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"I have always found the potter’s wheel to be a wonderful tool that is capable of much more than just making round pots." 


Katerina Evangelidou in her studio
"I was born in Athens and studied ceramics at West Surrey College of Art and Design (currently University for the Creative Arts). I now live, work and teach in Farnham where my studio has been established since mid-‘80s.

The first sight of the freshly cut surface of grogged clay left me spellbound...and the rest is history. 


I have always found the potter’s wheel to be a wonderful tool that is capable of much more than just making round pots. All the making of my work starts and finishes on the wheel, including flattening, changing of form, wire cutting and on occasions the re-throwing of a piece of work.



Early Cycladic figures with their economy of design along with the controlled physicality of Japanese pots have always been a spring of inspiration. 

"I just set up the circumstances to the best of my ability and allow things to happen."


In the kiln







Wood-firing came as a natural choice. The fly ash in the wood-firing kiln (designed and built by Graham Ellerby) along with a little salt vapour that is added towards the end of the firing, emphasise the edges and develop a very natural and desirable dialogue with the form of the work. 

"Unpredictability keeps me going."

I would like to think that after all these firings I would be able to understand fully and harness the dynamics of the wood-firing but the more I do it the less I know. And this unpredictability keeps me going." 

Katerina Evangelidou. May 2019.

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"Over the last twenty years, my work has developed further by the careful incorporation of found materials within the works, even incorporating some materials within my clay bodies."

I often refer to myself as a maker and occasionally nowadays as a potter, this is because, in the last few years, I have begun making functional, workaday pots. I enjoy making things and I also enjoy working in materials other than clay. 

My fascination and focus with clay go back to my undergrad studies at Bristol Polyethnic, this was in the mid-seventies where I was taught on a very ‘open’ ceramics course by Wally Keeler and Mo Jupp amongst others. In terms of my education, this was the first of what turned out to be three degrees, each one of which helped to refine my making and developed my clay working techniques. This, combined with over 40 years of studio work, reflection and exhibiting have brought my work to where you see it today.

Canadian Pine 
Over the last twenty years, my work has developed further by the careful incorporation of found materials within the works, even incorporating some materials within my clay bodies. I have also amalgamated sands and silts, muds, gravels, shards of broken pottery, brick fragments, rusting iron and various organic materials within my works. All of these incorporations retell their own story within the works or bring a resonance of history or perhaps a specific location to each piece.

"Surface texture, proportion and balance are vital in all my pieces, and my work may often be seen as referencing the ceremonial, offering an object for contemplation."

Refuge Bowls
Creating work for my exhibitions usually starts with a walk in the area which is the focus for my works or the location of the gallery. During this walk, I will take photos and collect many things such as pieces of wood, bark, stones, rusting artefacts, anything. These may directly influence the work; they may be incorporated into a piece or can simply provide background texture or location to the pieces.

Rabley Bowl
My work changed fundamentally in the early 1980s when, by chance, I ‘sanded’ the surface of a small pot I had made. On firing this piece, it became covered in blisters and warts from copper filings that I had mixed into the porcelain body. This ‘sanding’ inadvertently resulted in my polishing the hard surface of the high-fired pot. And, so began many years of research investigating post-fire surface polishing for ceramics.

"I don’t have a favourite pot or potter"


Portland
Surface texture, proportion and balance are vital in all my pieces, and my work may often be seen as referencing the ceremonial, offering an object for contemplation. Many make comparisons between my work and elements found within Japanese culture and some of my pieces may be viewed almost as one would look on a Zen garden with its carefully arrange stones and meticulously raked gravel, I would enjoy that comparison.

Though I don’t have a favourite pot or potter as such I am always impressed by works from Wally Keeler, Duncan Ross, Edmund De Waal and Annie Turner.
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Chris Speyer | working on Gateway of Dreams

"I began to miss clay, the magic of taking formless earth and fashioning an object. It is an act that combines the child-like joy of playing with mud and the god-like impulse to create, the mythic journey that brings form out of chaos."


Chris Speyer | Colourful stoneware made for Yerja Ceramics & Textiles

I appear to possess a need to reinvent myself every ten years, or thereabouts. Throughout the 80s and 90s I made colourful, thrown and press-moulded tableware. I was the ceramic half of Yerja Ceramics and Textiles, my textile painting wife, Katherine Ukleja being my partner. It was a time of prolific production, showing and selling our work in the UK and abroad and fulfilling interior design commissions. We had a wonderful full-time assistant called Geraldine and the three of us would beaver away for long hours in my studio or Katherine’s making, decorating, painting or packing orders to meet the next deadline. During this time, I joined the small band of British potters selling work at the continental ceramics markets; Milsbeek and Swalmen in the Netherlands, Gmunden in Austria, Baden Baden and Dissen in Germany, and soon half of everything we made was going across the Channel.

Chris Speyer | Wind Form 2
"It was a new beginning and led to the work I am making now, that ranges in size from small table sculptures to site-specific pieces over two metres tall"
 
It was a fun and frenetically busy time, but it left little time for contemplation and development. Perhaps that’s why both Katherine and I felt the need to stop, to take stock. It might also have had something to do with becoming parents to our lovely daughter in 2001. Before making ceramics, I had worked in the theatre, and I kept a toe-hold in my original profession by writing or directing one new play every year. In 2000, with the encouragement of the Arts Council, the composer Ieuan Einion and I set up a new theatre company in Newcastle upon Tyne. This, together with being a parent and writing two novels consumed all my time for the next decade. But I began to miss clay, the magic of taking formless earth and fashioning an object. It is an act that combines the child-like joy of playing with mud and the god-like impulse to create, the mythic journey that brings form out of chaos.

Chris Speyer | Gateway of Dreams
In 2015 I went back to school. I began a part-time MA in ceramics. Bath School of Art and Design still operates like a proper art school, the emphasis being on research through making. It has well equipped workshops and excellent technicians (themselves artists and craftspeople), who are unfailingly generous with their time and knowledge. Our course leaders were Keith Harrison and Conor Wilson who pushed and prodded us out of our comfort zones and challenged each of us to bring an intellectual rigor to our search for originality. Previously, much of the emphasis in my work had been on surface decoration, now I sought to find expression through form.
Chris Speyer | working in the studio



"...my exposure to it gave me a new freedom" 
 
A turning point came with my discovery of the American sculptor Martin Puryear, the extraordinary eloquence of whose pieces arises in no small part from the exquisite craft with which they are created. In his work the division between craft and art vanishes, and my exposure to it gave me a new freedom – I could be a craftsperson and make sculpture, I could be a sculptor and make craft. It was a new beginning and led to the work I am making now, that ranges in size from small table sculptures to site-specific pieces over two metres tall.







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Carolyn Genders
Carolyn Genders | Sentience
2nd - 25th May 2019This is the second of our posts to accompany the exhibition program in our onsite Emmanuel Cooper Gallery. In creating works for this exhibition, CPA Fellow Carolyn Genders questions and investigates asymmetry, rhythm and balance, while celebrating the tactile and textural possibilities of clay.

In conversation with artist James Hunting, Carolyn shares her intensely private journey of creating the works for 'Sentience'.

Carolyn Genders | Red Interior, Orange Spots 
James Hunting (JH) : What is the surface to you?

Carolyn Genders (CG) : Surface is integral, it is a base, a starting point. Without surface, nothing could follow, it would be empty. I invest time corrupting, disrupting and preparing the surface on which I will work.

Vessels: the three-dimension surface is the space they occupy within the bigger space: the way the lines cut across surface, move around the form, lead the visual perception. Surface reveals the internal life of a 3-dimensional object.

JH: What is the place of drawing in your practice?

CG: Drawing is my practice. It is my thought process. Through it I express weight, line, volume and rhythm. I do not draw the figure or the object. I use marks, areas of colour and gestures that when I come up for air, have created the figure or captured the essence of the subject. Working in 3-D, drawing in clay, drawing is the dimension. It’s the continuation of this working from concrete objects and the figure that is the information for working in the abstract.

Carolyn Genders | Indigo Bo
JH: Colour - what informs your colour use?

CG: I realise more and more that colour is fundamental to my well being: artistically and in life. Colour is looking - that empty space where I just look - the act of informing by analysing. The conscious and unconscious selection of colour combinations.

Looking at my environment - constantly experimenting - the informing of colour combinations from external stimuli: my environment and the work of painters such as Giotto, Rothko, and any artist who uses colour thoughtfully and with rigour.

JH: You have been printmaking - what impact- if any- has this had on your ceramic pieces?

CG: My printmaking is an immediate and responsive expression. It is also a continuation of looking at colour and exploration of markmaking. It provides shortcuts to the time consuming processes involved with clay. Ceramics fill my soul but is difficult.

Printmaking is joy, I love it - It is my guilty pleasure!

JH:  The most recent work has a calm, less ‘busy’ feel - as the maker do you sense this?

CG: Yes, strongly. After an intensive period of making, I have been surprised by this body of work. It has taken a lot of thought to understand it myself! I recognise that it’s intensely private and the beginning of a creative journey of no compromise.

Carolyn Genders | Snapdragon Sunshine I,II,III

JH: Where next?

CG: I want to explore……..

JH: What role does thinking and talking hold in your work?

CG: It’s impossible to create valid work without thinking and it has to be done alone. Thinking needs space and promotes rigour and openness. Talking is equally important but not promiscuously.

Carolyn Genders 2019
Sentience
Contemporary Ceramics Centre
2nd - 25th May 2019
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Each month our Emmanuel Cooper Gallery, (the dedicated exhibition space sited towards the rear of Contemporary Ceramics Centre) hosts an exhibition showing the work of an individual maker or a selected group of makers.  To accompany our regular posts which look at new makers on display, we are adding a monthly exhibition focus.

David Roberts
David Roberts | Evolving Forms4th - 27th April 2019The unity of process through photography, drawing and making found across this exhibition; David Roberts | Evolving Forms, is described beautifully in a short text written by David.  The landscape of his exhibition; the rise and fall of rounded cylinders, of curvaceous bowls... reflects his surfaces of  'Weeping Landscapes' and 'Ripples'.  His text sheds light on how he brings the process of photography to his work, exploring the connections between the camera, drawing and making.

David Roberts | Vortex

David Roberts | On Photographs

"First the subject matter. My work has always been landscape orientated, initially my focus was on my local Yorkshire Pennine Hills. Eroded rocks, stone walls, and paths/tracks...being reflected in both the form and surfaces of my ceramics. Following a visit to Milford Sound, New Zealand my work was informed by drawings and photographs of the dramatic water patterns rushing down precipitous rocks to the ocean over 1000 feet below. The lines of water describing and highlighting the landscape's form. Many of my vessels from this period were titled ‘Weeping Landscapes'. A few years after Milford Sound I participated symposium in Eastern Croatia based next to an oxbow lake with beautiful ripple patterns constantly changing with different lights and winds. Photographs of these phenomena are amongst those displayed presently in the Contemporary Ceramic Centre. My vessels have now evolved from ‘Weeping Landscapes’ to ‘Ripples’ as seen in the exhibition.

Photography

The photographs are digital so they are not developed in a dark room as in film photography however they are subject to modification in an editing suite. Like ceramics I am very interested in the photographic process and how the combination of different speeds and apertures can radically modify images. I was brought up in the age of film photography and although I use a digital camera it is on manual setting so I can physically alter the size of the aperture and the digital equivalent to film speed. I love black and white photography. To my eyes it gives great depth and intensity to the images. It also has relevance to my monochromatic ceramics.

David Roberts | Evolving Forms (exhibition image)
As with my drawings the photographs are independent of, but related to, my vessels' surfaces and in some cases the forms being both a focus and inspiration for my ceramics. When working I do carry specific photographic images in my head when painting the linear patterns which decorate my current forms. The ceramics are a result of a fusion of images derived from observation, drawings and photography plus modifications and enhancements resulting from the Raku process. They are not topographically ‘realistic’, being more abstract and metaphorical in nature. "

David Roberts, April 2019


David Roberts | Evolving Forms (exhibition image)



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John Wheeldon slab building vessels in the studio
John Wheeldon : In conversation with Contemporary Ceramics Centre

CCC: Why do you do what you do? 

JW: I do what I do because it’s what I do !!

I’ve been doing it for 50 years this year and it has never occurred to me to do anything else. I have supplemented my income with part-time teaching, demonstrating, workshops etc. but they have always revolved around my core practice of making pots.

I am, I realise, very lucky to have been able to make a living (albeit sometimes frugal) from ceramics for all this time and have no plans to retire until I am forced to. We are as potters privileged to be involved in a way of life that we can follow for as long as we wish.
John Wheeldon | Vessel

CCC:  What route did you take when first starting out.  Did you take a formal route through education or a more informal approach?

JW: On leaving school I went to Art College in Chesterfield to do a foundation course intending to follow a career in graphics or photography but became fascinated with ceramics, ending up spending most of my time in the department. This led to a degree in 3d design at Wolverhampton and my first studio back home in Derbyshire.

CCC:  How do you work? 

JW: I work 5 days a week in the studio and tend to work in blocks - an extended period making until all the shelves are full - firing - and then a period decorating and glazing. The finished pieces then are either sent to clients or stored and the process starts again.

CCC: What has been a seminal/inspirational moment?

JW: My seminal moment was in the mid-’80s when I had, literally, a flash of inspiration about how to decorate the black stoneware, I was making then, with small rubber stamps and precious metal lustre which led to a body of work which still echoes in the pieces I make today.
John Wheeldon | Vessel 

CCC: What is your favourite pot or artwork? 

JW: My favourite pot is a stoneware bottle by Shoji Hamada in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

CCC:  What role does the potter have in society? 

JW: What is our role in society ?? I sometimes think that it is to explain, quite often, that I don’t have a “proper job” but this is what I do full-time!! But, less flippantly, I think we have an increasingly important role in a digital age where most people seem to press buttons all day and very few people actually produce anything by hand any more. It is increasingly important that we don’t lose touch with the uniquely human skill of using ‘hand, heart and brain’ to produce things. It is now being recognised that this way of working is actually very good for our health and well being.

John Wheeldon | Vessel
CCC: How has your practice changed over time? 

JW: My practice has changed many times over the years. I started by making reduced stoneware and porcelain, moved into stoneware and porcelain lustreware then copper-matt Raku, crackle Raku, Terra Sigillata and more recently earthenware tableware. I am now making, as a result of suffering from arthritis in my hands, more hand-built forms and doing less throwing. These new pots are decorated with coloured underglaze slips using imagery from a variety of sources.

I used to worry that a change of style would upset my buyers but have actually found that, very often, they appreciate it especially the galleries who are always looking for something new. Some may stop buying but these are replaced by new ones so I don’t worry about it anymore.

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

JW: Working with clay has influenced my life considerably. The main thing has been the friendships I have made over the years. I have been involved in Ceramic shows both in this country and on the continent from the early days of being invited to the 2nd Keramisto in the Netherlands in 1989 and the links and friendships from these have continued and developed. Without shows such as these most potters would work in isolation in their workshops and seldom meet each other. These shows enable us to engage with the public, see other types of work up close and more importantly develop friendships and networks.

John Wheeldon 2019
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Ingrid Saag 
I knew since the age of eight that I was going to be an artist. There was never any question about it. While growing up in British Guiana, I spent a lot of time painting and drawing and also was an absolute bookworm.

I decided to be a book illustrator… obviously!

After attending art college in England and while working as an illustrator in publishing, packaging and advertising, I felt I wanted to explore being creative in a different medium without the constraints of a commission.

I tried to find somewhere to learn about glass making, but opportunities to study this medium were at the time scarce. However, there was no shortage of classes available in Adult Education to learn pottery. I began around the mid-eighties at Putney School of Art under Tessa Fuchs, did a short stint at Morley College with Jill Crowley, even completed a raku course at Latchmere College where I came across another student, the then-unknown Grayson Perry. I finally ended up at Manresa House in Roehampton, where I stayed for several years until it was closed down by the local authority.

Ingrid Saag | Vessel
Anyway, I was hooked. Twenty years later I found myself making pots professionally and a year after that was selected for membership of the CPA.

It’s a visceral need the artist has; can’t live without it, most can’t live by it.

Ingrid Saag | Vessel
Why do I do what I do? I can’t help it. I once gave up being creative for five years and, looking back on that time, was miserable. It’s a visceral need the artist has; can’t live without it, most can’t live by it. Sometimes I think it can be viewed as a curse, sometimes a gift, sometimes a luxury, certainly essential to one’s identity. If ideas weren’t expressed through clay, it would be in some other medium, some other way to be creative. 

A new idea will always start with drawing in black and white, usually pencil.

I don’t use colour because I can see the colours in my mind with the help of my test tiles. I make notes on the side or on the drawing about which colours I plan to use and whether slips, underglaze, or glaze. On another day I may see different colours so I can use the same drawing for other variations.

Most ideas come from aspects of my life or from my interests. For example, when I was growing up we had two large mango trees from which I have wonderful memories of playing in the tree house in one of them and picking the mangoes. In my early days in England, I guess my homesickness came out via dreams of picking the luscious mangoes hanging on their long stems…this led to the Mango Pickers vases.

Ingrid Saag | Vessel
I like working/ painting in different styles, as I find it interesting and a challenge. I’m quite versatile and was used to being asked to do this in my career as an illustrator. I recently conceived a range of thrown and painted pots with ripped rims. Sometimes the tearing motion causes a gentle outline, other times the random nature of the tearing results in a more jagged appearance. I like to compare this to the earth’s natural forces that create the outline of the landscape.

I can’t say I have a favourite pot or artwork, but many favourites. I love Niki de St Phalle’s giant Nanas with their mosaics or painted designs, Ashraf Hanna’s wonderful organic shapes, am inspired by a lot of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, in particular, the ones of his many lovers, the landscapes of Ivon Hitchens, the abstract paintings of Franz Kline…among others.


I guess I will continue to be creative in some way as long as I have breath…because artists don’t retire. " Ingrid Saag 2019
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Kitty Shepherd

In her own words

"I feel I need to catalogue and impose order on all the things that affect me.

All my pots are intensely specific. After years as a production thrower I now hand build all the pieces that I produce, throwing only the lids. It is a less rushed process and allows me to contemplate the starting point better. My main studio location is in Granada Spain, but my clay is still from Staffordshire because I love it.

When it comes to the painted surface I have a particular system. I feel I need to catalogue and impose order on all the things that affect me. This is why I choose the subjects I do for the pots I make. It is all intentional; there is nothing random in the selection of my source material - everything is obsessively thought out.

The images and scraps that I have gathered together are like the ingredients for a recipe that needs to mix and start talking to each other.

People who have visited me in my studio are probably surprised to see that as part of my creative process I start with what can only be described as piles of scraps of paper, advertisements and catalogues. Deep down I am a collector and for decades, I have been filling books, boxes and folders with saved scraps of paper that interest me. It is these things that eventually end up as the starting point for a new pot or collection of pots.
Kitty Shepherd | Painting By Numbers

Normally, in my ordered folders things stay among their own kind. Bicycles are with road markings and toy guns are, at a push, with water pistols and ray guns, but separated. The lipstick folder is huge and splits by era and make. Storing pictures and information for my artwork is very important and this super organised system works, but only as a depository. When I actually need to do something with them, I need a bit of chaos. The images and scraps that I have gathered together are like the ingredients for a recipe that needs to mix and start talking to each other. A mixed box can remain ‘live’ or active on my workbench for several months and even when it is exhausted the box is preserved for another time.

Many of the objects I am attracted to have been with me all my life as memory and nostalgia, by collecting them I am sorting them out. The pieces of paper remain, but they become so disorganised once worked with it can take years for the process to throw them up again. 

Kitty Shepherd | Orange Mivvi
Moving my studio 11 years ago to Spain triggered me to treat these images as treasure, they became visual moments in very sharp focus, it was a way of coping with the loss of the familiar." Kitty Shepherd 2019

Kitty  Shepherd | Test Card


About

Kitty Shepherd (BORN 1960) is a studio potter and ceramic artist with a career as a slipware potter spanning 35 years. Her training has been an unorthodox path through further education which began in the arts, but not in ceramics. Her early passions were for the stage studying primarily voice and drama. It was during this two-year course that she first met clay as a minor subject. Four productive years of singing; acting and ceramics were the foundations of her artistic life filled with many significant turning points. However, ceramics won out. From the first beginnings of a ceramics A Level she went on to study Product and Three-Dimensional Design and this set her up to make pots for the rest of her life where she continues her passion for slipware and developing her own unique style.
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Jane Seymour | Working in her studio

'...myself and my siblings were all encouraged to ‘make things’ with our hands.'

"I came to ceramics relatively late in life. Born in 1954, I grew up in an unconventional family life on a smallholding in Suffolk, before we moved to a larger farm in Wales in 1964. My father was an author and broadcaster, and my mother an artist and potter, and I was always encouraged to be creative. As a child I found out early on that I could sometimes get out of doing a hated chore if I said that I was busy drawing. Often when my father travelled to research a book the whole family went with him, sometimes for weeks at a time, which was great fun, but it also meant that schoolwork became rather neglected. An academic and formal education was never taken very seriously, but myself and my siblings were all encouraged to ‘make things’ with our hands. One of my birthday presents was a small handloom.


Jane Seymour | Rocking Vessel with Sleeping Woman
...I began to experiment in hand-building, learning through trial and error. 

Loathing school, I dropped out at sixteen with very few qualifications apart from Art and English, which were the only two subjects I was remotely interested in. I had absolutely no idea of what to do next, my father's useful advice to me being: “I wouldn’t worry about it too much, just make life up as you go along”. Great, thanks dad! And so I waitressed, and au pair'd, and life modeled for a few years. Then as a young mother in my early twenties, I ran a small craft shop with my partner who was a wood turner, where I painted on wooden boxes and silk scarves, designed and made clothes, and made a few bits of pottery to fire in my mother's kiln. Up until that point I had no particular desire to work in clay, and I certainly didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of my mother, who made finely thrown and highly decorated domestic pottery. However, I did find out that I enjoyed the feel of the material, and so I began to experiment in hand-building, learning through trial and error. My father once said to me “why can't you be a proper potter like your mother” which infuriated me. “I don’t want to be like my mother” I yelled, “I want to be like me!”

Jane Seymour | After Gauguin
 I am completely self-taught, but I have been strongly influenced by the work of other ceramists and artists

Moving to Ireland in 1994, I bought a couple of acres of land to build myself a house and studio in the rural wilds of County Clare, and it was then that I began to take ceramics seriously. I am completely self-taught, but I have been strongly influenced by the work of other ceramists and artists, such as Hans Coper, Brancusi, Jane Perryman, James Tower, and Gabriel Koch. I avidly read books on different pottery techniques and made a point of visiting museums and exhibitions. I was initially attracted to the challenge of smoke-firing my work, which I found to be a more organic approach to surface decoration than the use of glazes, the technical aspect which has never interested me. I also began teaching within the community and in local schools which I found to be mutually beneficial. For a number of years, I became a core organizer of the arts programme in the local arts festival, leaving after nine years to have more time to focus more on my own work. 
Jane Seymour

At the time I had been studying a particular community of crows at the coast who I came to know and recognize.

A few years ago I began to take my work in another direction, by etching drawings and textures into the unfired clay, using studies from my sketchbooks. At the time I had been studying a particular community of crows at the coast who I came to know and recognize. I was fascinated by their individual characters, and their behavior within the group, and I was attracted by their graphic shapes stark black against the sky and sea. These sketches I used in my designs onto large shallow slab bowls, enhanced by rubbing in and applying oxides and coloured slips. Following on from there I began to use my life drawing studies, another passion of mine and challenging myself to build larger more sculptural ceramic shapes. My nudes are often inspired by artists whom I admire, such as Gauguin, Modigliani, Picasso, Matisse, as well as my maternal grandfather who I never knew, but who was head of the art department in Sydney art school in the forties, and who illustrated technical books on figure drawing. And I still feel that I am constantly making life up as I go along.
Jane Seymour | Crow Sung

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Matthew Blakely | Vessel

Matthew Blakely : In conversation with Contemporary Ceramics Centre

CCC: Why do you do what you do? 

MB: I work with clay because as soon as became aware of the medium and the possibilities with it I became completely obsessed. There was nothing else I wanted to do. In terms of my making practice, I try to keep pushing forward, trying to expand my parameters, to keep myself excited by and inspired by what I make. I’m always searching for something, trying to capture particular qualities and feelings, never quite getting there but just a little further on the path. 

CCC:  What route did you take when first starting out.  Did you take a formal route through education or a more informal approach?

MB:  I had no contact with clay growing up and no idea that there was a contemporary Ceramics scene. I did evening classes while at uni, which I enjoyed far more than my degree in Medicine. Later I worked in a pottery workshop at a Steiner residential home, then did evening classes at Bondi beach when I went to Australia. That’s when the obsession really hit and I ended up going to study Ceramics at the National Art School in Sydney. I graduated in 1993. 

Matthew Blakely | Lidded Vessel
CCC:  How do you work? 

MB: I seem to work in three or four month periods, which is how long it takes me to prepare clays and rocks, make pots, glaze pack and fire my kiln. Clays have to be crushed and prepared. I make my own grogs and have to crush and mill all the rocks for my glazes. This is very time consuming but it’s become extremely important to me that I’m involved in the whole process of making. Luckily for me, I enjoy every part of the process from throwing to finishing, glazing, and firing.

CCC: What has been a seminal/inspirational moment?

MB: Wow! There have been quite a few and there still are... Whenever I see a stunning pot! I suppose the real epiphany for me was going to art school and being immersed in pottery 12 hours or more a day. I thought when I got in that I’d know everything there was to know about pottery after a 3-year course and left after 3 years knowing that the door had just been opened for me. You could spend many lifetimes travelling through the world of pottery and still find unexplored avenues to inspire you. One of our teachers was a 3rd generation South American potter and his effortless, supremely sensual throwing technique really blew me away.

CCC: What is your favourite pot or artwork? 

MB: There are so many! I love the Ru ware collection in the British Museum and there’s a wonderful collection of Asian and English medieval pots at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The first pot I remember that l absolutely loved was a medieval baluster jug in a friends collection in Sydney. It was so energetic and confident and unrefined (according to my young eyes). Inside, the pot started from a single finger gouge into the clay, dragged up into the heavily ridged wall - looking like it was pulled up in one go.


CCC:  What role does the potter have in society? 

MB: It depends on how you look at society. In one view being a potter in the 21st century is an anathema. But, if you remember that society is made up of a huge variety of different people and groups, and is far richer because of this than right-wing economists would have us believe, then it could be argued that it is essential that there are potters in society. Our craft is intrinsically linked to our environment, making objects out of the earth itself. As such it is hugely inspirational and an important representation of what it means to be human. 

CCC: How has your practice changed over time? 

MB: It’s constantly changing. I’m always searching for something I never quite get, and then that something goes and transforms into something else. So, even though it’s a horribly overused phrase, it’s a continuous journey. I’ve never been interested in producing a constant range and then producing that. The biggest change I think was 8 years ago, when I decided to progress from using a few found clays and rocks within my work, to see if I could make pots entirely from materials that I have collected. It was another door opening, and one of those strange things where The parameters of the way you work seem to get smaller but actually the possibilities expand enormously. I feel that I’ve never been closer to capturing that elusive something.

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

MB: Because I go to different places to collect my materials I get to do quite a bit of travelling, and go to places that are not often seen or explored. I also get to learn about the history of the places and the rocks there, so I’m developing a deeper understanding of the Earth and the bit of it that forms the UK.
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