Mechelle Bounpraseuth’s Ceramic Art is an Ode to Her Laotian Roots

Art is a powerful tool to help us express our identities and passions and Mechelle Bounpraseut, a first-generation daughter of Laotian refugees, uses the medium to create ceramics of foods that are tied to her culture.

The Sydney-based artist was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, but she decided to leave the faith when she was in her 20s, which allowed her to get married and pursue her artistic dreams. She started with zines before enrolling in a ceramics course, where she found her calling. And before long, she was creating household items in bright, bold colors.

Her designs take her back to her childhood, and they mainly focus on condiments. One of her designs, a Heinz Ketchup bottle, which can be found in almost any fridge throughout the world, reminds her of her family spending all day making pho and sitting down at the table to season and eat it. While creating the ceramic, she makes new memories, and she reflects on the foods that she hopes to pass down to her family.

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Tomato sauce| ນ້ ΰΊ³ ໝາກ ເΰΊ₯ΰΊ±ΰ»ˆΰΊ™| Nam mak len As a kid we always knew when we were having Pho for lunch because the process started early in the morning. I’d wake up to a huge pot bubbling away on the stove top. As the morning passed the smell of pho broth wafted through the house making your mouth water and your belly rumble. It was a labour of love getting the broth just right. I’d pick the tail off bean sprouts while my sister washed the herbs to garnish our Pho with, all under the watchful eye of our mum. When it was time to eat Mum would ask how many noodles we thought we could eat and then fill the bowls with steaming broth with even amounts of meat balls for all. We’d carry the bowls to the table one by one and then it was time to season. A little dash of soy, a spoonful of fish sauce, a bit of sugar, a sprinkle of pepper, a squeeze of lemon and a blob of tomato sauce. Tomato sauce made it sweet and tangy and oh so yum. Before I delved into the sea of noodles though I’d always ask mum to try my broth to see if it needed anything else. Sometimes I got it right, other times I’d need a little more of something to make it β€œPoh Dee (ΰΊžΰ»ΰΊ”ΰΊ΅)” which means just right in Lao, it’s that balance and sweet spot we’re all looking for, not just in Pho but life πŸ… . . . . #ceramics #australianceramics #art #clay #pottery #contemporaryceramics #artist #tomatosauce #pho

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Some other ceramics she’s created included McDonald’s hot chips which she describes as “sacred,” Smith’s Salt & Vinegar chips, Cadbury Cherry Ripes, and fairy bread which she describes as “flavours of my youth.”

Are there any foods that you associated with your childhood? We know that we could name a few.