I first discovered my love of clay whilst a teenager at school in London. Drawing came a few years later, when I enrolled at life drawing classes at The Ruskin School of Art, while studying for a degree in Experimental Psychology at St John’s College, Oxford. Having previously felt that I was more of a maker than an ‘artist’, a 3- D person creatively, and somewhat fearful of drawing, the Ruskin introduced me to the joy and liberation of drawing from life using charcoal.
After two years working as an academic researcher in child psychology, I left Oxford and returned to London, where I worked in Advertising as a strategist. However the need to make was overwhelming and, after a few years, I left my job to train in ceramics, firstly at Camden School of Art, where I was lucky enough to be taught by the inspirational Sudanese Ceramicist Mo Abdalla, and then at Harrow School of Art where I embarked on a Ceramics degree.
After Harrow I continued to made pots in Kentish Town with a wonderful and supportive community of potters. It was there that I learned the Naked Raku technique which continues to both infuriate me and excite me in equal parts.
Since 2017 I have been a member of the Rochester Square Community Studio where I continue my exploration of Raku and other techniques.
My earlier interest in Life Drawings was rekindled in more recent years at life classes at Hampstead School of Art and The Mary Ward Centre. In particular my introduction to earth-coloured, soft chalk pastels and more recently to ink by my inspirational teacher Caroline Deane has opened up a whole new world to me beyond that of the black, white and greys of using charcoal alone.
In my younger years I felt conflicted by the artistic/scientific binary that many people assume to exist. I have now come to understand that this division is artificial and misguided, and is borne out of unhelpful and restrictive labelling at school. I firmly believe that learning to make and create is as important as learning to read and write and that many people are both artistic and scientific, and indeed flourish by being so.
About My Work
The common thread that runs through my body of work is the contrast between being in tight control and technique led, on the one hand , and being liberated and experimental on the the other. These very different approaches sit remarkably well together.
In my ceramic work the contrast is between the ordered, controlled process of throwing, with the wild, untamed, largely uncontrollable surface decoration created in the naked raku firing that I favour. The end result is up to the alchemy of the kiln. I have no idea what is going to emerge and that creates huge excitement and inevitably some disappointment.
I am obsessed with form and finish. The way the pot feels is as important to me as the way it looks. Similarly, the aesthetics of what sort of neck, rim or opening the vessel should have, has always fascinated me. What is it that makes one form perfect and another slightly wrong?
Unlike my vessels, where ‘order’ is given over to ‘chaos’, my figures emerge from the imposition of a controlled, accurate line onto the unrestrained and freely applied tonal aspect of the drawings, for which I usually use pastels and ink.
My principal aims are to portray the light, tonal differences and movement of a pose. Consequently, I favour shorter poses in which the model can hold more difficult and dynamic positions and where the time to capture the essence of the pose is deliberately limited. The deadline of the short pose makes the adrenaline pump and the race against time is quite thrilling.
About Naked Raku
After the pot is thrown and turned, I apply up to eight layers of very fine liquid clay (terra sigillata) to the surface of the pot. Each layer is left to dry and is burnished. The pot is then fired in a kiln for the first time (biscuit fired). Post firing a layer of “resist slip” is then applied to the pot. The function of this layer is to stop the glaze that will subsequently be applied to the pot from adhering to the pot's surface, thus allowing it to be removed after the second firing.
This second firing is then carried out, and when the glaze starts to melt as the kiln reaches around 1000 degrees, the kiln door is opened and the pot is taken out with tongs. The pot is placed in a metal bin covered with sawdust. The sawdust penetrates the glaze where it crazes and this creates the random black markings that characterise a raku firing.
I am currently working on influencing and adding to the random markings created by this process using a variety of techniques such as paper resist, wax resist and scratching through the resist layers.
The difference between a raku firing and a “naked” raku firing is that in the case of the latter, once cooled, the glaze is removed and one is hopefully left with the smooth burnished matt layer below. As many pots fail as succeed but for each firing there is a renewed sense of anticipation and excitement.