Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
I usually start with quite a specific image of what I want to make which I draw very quickly – in less than 10 seconds - in a notebook. It will remain as a drawing for a bit and if I keep thinking of it, I’ll start making. The image may have arrived around the corner of another work, from something I see in passing, an experience, a phrase, or a conflation of all these things. Recently I’ve been revisiting old (as much as 10 years old) unfinished work and following on from where I left off but with a completely different outcome from what I would have anticipated x years ago. The process of creating work is very slow, although the actual time I spend engaged with a material realising a work is comparatively minimal (I don’t want a viewer to be distracted by an awareness of ‘labour’). Works sit around the studio for months gestating. For this reason, I might have 10 things on the go at once.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
Everyday life, with its inter-personal relations and their attached emotions, is the driver behind much of the work. I am trying to make sense of these external encounters which create an internal, often complex and contradictory response.
A few years ago I became a mother and the work I have been making since has been dramatically influenced by my relationship with my child. There is a lot of emotion and dialogue in my life now which can feel very fluid and formless. The paradox of trying to give this physical form presents me with endless questions.
I primarily work with clay which for me is like an unformed body so whatever clay work I make, whether its form is suggestive of a living body or not, is a living skin of sorts. So, materials, their sensibility and characteristics, are also enormous influences.
Your sculpture conveys a sense of otherness, an intertwined connection or dialogue between yourself and another, can you talk further about this?
That’s an incisive question - I hadn’t really thought about it in these terms before. I am trying to
articulate something very precise within the work but how do you give form to something intensely present, but which continually slips just out of reach? The constant to and fro creates a spirit of dialogue. It’s that spirit I want to capture. There is, I am told, a feeling within my work that something is going on just out of sight. For me this feels the most accurate way of describing much of our interactions with others - people - or simply just the world. As I see it interactions are fluid just as people are forever fluid, never fixed but in process of becoming. In my work I confront the challenge of giving shape to this fluidity.
In recent work, where I am trying to make sense of my new life with a child, there is, literally, another body in many of the works. This body may be represented by a baby blanket, or it could be that I’ve shaped something with clay into a form that alludes to a small child. This formal change within the work creates many new possibilities for me, but the change needed to happen in my life for it to then happen within the work.
How important is the choice of material in relation to realizing the concept of your work?
It’s fundamental. The way I can shape clay directly with my hands and its capacity to record this process is unique to the material, and I believe it creates the sensation of encountering a skin that is breathing. The pieces aren’t solid, they are built up into this thin skin of clay with my fingers, pushing from the inside out as well as the outside in. This gives a very different quality from making something out of a solid lump of clay imposing form solely from the outside in.
I nearly always paint the work rather than glaze it as might be expected you would do with a clay work. Clay is such an ancient and fundamental material I feel the need bring to it something fresh and relatively impermanent.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My hands. I don’t often use tools. The clay part of the work is simply made with my hands without any prepared armatures. The direct handling of the material plays an important part in the overall character of the work.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
Kasper, the play by Peter Handke, has often entered my mind since first reading the script in 2010. Based loosely on the true story of Kasper Hauser, the teenage boy who after growing up in a dark enclosed space walked into a small German town knowing only a single sentence. The play presents words as formless media, which are impressed upon Kasper, through intimidation and repetition. Gradually the words are reorganised into a structure familiar to us. There is a moment in the script, approximately halfway through, when language sits poised between the formed and the formless. This place is where my work lives. It is attempting to articulate something very specific, and simultaneously, ineffable.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I am currently working towards a large solo exhibition to take place in Newcastle in 18 months’ time. Details to be announced soon.
Image 1: Behind Mother’s Eyes, 2020, Painted ceramic, W 66 x H 64 x D 68 cm
Image 2: My body My name, 2021, Painted ceramic, H 65 x W 46 x D 23 cm
Image 3: Memory of a Spanish Lobe, 2021, Painted ceramic, H 80 x W 56 x D 15cm
Image 4: Mother and Baby, 2020, Painted ceramic, webbing, blanket, chair, L 78 x W 42 x H 20 cm
Image 5: Man in the Bed, 2021 Painted ceramic, mild steel, H 82 x W 36 x D 28 cm
Image 6: Talk it Out, 2021, Glass, muslin, painted ceramic and wood, H 68 x D 57 x W 37 cm
Image 7: Self-Portrait, 2021, Ceramic, paint, wood, crayon, biscuit, pea, H 110 x W 55 x D 45 cm