Featured Makers 2015

The gallery is featuring 10 new makers on display from the beginning of April to the end of July 2015.  This is an insight into their work, making practice and thought processes.
We are also looking at the routes these artists took as they first began working with clay. Over the last few years many ceramics courses have closed or face closure across the U.K. With this in mind we have asked each maker to tell us about what first inspired them.  Each of the artists have taken different routes -  and whether through formal education, mid career change in direction or at a young age, these are interesting stories.  Stories that will hopefully inspire others. 
John Calver trained as a Civil Engineer before becoming interested in ceramics when attending an evening class.  Matt Horne was introduced to clay whilst still at school and his experiences highlight the importance of keeping clay in the classroom. Keith Varney is featured in the current issue of Ceramic Review and explains how he made a change in career. Carol Wainwright shares her enthusiasm for a formal education.

Sabine Nemet

Sabine Nemet in her studio
Sabine Nemet Jugs
A number of the makers we are featuring trained through apprenticeships. Sabine Nemet completed an apprenticeship as a thrower in East Germany in 1998 with Hans Joachim GrĂ¼nert in Waldenburg(Sachsen). Sabine began with three years thorough training in producing domestic ware exclusively on the potter’s wheel.  It was then that she was introduced to wood firing.

The excitement of staying up all night feeding an ever hungry kiln, constantly evaluating the impact of when and how much wood to put in the firebox, has never left her. To fully utilise the effects of wood firing and soda glazing she treats the external surface with coloured slips or no slips at all.

Beakers by Sabine Nemet

Sabine works with her partner Nic Collins.  The clay body is one they mix themselves.  It consists of clays which have been locally sourced.

As with her glazes, Sabine's forms are deceptively simple. Sabine likes her pots to be inviting to touch. This can be seen with the soft roundness of her work. They ask to be picked up and used on a daily basis.  Sabine throws, sometimes altering, cutting and then reconstructing. Her approach to simplicity follows through into any decoration.  Stamps made from carved porcelain echo nature, seeds, leaf patters, flowers... Used sparingly or in clusters, the stamps complement the form, working together with the wood and soda.

Lidded Jar by Sabine Nemet featuring stamped decoration

Sabine Nemet Large Jug













Matthew Warner

Apprenticeships can offer the experience of working alongside and to learn directly from experienced makers. Matthew Warner began a two-year apprenticeship under Julian Stair after graduating from Camberwell College of Art in 2012. The apprenticeship was with the support of The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust.
Matthew Warner - Cups
 Matthew says "I am interested in pots, tableware, functional objects. Tableware is interesting for me because of its indisputable link with food. 18th century porcelain production in Europe and the effects it had on dining culture and on studio pottery in the decades that followed fascinates me. The history of pottery is vast and is what inspires me."

Matthew Warner - Large Bowl

 "I am currently making Porcelain Tableware ranging from simple cups and saucers to complete dinner services, Milk Jugs to Teapots. I try to make my pots with the elegance of 18th Century porcelain while retaining a contemporary aesthetic. All of my work is thrown and trimmed on the potters wheel which means that no two pieces are identical. When the pieces are used the variations becomes apparent and each carefully considered detail reveals itself."

"Pottery was at the heart of the industrial revolution and helped transform the way we live our lives. I want to inspire people think about these common objects and what they signify in everyday life."

Micki Schloessingk

Micki Schloessingk in her studio

Micik Schloessingk is a maker who embraces the challenges of wood firing and salt glazing.  She approaches the process, not just as a technical reaction where wood or salt and flame heat the clay, but one where" The weather, the wood, the energy of the firers all contribute to making each pot individual."

" I enjoy making a wide range of pots which respond imaginatively to daily needs in the kitchen I have always used wood as a fuel to fire my kilns."
 "The process is fully engaging. It is something you can never totally control, but experience teaches you to bring together all the elements to create the best possible chance of a good outcome. The flames in a wood kiln are slow and gentle and seem to impart some of these qualities to the pots."

Helen Rondell

Helen Rondell in her studio

Helen talks fondly of her days as a student; “It is very sad a lot of colleges are closing their craft departments”. Helen’s interest in art had started in her school days where she studied graphic design, and she subsequently did a foundation degree in Chesterfield. Whilst on her foundation she uncovered an interest in surface pattern and was exposed to clay as a material for the first time later that year. Helen’s work with surface pattern lead her to take up a place at North Staffordshire University on the Design course “…[it] was a fantastic course and at the start similar to a foundation course in that we were allowed to try out other disciplines”. Yet, having felt that she had found the medium with which she wanted to work, Helen switched to do ceramics within the first term.

Evidence of Helen’s path through design can be seen in the work she makes now; surface pattern and bold forms combine to create work that has a powerful impact on the viewer. Her work is also inspired by her personal experiences such as her travels around the Southwestern United States where Helen was particularly drawn to the rock formations of Arizona and Utah.  After the birth of her children, Helen’s work became more figurative. Being a parent of identical twins she became interested in the shape and structures of DNA strands, and as her daughters grew and became two different people, notions of nature over nurture fascinated her.

“In my most recent work all of the pieces evolve from the same beginnings, but take on very different forms during the making process – culminating in the Raku firing which adds the definitive touch of individuality.”

Helen has been working with raku firing using resist slips for a number of years, and she hand builds all her designs by coiling and pinching.

 Jonathan Chiswell Jones

Jonathan Chiswell Jones in his studio

“Aged 11, I had a wonderful art teacher who used to go to Winchcombe in the school holidays and help Ray Finch and the team there. He passed on his enthusiasm for making useful pots to me. At about the same age, I read 'A Potters Book', which reinforced that enthusiasm. This seed lay dormant for the next 19 years, but once it germinated, it has sustained me ever since.

Blue Plate £211

I believe making pots for a living is a group activity, and have worked with numerous assistants over the past 40 years. The further ceramics moves from being craft based and teachable, the narrower the market for these products is likely to be. This has been the trajectory of the past 20 years and maybe longer. 'Art' can mean almost anything today. 'Ceramic art' likewise. But making useful pots brings its own constraints, as does working within a tradition. Personally I find these limits provide a useful and productive focus.”

Detail - Large Dish £726

Jonathan’s work has an important place in a long tradition of those who have used reduction fired lustre decoration. From the potters of the Islamic world 10 centuries ago, to Alan Caiger-Smith here in Britain- and to Jonathan himself, all have been beguiled by the elusive beauty which fire and clay, copper and silver combine to create. Exploring the possibilities of clay as a material is an absorbing challenge for Jonathan. He designs from life experience, his designs are a re-working what he has seen and loved.

Jonathan who says that “passing on skills which have been hard won is important to me”, he believes that pottery is a craft-based activity that can be open to anyone willing to devote the time and effort to learn the skills. Along with his assistant Kerry Bosworth he is currently training an apprentice who has been helped by the charity "Adopt a Potter".

John Calver

John Calver in the Studio

John Calver studied Civil Engineering at London University and worked as an engineer for five years in Newcastle-on-Tyne and Kingston, Jamaica. Attendance at an adult education class in Newcastle aroused an interest in clay. That interest became all-consuming, and, on his return to England from Jamaica in 1973, John established his own work-shop at Yealand Redmayne in North Lancashire. From 1973 to 1978 he produced a range of burnished and glazed earthenware. 1979 saw another opportunity to travel abroad and he spent two years in Egypt. On returning to his workshop in 1981, John began making the stoneware work he is well known for. 
Detail from large plate - £184
Functional forms are thrown using white firing stoneware clays. Many forms are altered dynamically while the clay is soft. Pulled or wire-cut handles, and textured feet may be added. Techniques used in decoration include chattering, impressing fabric, rope and clay stamps, and brushing, trailing, inlaying and sponging slips onto the surface. After biscuit firing the pots are glazed by pouring overlapping layers of up to six glazes on to any one piece. The work is reduction fired to 1310 degrees centigrade in a 35cu.ft. oil kiln.

Small Jug £46

Matt Horne
Matt Horne in the studio

"With regards to how I started in pottery...

I had a great ceramics teacher during my A-levels - she was so good, she actually gave me a potters wheel from the classroom when she retired! This started it all off for me, as I then started practising throwing in the shed at home.

At this point I was determined I wanted to be a potter, so I approached Aylesford Pottery in Maidstone, Kent. The guys there were great teachers and very supportive! I started off going just a couple of days a week, but as I got better it was becoming more full time. After around 3 years of training I decided to start my own business and build a small workshop - I have now been a full time potter for around 8 years developing my Crystalline glazes."

Matt Horne - Crystalline glazed vase.
"My passion for ceramics started from an art lesson in the first year of my GCSE's. Whilst participating in the lesson, I found that I very much enjoyed the challenging creative process of throwing, and seemed to have a natural talent for this type of art. The years that followed were all dedicated to ceramics, experimenting with different styles of pottery and improving my throwing technique. This led me to choosing a career in Crystalline ceramics, because it is so unusual and different from any other type of pottery. I very much enjoy experimenting with new, more contemporary shaped vases and testing new glazes, producing more exciting colour combinations and pushing the boundaries of throwing. "

Matt Horne - Crystalline glazed vessels

Keith Varney

Keith Varney in the studio
Keith originally trained as a cabinet maker, working on everything from theatre scenery to fine furniture. In 2005 he returned to education seeking a new direction in life. Having completed a foundation in Design Crafts and a degree in Three Dimensional Design: Ceramics, Keith set up his studio in 2011 and now exhibits widely across the country.

Keith's hand built, folded and constructed objects explore form, line, texture and shade. The interplay of changing light and the viewer’s perspective give rise to a shift in perception of the forms; their translucent nature allows the interiors to reflect a sense of luminosity.

Porcelain is a challenging material to work with but the qualities of its surface, its translucency and almost ethereal nature when used in eggshell thin sheets has driven him to investigate its wide potential. By combining elements of slip casting, hand building and origami,Keith has developed a technique that produces distinctive sculptural objects.

 Carol Wainwright

Carol Wainwright in her studio.
"I was a nervous student. Harrow in 1958 opened up my world. Margrie, Casson, Keeler, clay, and paint: discovering the London museums; incredibly, I had never been to the National Gallery, V&A or British Museum. Harrow was hands on, even though my first session in the ceramics department found me in a black pencil skirt and 4” heels! I loved the process of scraping and shaping, but struggled with throwing.

I found the formal design work expected of the ceramics students too much of a challenge and opted for NDD in the painting studios.

Twenty years and many pot purchases later, living in Farnham, I was back into ceramics at West Surrey College of Art and Design. Three years of hard work and practical training followed. Nigel Wood’s technical lectures, incredibly helpful technicians, many visiting ceramics makers. Multiple staff, including Takeshi Yasuda who lent me his kiln plans, from which I and another student built my first gas fired kiln, Sebastien Blackie who obtained the bricks for me, Duncan Ross and Liz Try who were so patient and helpful to all of the students; access to all the college facilities, free movement within various departments, all these things amounted to a wonderful resource. With visits to other makers in various disciplines, glass, blacksmithing, cabinet making, it was a tremendously rich education.

At the time I found being a student, almost twenty years older than my fellows, hard going, but looking back, I could never have been self-taught. I met some extraordinary people, learnt how to prepare glazes and clay and that I so much needed to work with the stuff.

Thank you art school education. As Bob and Roberta Smith said, “All schools should be Art schools.”
Large bowl on display by Carol Wainwright.

Large bowl on display by Carol Wainwright.


Popular Posts