Meet the grantees of the Making Waves Ceramics Trust
Jo Taylor is a ceramic artist based in Wiltshire; she studied ceramics at both Degree & Masters level at Bath Spa University. Frequently inspired by architectural details such as plaster ceilings, her work aims to capture the sense of grandeur and depth of relief seen in ornament within buildings. Combining techniques such as throwing on the potter’s wheel and handbuilding, her complex works are all created in a small studio at her home, often making sections which are joined post-firing to create pieces which are larger than her kiln.
The Trust money will enable further research into the incorporation of lighting into ceramic sculpture, supported by access to expertise and the opportunity to work with a larger kiln with the intended outcome of a new, lit body of work.
Aphra O’Connor is a British sculptor working primarily in clay. She graduated from the Royal College of Art with a Masters degree in Ceramics and Glass in 2019 and from Wimbledon College of Art in 2014 with a BA in Sculpture. This sculptural background allows her to visualise clay outside of the traditional craft pathway while continuing to apply historical ceramic techniques.
Aphra has exhibited widely, with recent exhibitions including Tate Modern and Redcar Palace. In 2021 she was commissioned to create a ceramic series for Crescent Arts, and was featured in the acclaimed book ‘Contemporary British Ceramics: Beneath The Surface’ by Ashley Thorpe and coinciding book launch exhibition at Eton College.
Aphra creates her ceramic sculptures by repurposing discarded objects that contain interesting 3D patterns, casts and records their forms in plaster, then plays with ways to amalgamate them. The objects undergo a metamorphosis, mutating from everyday object into abstracted ceramic collage.
The final works aim to both imitate and reshape these everyday items, challenging how we interact with prosaic forms. She uses the painted surface to fuse the clay segments, constructing compositions that both reinforce and obstruct the original objects.
Aphra will use the Making Waves grant to purchase a vacuum former, allowing her to systematically dissect found objects before plaster casting, furthering the ways she layers and collages everyday objects.
This selective method of vacuum forming specific elements of an object is an extremely important step in her development. It will recalibrate how surface and form are aligned by using the clay ‘components’ as repeat 3d patterns, when united with the layered painted designs add a unique blend of narrative and personality to the found objects. This action of ‘pattern cutting’ unites Aphra’s 2D and 3D designs; a key goal in her practice.
Linda Bloomfield has written several books on ceramic glazes, and has exhibited her work widely in the world of design and craft. After making a successful tableware range, she has recently been making new work inspired by lichens as indicators of clean air, using her work to bring awareness to air pollution which affects lichen biodiversity.
The Making Waves Trust grant will enable Linda to spend a month on a residency in Denmark at the Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Centre. There she will make new sculptural work inspired by lichens using local stoneware clay and firing in wood and/or salt kilns. “I am really excited about this opportunity to make a new body of work inspired by beautiful surroundings.”
Artist Kate Ive works from her studio at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, having graduated in 2008 from Edinburgh College of Art with a degree in Sculpture. Through her research-based practice, Kate creates her intricate sculptural work by hand, focusing on the technical processes used.
Maintaining a diverse practice, Kate makes work for exhibitions, residencies and public art commissions. Recent commissions include artwork for the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh and for Gloucester City Council. She has artwork in recognised public and private collections including the British Museum (London), NHS, Royal Mint Museum (Wales), the National Bank of Slovakia, University Museum of Bergen (Norway) and the Museo della Carta e Filigrana (Fabriano, Italy).
With a particular interest in our human evolution and impact on the planet, Kate takes a granular approach to research. She explores data that highlights our contribution to the climate crisis and ecological damage. Using specific examples, she makes this information relatable and personal.
The Making Waves Ceramics Trust grant comes at a pivotal time for Kate as she embarks on an ambitious new project enabling a significant developmental step in her practice. This autumn she will undertake a 3-month research and development residency at the European Ceramic Workcentre (EKWC) in the Netherlands. This intensive work period will enable her to push her practice into new territory working with specific environmental datasets, translating them into sculptural ceramic recordings. Kate will develop a new methodology for translating selected ocean datasets, which explore our anthropogenic impact, into readable handmade pieces realised in ceramic utilising EKWC’s expert technical guidance.
This period of research and development, supported by the Making Waves Ceramics Trust, will enable Kate to investigate new ways of working, establishing exploratory studio processes whilst creating an original body of contemporary ceramic sculptures ready for exhibition.
The Making Waves Ceramics Trust grant will allow Kate to embrace developmental ideas research and experimental specialist skills to create new work at EKWC. This pioneering ceramic exploration, both conceptually and technically, along with hands-on production will support Kate beyond her residency as she re-envisions her approach and significantly progresses her practice.
KATE'S PROGRESS SO FAR
EKWC Residency – Part 1
From last November to February 2022, I completed a 3-month research and development residency at the European Ceramic Work Centre (EKWC) in the Netherlands. Supported by Making Waves Ceramics Trust, it has been such an immersive and enriching experience. In a few keywords my residency has been challenging, exciting, eye-opening, intensive and beyond expectations.
It began with time in my Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (ESW) studio, preparing and gathering my ideas, researching ocean themes/datasets and talking with an Ocean Data Scientist. I chose my first 6 ocean data topics to work with while developing a system to translate them into ceramic sculptures. These research areas included the projected decline of Antarctic krill, the role of phytoplankton in climate change, chemical pollution, ocean acidification, ocean mining/extraction and coral bleaching. I made my preparations in my studio and was soon packing for my residency.
I had 13 intensive weeks at EKWC working with their experts to learn how to realise my ideas in ceramics. My main goal was to learn how to create my ocean data sculptures in slip-cast porcelain. After discovering the glaze room, I also wanted to set aside time to explore how to mix my own experimental glazes.
I knew mould-making would be complex and time consuming so I got started straight away on Day 1. It was definitely a challenging part of the residency and a steep learning curve. I have learned the complexities of making intricate moulds, drying them and slip-casting detailed porcelain sculptures. I’ve also discovered (the hard way) how to dry and fire my awkwardly shaped pieces. Warping in porcelain and unexpected drafts are constant and crucial considerations.
After a few weeks of controlled slip-casting, I was desperate to get my hands in a bag of porcelain and to create some faster experiments. This led me to start creating wall-mounted pieces, developing ocean data porcelain slabs. The first few weeks flew by in a flurry of intensive mould-making, casting and experimenting.
EKWC Residency – Part 2
I decided early on I wanted to work with EKWC’s FabLab (their digital fabrication department) during the second half of my residency. Making my work by hand is an important part of the process. However, I was keen to learn what digital technology was available and how it might assist in the (hand-)making of my work. With the expert help of EKWC’s FabLab advisor, I was able to make some parts that will help me in the long run when creating my handmade sculptures.
The second half of my residency was tightly packed with kiln firings of glazes tests, developing work and eventually finished pieces. It was a slightly chaotic dance trying to make sure pieces were drying and that I was doing things in the best order at the right times to hit each firing. EKWC’s Kiln Hall has both the biggest kilns and biggest collection of kilns I have ever seen. I was able to do my first reduction firings there, with access to gas kilns.
I wanted to try reduction celadon glazes, which I felt tied in with my ocean data work, given all their various blue/green shades. I learned to mix glazes and tested a huge range of different experimental finishes. These included varying celadons, mixed underglazes, coloured glazes for spraying, running glazes, crawling, foaming and crater glazes, oxide washes and lustres.
I enjoyed experimenting to see how glazes behave and accentuate my work’s intricately detailed surfaces. Alongside glazes, I also explored adding pigment to my porcelain slip and hand-colouring porcelain body, which I will continue with in future work.
A pleasant residency surprise was finding myself immersed once again in an artistic community; the first time since the start of the pandemic. Working closely (in a safe way) with others really enriched my residency experience and almost felt normal. I was living in the ceramics centre with 14 other international artists. Working alongside them and EKWC’s expert advisors helped me to reflect on my progress, keep up momentum and further contextualise my work. It also meant the learning never stopped, as we shared our discoveries, successes and failures over dinner.
I’m very fortunate to be able to work within different areas of ceramics; as well as working as the ceramics tutor at UCA in Farnham, consulting on the Great Pottery Throwdown and making pottery for use on TV and within Films, I also make and sell my own work.
My practice takes inspiration from where I first encountered pottery, which was during my studies in Japan in 2008 and from Stoke on Trent, the centre of ceramics in the UK since the industrial revolution, where I completed my education in ceramics in 2019. I am excited to find ways to fuse Japanese aesthetics with industrial elements, while also allowing the magical qualities of the clay, glazes and firing processes I use to shine through.
Teaching at UCA for the last year, I have been fascinated to learn more about the digital landscape and how it can be applied to ceramics. As a technophile, I already have a plastic 3D printer that I have used in my own practice, as well as a virtual reality set up that enables me to sculpt objects in the air which I can manipulate and distort with simple gestures.
Whilst learning more about the digital possibilities of UCA’s ceramic 3D printers, I’ve also been researching into Farnham’s own rich history of making ceramics, the historical use of local clay deposits by local potteries as well as the geology of the surrounding area.
The Making Waves grant will enable me to purchase a ceramic 3D printer that can be used with locally dug clay to create objects inspired by Farnham’s past. I want to celebrate this abundant local material under our feet, its historical use by the people of Farnham and showcase how cutting-edge futuristic technology can help reimagine objects from the past, changing our perception and experience of them in the present.
PAUL'S PROGRESS SO FAR
The 3D printer has arrived - the initial test prints and calibration went very well! I spent some time designing an adapter for my pug mill to help me easily load the 3D printer with clay, which was printed in plastic using my PLA printer. The adapter means the printer's hopper can be filled with freshly processed clay, without introducing any air bubbles, straight from the pug mill.
I've been testing several different scanning apps for the iPhone and I was able to capture a low resolution scan of one of my pots. After preparing the model on the PC, I sent it to the clay printer, where it was successfully printed. I want to start testing more challenging shapes, as well as increasing the resolution and detail of the scans.
I'm in talks with Winchester museum about getting access to their collection of Surrey white ware pieces, as well as the Craft Study Centre at UCA in Farnham. I hope to use their pieces with my scanning app to create digital models of pottery that was made locally for a period in the medieval ages. My intention is to then recreate and reinterpret these pieces - but instead of making them by hand, I want to use cutting edge ceramics technology to 3D print them using the same locally dug clay from which they were originally made.
I have also been sent some fascinating shards of Surrey white ware that were found on the Thames foreshore. I'm obsessed with the finger marks showing how the pieces were thrown, the coarseness of the clay, as well as the depth of colour and speckling still visible in the green glaze. I will be sending a few of these pieces off for chemical analysis with the aim of closely recreating the glaze.
This month I’ve been able to visit Kingston, Winchester and the British museum to scan their collections of Medieval Surrey whiteware.
The pieces are stored in their archives and I was thrilled to be granted access to them thanks to the museums’ curators. The British museum’s collection is mostly held in the vast underground basements beneath the museum and I was excited to be given the chance to venture beneath the museum to scan the pots. Their collection contained some really beautiful pieces, such as 1600’s fume pot, used for burning herbs to keep the plague away.
One aspect of my project that I hadn’t considered was digital rights and that despite the models of the pieces being created by me, the British Museum was keen to retain control over them and any subsequent prints made using the models. What ensued was a round of negotiations with the museum’s digital rights team and I am pleased to say that I reduced the eye watering figure of £900 for a 10 year licence down to £40 to cover their admin.
It turns out that the museum is accustomed to having their collections digitally scanned by computer games developers, who also consult their curators on the history of the pieces. It is understandable that the museum is cautious about the digital objects created from their collection and the end use, as many of these games have gone on to become globally successful.
Contrastingly Kingston museums collection is stored on a disused airfield in Oxfordshire. The exact location of the storage facility is so secret, I wasn’t even given a map or specific directions to find it. Instead I had to drive across several runways until I happened to find a non-descript brown building with the correct number next to it. From my experience at Winchester museum, I have come to realise that archiving and storing artefacts isn’t as accurate as the curators would want it to be and some boxes need their contents to be checked before realising that “Cheamware” hand written on the top of the box should actually be read as “Creamware”.
Despite a few labelling issues, the Kingston collection has some fantastic pieces in it. I particularly like the broken pots, I think they offer the option of being played with digitally to either be fixed or distorted.
Winchester museums collection didn’t have any complete pieces unfortunately - however it did contain a great deal of broken shards. Taking the opportunity, I scanned all the interesting shards I could find, such as whiteware spouts, handles, feet and other mysterious elements. These small shards excite me the most, as I think I will be able to create completely new pieces from them by combining and manipulating them in interesting ways.