I’ve always been a creative sort of person. My mum and gran taught me to sew, knit and crochet when I was very tiny – I was always making a new outfit for Barbie. My mum is a ceramicist, and when she started teaching at College, I became interested in that too. I began to study applied arts in 1996, developing a love of kiln-formed glass, but it wasn’t until I got a job as a technician in a ceramics department that I seriously started working with clay. If you really want to learn ceramics, I recommend doing that job, so many questions – and I was expected to have all the answers. It’s a steep learning curve believe me!
I began studying for my degree at York University in 2006 and during that time I developed a love of bone china and porcelain – not necessarily for its translucency, but for its fine whiteness. It’s like a blank canvas to work on. I also love to use mixed media in my work and will usually add at least one other material. When I completed my degree at the end of last year with first class honours, I decided it was time I set up my own workshop, because it’s pretty hard to do this from your kitchen at home.
My latest work was originally an installation set up as an interrupted laboratory experiment. Traditional ceramic domestic ware was laid out on a table. To the left were stacks of intact plates, mugs and jugs, in the centre a surgical experiment was taking place – the ceramics were being dissected, like an autopsy, to find out what they are beneath the surface. To the right was a huge pile of discarded dissections. It is evident by looking at the cut surfaces that the ceramics is craft through and through – but the scientist has kept on trying.
This work forms part of an exploration of the differences between art and craft, and ceramics’ relationship to them. After a lot of research I realised that despite the best efforts of many ceramicists, in most people’s minds working with mud is pretty much always seen as craft, and therefore somehow lower than art. This work is a wry look at this attitude.
I am currently working on domestic variations of these pieces; the irony of which isn’t lost on me…