold Coast City Art Gallery) and Tweed Regional Art Gallery in Murwillumbah, amongst others. Baxter had several outlets selling artwork and he traveled to the Riverside Markets in Brisbane every Sunday, he also exhibited in the Sydney, and Canberra Australian Craft Shows during that time.
Forward another few years, and after a 20-year stint working part-time as Exhibition and Collection Co-ordinator and Installations Officer @ Gold Coast City Art Gallery, (HOTA). Baxter now divides his time working between his personal painting, sculpture, and ceramics projects and performing restoration work for local and interstate clients, from his home and studio in Southport on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
“With my personal ceramic work, I prefer a mid-fired porcelain slip I have created. A mixture of 2 commercially available clays, Cool Ice Porcelain, and Keans Lumina. Being a colourist, I love the pure white smooth surface of porcelain to decorate as it enables pure bright colors to shine”.
“My overreaching working methodology is linked to my research into the strategy known as Bricolage. Coined by Structural Anthropologist, Claud Levi-Strauss in 1962, coincidentally the year I was born. Bricolage is a French word meaning roughly ‘do-it-yourself’. A ‘Bricoleur’ is a kind of ‘do-it-yourself professional person’, [someone I identify myself as]. The ‘Bricoleur’ finds, collects, and re-uses found materials to then construct something new out of the now, at-hand materials.
For me, the true definition of the making of a Bricolage is when the original intended meaning of the found materials used in the construction of a new artwork has been changed, and by default given new meaning. Bricolage is essentially the reinvention of both the meaning and purpose of found materials.
In saying all of this, I also love storytelling and nostalgia, and Bricolage lends itself to both”.