Glazed ceramic vase featuring Aboriginal motifs decorated in Guy Boyd's studio in Melbourne around 1956-1957 by post-war Serbian migrant Helen Ilich.

Helen Ilich migrated to Melbourne from Croatia in 1953 with her two children, her husband already having arrived. She had always wanted to be an artist but rarely had the opportunity or parental support to pursue her passion and so had little formal training. This continued in Australia but she found a degree of artistic outlet by working in three ceramic studios around Melbourne - Ellis, Isobel (a small independent business) and Guy Boyd's studio in East Bentleigh which she particularly enjoyed. At the Boyd studio she painted this vase and other ceramic pieces with Australian landscape and Aboriginal motifs, produced for the domestic and tourist markets. Helen later joined the Heidelberg District Artists' Society in the late 1960s and taught painting at home, producing many works of her own. She passed away in 2002.

Physical Description

Ceramic vase, cylindrical in shape with tapering top and base. Glazed finish featuring primarily white background with stylised Aboriginal man with boomerang chasing kangaroos in outback landscape in brown paints. Horizontal rings of red, yellow and green around top with Aboriginal animal motifs.


This vase is part of a collection which provides a rich illustration of an immigrant and artistic experience. The intersection between immigration objects (such as a crate lid, teaching satchel, and personal documents) and artworks and materials enables the exploration of the themes of cultural maintenance and change through the immigration experience. Ilich's landscape works demonstrate the inspiration provided by the new landscape on her painting and the shift from traditional European scenes to Australian subject matter, which she apparently loved.The vase and other ceramic items also provide the basis for research into three Melbourne ceramic studios of the 1950s-60s period (Boyd, Ellis and the smaller backyard Isobel business). The ceramics represent the practice by these studios to produce items for the tourist and export markets, often featuring Australian imagery, including Aboriginal motifs. Ilich's story illustrates the practice of bringing in workers to complete different stages of the production, from etched to painted decoration.

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