Print this page

Sven Hiroe: Various ceramic works

Hiroe Swen , Gibraltar Creek, Tidbinbilla

Hiroe Swen profile by Julie Boyd

The Artist

According to the Australian Pottery at Bemboka website, Hiroe Swen was born in Kyoto, Japan around 1934 and worked there as a potter after completing a five year apprenticeship with master potter H. Hayashi in 1962. In 1968 she married the artist Cornell Swen and moved to Sydney. Two years later the couple moved to "Bimbimbi", near Queanbeyan, NSW, setting up the Pastoral Gallery there in 1973. She became an Australian in 1974 and lectured at the Canberra Institute of the Arts from 1981-1999. She is known as one of Australia's foremost ceramic artists, and is an exponent of the modernist movement in Japanese ceramics, owing little to the Anglo-Oriental tradition. Specialising in one-off coil-built vessel forms that explore the human condition, she gives her pieces Australian names and stamps her work with both Australian and Japanese monograms, as well as signing some works with her full name.

Hiroe's works can be found at Parliament House, the National Gallery of Australia, state galleries and many embassies and High Commissions in Canberra. Hiroe is unusual in not exhibiting her works widely in Australia but has kept close to Canberra where she has worked and taught ceramics.

In 2016, Swen was awarded The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays by the Government of Japan for her contribution to the promotion of Japanese culture and mutual understanding between Japan and Australia, as well as her achievements in ceramics.

Gibraltar Creek by Hiroe Swen

The Works of Art

'Her work is like nothing else in Australia....' according to Alan Watt, the former Head of the Ceramics Workshop where Hiroe once taught. This is very true. Gibraltar Creek is a remarkable ceramic that portrays the landscape even down to the marking of the waterfall from the mouth of the vase. It makes an interesting interpretation in an unexpected media for a landscape work. Gibraltar Creek at Tidbinbilla is a stoneware pot that was coil-built finished in an oxidised matt copper glaze. Acquired in 1973, it is believed that this is an early work by Hiroe.

Gibraltar Creek Falls courtesy of City News

A second ceramic work by Hiroe Swen in the University of Canberra Art Collection is a dark oval pot called 'the Overlander'. Again, the work is a stone-ware, coil-built form. The abstract decoration on its side consists of sections of oxide tinted wire-cut clay which have been waxed-resisted and applied in high relief to the black matt background. In a similar fashion, Hiroe's untitled black pot portrays similar decorative styles. Whereas Black Pot was created in 1978, Overlander was formed in 1994. It shows clearly the decorative techniques that Hiroe enjoys returning to.

The Overlander by Hiroe Swen Untitled Black Pot by Hiroe Swen


Queanbeyan Ceramic Artist Hiroe Swen still going strong at 84. Riot Act, 4th December 2018,

Hiroe Swen, Australian Pottery at Bemboka,