Rina Bernabei has worked in industrial design for the past 30 years with a particular emphasis on the relationship between domestic decoration and industrial technologies. Now she has brought her love of textured aesthetics to clay.

"A few things drew me to ceramics, apart from the 30 years of travelling to Japan. When you work in clay you're totally controlled by the material, especially with wheel thrown ceramics. You have a lump of mud and minutes later you have a form that is almost finished, apart from trimming and firing. It's so different to industrial design where it can take up to 2 years to get a product into production and to market with the many processes of drawing, modelling, prototyping, certification etc. I became addicted to the immediacy of clay."

For 26 years Rina worked as a Senior Lecturer in Industrial Design at the University of New South Wales, as well as practised in design studios in Sydney and Milan. She is co-director (with designer Kelly Freeman) of bernabeifreeman, whose award-winning design work has been extensively published and featured in exhibitions locally and internationally, most notably at the Milan Furniture Fair and the Milan Triennale.

"I also loved that the hand plays such an enormous part in the making of the product and all the imperfections that go along with that. Each piece is individual and has its own story. For years at bernabeifreeman we tried to achieve this with mass production. In hand made ceramics it is inescapable. Each piece can't help but communicate its process, its maker, the material. They are rich with emotional connections."

In 2018 Rina completed a traditional throwing course in Kyoto with a master ceramicist and in 2020 was asked to set up the 3D digital ceramic studio at Kyushu University in Fukuoka. Working within the Architecture and Design Faculty she ran workshops with students and with local craftsmen and ceramic studios. Her work encapsulates her years of practice as a product designer as well as her interest in the relationships between handmade craft practices and manufacturing technologies.

"Anyone who has had their morning coffee in a hand-made cup feels the difference. I hope that enables the user to enjoy their piece longer, cherish it and maybe even hand it down one day.

"Carl Jung felt that the cause of many ills in society is cured by making and I think this is so true. I have always been a furious maker. I can't help but make. I am homo faber: (wo)man the maker, and it keeps me happy. I think as a society we have forgotten the incredible skills humans have, and what they can make, as so much in our homes comes from a factory. I feel society needs to be reminded of the objects around them are "made by humans. I want to make a stamp for my ceramics that says "Made by a human" - we need that."


We love the interplay of the decorative and functional in Rina's practise - the skilful way she resolves the tension between controlled and expressive shapes - and her work is a unique and valued addition to our offering at DEA.


2024 TILED group show at Australian Design Centre, Sydney.
2023 PANEM ET VINUM group show - Maunswell Wickes Gallery, Sydney.
2023 CERAMIXR ceramics for group exhibition - Comber St Gallery, Sydney
2023 OUT OF STATE group exhibition - Compendium Gallery, Melbourne
2023 BLOOMING ceramics for group exhibition - Water Through The Reeds Gallery, Bungendore
2022 KIL.N.IT group exhibition - Australian Ceramics Triennale, Raft Gallery, Alice Springs
2019 FEMUFACTURE 3D printed ceramic and brass - Japan Foundation, Sydney.
2018 Freeman K Make Known - UNSW Galleries Sydney.