My love of clay began when my artist dad would give me a lump of clay to play with while he was doing his work. Then as an adult at teacher training college I rediscovered clay once more and learned how to hand-build. I became fascinated with the beautiful forms of African pots and made my own versions of those rounded forms.
The feel and texture of clay appeal to me, it’s malleable yet resistant properties, it’s earthy consistency grounds me. The process of building a pot, coil by coil; the circular movements of coiling and repetitive motions of joining and blending, the intuitive feeling for the right thickness and sensing the evenness, the rhythmical, magical forming of the curves and lines of a pot’s walls. The mental sensation of relaxation yet clarity of focus while making with clay is unique for me – it is far better for my mind than meditation.
I enjoyed learning how to work with the clay, how it was so forgiving of mistakes and yet also had it’s limitations and would crack or collapse if pushed too far. It taught me patience.
I tried throwing but it didn’t work for me, hand-building held the magic.
Later, during my sculpture degree I became interested in fairy tales and myths, seeking the origins of ideas about how the world was formed, rites of passage and journeys through darkness. Also ancient clay figures and their relation to these ideas about connection to nature, our place in the world and how we can find our way back to this sacred relationship in this out of balance world we live in now. And the symbol of the earth goddess across many cultures and eons of time, how clay was often the way the first expression of this took form. Seeing objects made by a person, many thousands of years ago, formed by their hand – even seeing evidence of that making by a thumb or fingerprint left in the clay when it was fresh and perhaps even straight out of the ground, is a thrilling connection to the ancient past, about which little can be known for sure. These small, potent clay creations at once so ancient and yet so immediate.
Lately I have been experimenting with smaller pieces, figures, rather than large pots. Some of these have perforations, holes to let out candle light. It feels sacred to me, to light a candle and for the light to shine from within. I was making conical forms which then morphed into a female form with a face and what seemed to be a crown. I had also been looking at the figure of Mary, in particular Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mexican image of the Virgin Mary with the light rays in the form of stripes all around her, like a full-body halo.
The ritual of lighting a candle to pray for someone, whether still here or gone, or even for yourself is important to me. I want to make something special for others to use in their own personal rituals. I’d also like to develop this idea further using the archetypes found in myth and story and discover more about different saints or goddesses.
Nature is a huge inspiration and a healing solace for me. I want to include it in my work for it to be part of the work as a backdrop, a canvas or even the actual material and content of the work.
I envisage making works with clay and other natural materials in situ, in the woods or fields – the clay as an intrinsic part of it’s natural surroundings, rather than made into a singular functional object in a sterile indoor setting. These could be temporary, ephemeral works recorded by camera. Being outdoors, creating and making in an inclusive way with what is around me gives me a strong feeling of belonging, of rootedness and a sense of place that is so important to me.
I would like to incorporate all of it, the myths and fairy tales, the female figures of light with the clay and nature too.