Line & Form | In conversation with Anna Silverton

Line and Form | 13th February — 7th March 2020
Emily Myers, Anna Silverton and Ali Tomlin 

Anna Silverton
Our current exhibition brings together three makers whose work explores relationships between surface and form: Emily Myers, Anna Silverton and Ali Tomlin. For each maker, it would be difficult to divide where the starting point of throwing the vessel separates from ideas around decoration, or the finished surface.  Emily Myers observes: “My forms are all thrown initially and then altered, carved or faceted at the leather hard stage. Some pieces are textured with sculpting tools such as a surform or hacksaw blades. I aim for well-proportioned forms with poise.” Anna Silverton describes her process: “I work iteratively, closely watching the profile while making incremental modifications — stretching what I can do and what the porcelain will tolerate.” Ali Tomlin explains: “I like to make most pieces more or less in one go; this means throwing, drying and turning still on the wheel, all the while contemplating what this piece will look like.”

We wanted to find out more about each maker's creative practice, and particularly the shared exploration of relationships, and we open our conversations with Anna Silverton.
 Anna Silverton

“I explore both balance and counterbalance; I’m trying to find forms that combine elegance with visual surprise.”

Anna Silverton | Black Vase | Photo: Justin Webb


Contemporary Ceramics: It feels that there is a strong exploration of balance in your work, with extremes of expansion and constraint. Can you tell us more about your response to form?

Anna Silverton: I explore both balance and counterbalance; I’m trying to find forms that combine elegance with visual surprise. There is discipline and control with my technique but within the formality it is important for me to retain playfulness. I make subtle and gradual changes over time. I stretch out forms extravagantly but then I may nip them in or pare them back, for example, I enjoy the tension this creates.

Practicality is not my primary driver when developing shape, though I restrict what I make to vases and bowls. I respond to minimalism, but in my own work I want to find a more sensual simplicity.

CC: In this exhibition, a number of pieces use glazes to disrupt surface. How do you see the balance between the different surface qualities?

AS: I apply tactile glazes, using a limited palette of colours, with minimal but meticulous attention to detail to punctuate outline and to balance formal proportions. I use incised bands to articulate and accentuate shape and create or interrupt formal dynamics. On first impression the glaze detail may not be apparent, but I enjoy that on second glance, or if the light hits in the right way, more is revealed.

Anna Silverton | Photo: Justin Webb

CC: Is scale important?

AS: Scale is very important, it changes presence and physical interaction. For example, the relationship between the viewer and vessel changes if you can wrap your arms around a piece rather than balance it delicately in your hand.

My intuitive or natural scale for working is quite large, I like to be able to grip the porcelain and feel some physical challenge when I work with it. I like my work to feel ‘monumental’, but on a human rather than architectural scale. When I do work on a small scale it is a different challenge, it has to involve a complete shift of my focus and the clay must be gently cajoled.


CC: How do you work ?

AS: My studio is at home in my house, which means that I have the advantage of being able to carefully control the drying of my porcelain, which is key to the success or failure of each piece. I work alone, which suits me because I love to listen to music or audio-books as I work.
Anna Silverton|Black Vase, White Vase|Photo:Dee Honeybun
CC: What images keep you company in the space where you work ?

AS: I generally keep a couple of photos of pieces I have made that have particularly intrigued or pleased me. I also have my drawings, which describe a series of profiles that I want to explore. I also pin things to the wall I want to keep in mind, like glaze recipes and tests.


CC: How did you first get involved with working with clay?

AS: I was fortunate to be at school in the days when there were ceramics facilities, and I had a thoughtful ceramics teacher called Mr Buchanan. On Foundation my tutor was James Campbell and at Camberwell I was taught throwing by Janice Tchalenko and Colin Pearson. I didn’t wheel-throw at all during my time at the Royal College, but returned it to it later when I was making vases for the Conran Shop.

CC:What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

AS:I remember first seeing the Bauhaus chair by Marcel Breuer when I was on Foundation. I would say it is one of the only things that I really loved as a teenager that has stood the test of time. I often think if I hadn’t chosen ceramics as a subject for my degree then furniture design would have been my choice.

Anna Silverton | Line and Form Exhibition image | Photo: Dee Honeybun
CC: What has been a seminal/inspirational moment? 

AS: I decided that I wanted to change direction with my ceramic work in about 2007 and I started working with porcelain on the wheel, instead of stoneware clay. There was a long gap of about 10 years before I felt confident enough to launch this new work, which I did at Ceramic Art London 2017.

CC: How does working with clay influence your life beyond the workshop?

AS: Outside the workshop I also work part-time as Program Manager for the HND Ceramics Course at Morley College. It is a demanding role, but a fantastic opportunity to develop worthwhile higher education opportunities in Ceramics.

Anna Silverton | Black Bowl | Photo: Justin Webb
 You can see Anna's work, together with Emily Myers and Ali Tomlin in Line and Form, at Contemporary Ceramics until the 7th March 2020


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