William Ricketts (1898–1993) was an Australian potter and sculptor of the arts and crafts movement.
Born in Richmond, Victoria, in 1898, William settled permanently in Mount Dandenong, Victoria, in 1934. Although not trained as a potter and never technically superior (his works, large and small, frequently exhibit cracking), the power of his vision of a modern Australia that embraces Aboriginal spirituality and respect for the natural world was his general message throughout his artworks. His major works include the “Dromana” in the Seawinds Garden, Arthurs Seat, Victoria, and “Gun Brute” at the William Ricketts Sanctuary, Mount Dandenong, Victoria. Many smaller works are in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Photographic records of his sculptures, particularly those from the sanctuaries of Pitchi Ritchi and Mount Dandenong, which have been vandalised, are held in the archives of Australia’s libraries. Ricketts, never rich, supported himself through commissioned sales of his art and made pieces as gifts. These signed original small pieces are increasingly sought after for private collections.
From 1949 to 1960 he made frequent trips into Central Australia to live with Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte Aboriginal people, whose traditions and culture inspired his sculpture. He was not an Aboriginal by blood but considered himself adopted by the Pitjantjatjara nation. He left behind many of his central Australian works at Pitchi Ritchi near Alice Springs – a bird sanctuary run by his friend Leo Corbet – as he considered the landscape integral to these sculptures.
The main work of William Ricketts is the sculpture park that he named Potter’s sanctuary, but is now known as William Ricketts Sanctuary. He worked for more than fifty years on the transformation of a natural old-growth eucalyptus forest into a unique place of spiritual renewal and quiet reflection. The sanctuary reflects a spirit of place expressed through one man’s dream. Deeply felt connections to the earthly mother and the spirit of the land are explored in 92 ceramic sculptures of people and animals, which merge with the natural surroundings: a wise elder is as one with an ancient tree, his beard flowing into its trunk and roots; young children play with native animals among ferns and flowing water; and the human and natural spirit become one.
In the 1960s the Victorian Government bought this place from William Ricketts and made it a public park. William Ricketts lived in this place until his death in 1993.
From 1912 to 1920 Ricketts developed skills in playing violin, crafting jewelry and clay modelling. In 1934 he started his major artistic work, creating the sculpture park now named William Ricketts Sanctuary. He worked on this project until his death in 1993. In 1970 he went to India. He spent two years there, mostly at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram spiritual center in Pondicherry, developing spiritual empathy with Indian people and knowledge of their philosophy.
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