Winter rotation: Featured makers
Each of the artists has taken a different route - and whether through formal education, mid-career change in direction or by starting at a young age, these are interesting stories. Stories that will hopefully inspire others.
Here we ask the makers in our Winter Rotation to share their experiences of education and routes into making ceramics. Their work is being featured for the next few months in the gallery, below they share their inspirations, thought processes and making practices.
Sarah Jenkins is based in Essex, she cites this landscape as a key influence on her work, here she writes of her ceramics education and the path she has taken to making.
Moving back to my roots, I have for the last few years been a dedicated artist, producing a variety of ceramics, exhibiting in galleries in Norfolk, London, Cambridge and Oxfordshire. My work is a distillation of my responses to the natural world, the turn of the year, the changing light and weather. Key to this is the landscape where I live and work, surrounded by the woods and fields of north Essex.
Looking back, I realise I was fortunate to have had my art education in the period when our society seemed to still value education for its own sake, to broaden the mind. It was a very different time, when grant funding was available. It must be daunting these days to embark on further education of any kind unless you have access to financial resources. It is very sad to see that so many ceramics courses and other arts courses, with all the facilities and expertise attached, have been eroded. Much harder to reinstate these than other courses.
|Wide field bottle|
During the Foundation, working alongside other students was an important part of my learning. As well as students on the Fine Art course, I spent time with mature students who were studying on a dedicated ceramics course. I absorbed a lot of information about ceramics at this time. Talk of a wood-fired kiln that was being built, discussion of clay bodies, temperatures and different ceramic techniques.
With huge regret, I left my Fine Art degree course unfinished. I was very young and life problems intervened. I always hoped to return to Fine Art somehow. Some time later, I was part of a building collective and learnt the skills of plastering and decorating.
A few years on, by the time that I was ready to return to education, I had a couple of friends that were studying ceramics at Central School of Art, and I was making pots at adult education classes. I knew that I wanted to focus on working with clay.
I embarked on a Diploma by Independent Study (a course no longer available). This involved designing my own course of study including specifying how I would be assessed. I found it great for self-knowledge, time management and self-discipline. I built a small studio and experimented with lots of techniques, and made a raku kiln. As part of the Independent study course, I attended adult-education classes at Morley College, where I was lucky enough to have Jill Crawley as a tutor. She was a brilliant teacher, encouraging invention and experimentation.
After the Diploma, unable to see a way forward with ceramics, I earned a living in the building trade, where I became an accomplished plasterer.
During these years I only managed to work with clay sporadically. A key part of my informal education in ceramics was to spend some months in Cape Town, South Africa, with a long time potter friend. I made press moulds and built vessels with lots of texture, and selected three of the numerous glazes from tests, glazes I still use today. The result was a small but successful body of work. I sold some of these and brought a few pieces back with me. I remember friends asking where I had been and what I had seen, but with the exception of a few days travel up-country, I was glued to the studio, totally focused on the work.
More time elapsed, and it was not until I had my son, relatively late in life, and we moved back to near my home town, that I was able to commit to ceramics full-time. Being here amongst the fields where I feel I belong, having my son and the support of my partner, helped to galvanise my resolve to follow my dream of working in ceramics. It has been a long road, but I feel as if I am finally making what I need to make. I sometimes regret that I did not have the confidence to arrive at this point earlier, but of course all my life experiences have helped to lead me here. I have found my own language and confidence within ceramics and the responses to what I am making very encouraging.
Hopefully creativity will out, and anyone needing to make ceramics will find a way.
Delfina Emmanuel studied Classics in Italy then later a City and Guilds course and a BA in Ceramics at the University of Westminster. Since graduating she has taken part in many shows and exhibitions in the UK, in the process showcasing her work to as wide an audience as possible.
“The ceramic forms I make have been influenced by the delicate and fragile nature of living organisms found in the sea, I like their gentle flowing, how they take shapes and the pattern of their surfaces.
The egg shapes have a deep symbolic meaning. For example in the teapot, used for centuries as a utilitarian item, I recognize the strong association with domesticity, in its rounded shape the basis of the human form, hollow, containing and comforting: suggesting a new and precious life.”
|Anemone twist Vessel|
|Claire drawing in the studio|
“My studio is at the London Museum of Water and Steam. I use the creative atmosphere, facilities and special location to inspire my work.
I have started to explore alternative hand building techniques; sculptural forms have emerged during my research. The smoky and painterly surfaces I achieve envelop my ceramic forms and are integral to the whole.
I have recently completed commissioned work for specific locations in private gardens and I have completed an Artist in Residence at Pimlico Academy, a newly built secondary school in central London. “
|Marcio Mattos in his studio, image copyright the artist|
Lea Phillips followed a foundation course in Art and Design with study on the Harrow Studio Pottery course. Work as a pottery assistant and time as both a self-employed potter and a pottery teacher came next before the desire to go back to education led her to becoming an apprentice potter at Dartington Pottery. Lea credits this experience; learning a host of new processes and at the same time becoming a production thrower, with helping her realise the direction she wanted to follow in her work as a self-employed potter, she explains below;
|Lea in the studio Copyright Lea Phillips|
|Lea's vibrant designs|
I started the workshop at Coombe Park near Totnes in 2001 and moved to the bigger brighter unit on the same site in 2014. The new unit was larger than we needed so we now share it with some other artists and have a well lit display area for pots, sculptures, paintings and prints. At the moment I am continuing to explore my interest in pattern and colour through the medium of print making and collage as well as ceramics. My long term ambition is to exhibit the ceramics and prints together and to explore painting with glazes as a way of combining the two themes.”
All images copyright Lea Phillips
|Andy Priestman at his studio 2015|
|Bowl Image Shannon Tofts|
|Beakers and lidded jar Image Shannon Tofts|
|Blue grey clay|
|Lidded jar Image Shannon Tofts|
Jane Wheeler studied ceramics at Bath Academy of Art in the early 1970's, before moving away from ceramics and forging a successful career as a knitwear designer, she returned to ceramics in 2003 after a move back to her native Norfolk. Jane has found that her experiences of travel and design as part of the fashion and textiles industry now feed into her ceramic practice, and indeed her first career now informs her second as she explains;
|Jane in her workshop|
|'Spring rain holme oak' bottle form|
Clay touched off some deeper practical need, that of making things in a medium which is so receptive and versatile, it can use all of the skills you might have learnt in other media or disciplines – drawing, sculpture, design, printmaking, painting, chemistry, engineering, geology – and combine them, using your intuition, into your own burgeoning ceramic practice. And it is a medium which keeps you humble, there are always new and old things to learn, mistakes to make, fruitful and not so much!
|Chun bottle form|
|Slab building in progress|
|'Spring rain oak leaf' bottle form|
Jane Wheeler's vessels are reduction fired to 1260 degrees centigrade in a gas kiln. The rich textural surfaces are created by the addition of coarse grog and sand to the stoneware clay body, while the layering of a crackle slip, oxides and a chun glaze interact with impurities in the clay to bring out irregular spots and marks.