• Questionnaire from the Green Chair Gallery

    How and when did you realize that being an artist was important to you?

    It was all a mistake really. At school I was so bad at painting and drawing that I wasn't even allowed to take art at O Level. I wanted to be a doctor like my Dad anyway. It was only after having a lovely time on a gap year in Uganda painting murals on the boarding house walls in a school that I realised what fun I could be having. I loved it, the children loved it, and I made a lifelong gappy friend in the process. I changed my degree course and discovered pottery for the first time at Christ Church College in Canterbury. I have been making pots ever since. Clay is a uniquely expressive material that reflects the thoughts, mood, experience, history and individual hand contours of the ceramist. My pots reflect the fact that my hands have changed shape with age and tell their own individual story.

    What or who inspired you in the early days?

    I learned to throw and hand build pots and concentrated mostly on organic forms.... Things that looked as though they were part of the natural world. We were taught to follow the Leach tradition of brownish knobbly pots with poured glazes, combining different techniques and reveling in the accidental. I still have some scattered around my garden and enjoy seeing them in friends' houses. I was excited to be able to buy my first car and a flute with the proceeds of my degree show. I was amazed that I could make something that someone would actually want to buy, which would then mean that I could buy something that I wanted. Brilliant!

    What inspires you/motivates you today?

    We were lucky enough to be able to live and work in Malaysia. Jonathan, my husband taught English in a local school and I set up at home as a mum and a potter. His employers learned that expatriates frequently failed to complete a tour in a foreign country because their wives often became bored and took to drink, ending in tears and repatriation. Expensive of course. They encouraged spouses to bring their hobbies with them, offering to pay for any excess luggage. I don't think they quite expected mine, but they sent out my wheel and kiln nevertheless. I threw out the pillows from our trunk and swapped them for clay instead, in case I ended up with all this equipment but no raw materials. It turned out to be a very productive time for me as a potter.

    Serendipity led me to work in the Muzium in Pekan where I was given the job of creating a tea set for visitors using modem methods but following traditional designs and patterns. What a treat! This was followed by orders for 5 more sets, three one man shows in Singapore and a British Council Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. I set up two rural potteries in Malaysia, working with local women to develop traditional Malay patterns and forms in a more robust way to appeal to the tourist market. A happy by-product of this experience was that I learned as much as I taught and grew to appreciate shape and pattern in a way that I never had before.

    Having four small children, it made sense to spend more time patterning pots, which I could do WITH them than concentrating on throwing on the wheel, which I could not do so easily. Picking up a baby when covered in clay was not a rewarding experience for either of us.

    I researched patterns in books and ancient buildings and found many common designs which were repeated all over the world. I am obviously not alone in finding these archetypal zig zag, scrolled and curved patterns the most pleasing to work with.

    Perhaps I enjoyed handwriting patterns when I was at school for the same reasons. Since then I have attended several courses and learned new techniques and have recently been experimenting with faceting and fluting, and a wider variety of colours, both applied, inscribed and mixed in with the clay body.

    What do you think of your own work?

    Since reducing my teaching hours I have more time to experiment with shapes, colours and techniques. This extra time has allowed me to make a greater quantity of pots so that I can afford to take risks, develop ideas and be less distressed by disasters because I can just make another one until I feel it is right.

    After forty years of making pots I am now able to control clay well enough to make the shapes I want at a weight and balance that I want and I can concentrate on refining the surface decoration. This sometimes means having very tight control of the colour and pattern and at other times allowing the pot to dictate it's own idiosyncrasies It's the balance of these two extremes that excite me now. I have a huge amount still to learn and many brilliant potters to learn from and that's what makes my life as a potter so interesting.

    What excites, frustrates, irritates or otherwise you most about art/artists/the art world?

    Learning from and with other people is so rewarding. Working in a vacuum is less interesting to me. I love to make pots but I love the interaction that teaching and learning provides too.

    I don't think this answers the question but it's more important to me.

    What would you like people to be saying about your work?

    That they like it, they can use it for something, and that it has integrity of balance, weight and form. Also that my pottery has it's own style and is different to other peoples' work.

    December 2012



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