The Clay and I | Why I Make Ceramics
My interest in making ceramics came as a surprise, as someone who hates to be messy and who hates even more to not be in control. In some ways it seems odd that I have chosen a craft in which I often feel like a hippo wading through a swamp, and in which I put all of this energy and purpose and work into an object thats outcome is greater determined by the cruel mercy of the kiln gods than by anything that I can ever do. But ceramics is odd that way, it captures people’s passion and attention wholeheartedly, and the lack of certainty and foresight of the final piece is what keeps most makers continually engaged.
I have never been an artist, at least not in the sense of producing work with a greater meaning or much of a theoretical foundation, and I have also never felt comfortable calling myself an artist, as it just doesn’t suit me somehow. I have, however, always loved to make, and was constantly looking to learn new skills or work on new projects whilst growing up. My hands had to be doing something at all times, and I wasn’t satisfied until I felt that I had ‘mastered’ whichever skill I had set my mind to (my version of mastering a skill included weaving a metre square portrait of a golden retriever - I think the V&A won’t be holding their breath for that one). They may not have always been beautiful, but the satisfaction of seeing an object entirely produced by my own hands was so great that it eclipsed the hundreds of hours of frustration and failed attempts that preceded it.
Although I had a great desire to learn new creative skills, I found it hard to relate this passion to my life at school. I took Art right through school, and continued it through to a Foundation course before deciding that perhaps it wasn’t right for me. I was that person in school who worked backwards in their art projects, creating some complex and elaborate final piece* in my head just moments after my teacher had announced the topic theme, and then spending the next three months making up the middle ground to justify the design process through ‘critical thinking’, that for me was actually an instant reaction based on whatever it was that I wanted to try making next. It was never about the process for me, and always about the results.
*This included once making my parents drive me to school the day before my art exam with a tree in the boot. A full grown tree. I had also made my dad wire the tree for lighting, so that I could hang lanterns from it covered in drawings of my childhood memories. DEEP, right?
Making handmade, functional ceramics appeals to the exact creative tendencies that I have always struggled to satisfy. It allows me to be aesthetically led, and to be challenged by the concept of creating something functional, but equally satisfied by the thought that what I make will be used. It be picked up daily, it will be filled with food, or coffee, or personal possessions. It will become part of somebody’s daily ritual, their first cup of coffee in the morning, or their late night treat before sleep. The engagement between the aesthetic and the functional value of the piece is a continued balancing act, and it is important to me that the work I produce satisfies both of these aims. In order to convince people to buy your work, it must be beautiful. In order to ensure that they continue to use it, it must be suited to its purpose. It needs to fit their hand comfortably, to feel balanced and well-made, to be the perfect size for their morning coffee. It is a way of connecting to people through the object, made by my hands, to fit in yours.