Rebecca Appleby

An inspiring time with Rebecca Appleby and James Oughtibridge

In October I was fortunate to be able to spend 5 days in Yorkshire doing a handbuilding masterclass with Rebecca and James. It was great to be able to spend so much time playing with ideas, developing different surface treatments, making maquettes and thinking about creative processes to formulate ideas from source materials.

I came back with more confidence in my own process and giving it time to gestate, to play with components etc, a surprising new direction to explore and a car full of damp clay which is still waiting to be fired. A passing comment by Rebecca’s about ‘quality control at every stage’ also struck home as we saw them demonstrate the care they take in assembling their own work.

Here’s some pictures of the raw work. More to follow once it’s fired and finished.

This work is quite different again from the experimental Dungeness series I’ve been sharing recently and initially I was quite resistant to it because of the technical fiddliness, but both of them came by and said “ooh that’s interesting” so in the end I decided to listen to the feedback and rise to the challenge. It’s made me ponder the difference between the work we are drawn to as viewers that brings us something we’d perhaps like more of and that which we personally need to make and how to know which is which…


Ceramic Art London; chaos and control

This weekend Ceramic Art London comes to town. Mine was a visit of two halves. Firstly the pleasure of seeing great work, including some of my favourites shown below, and secondly some more abstract thoughts on chaos and control.

Laurel Keeley

Laurel Keeley

Rebecca Appleby

Rebecca Appleby

Georgina Saunders

Georgina Saunders

Kiho Kang

Kiho Kang

Ashraf Hanna

Ashraf Hanna

And here's a little number that came home with me to take up position in a highly compartmented bookcase with a collection of small white ceramics I inherited.

Willy van Bussel

Willy van Bussel

After visiting any number of craft shows now I find that I am often drawn to both the more minimal, monochrome pieces, such as the van Bussel, and to more expressive textural pieces, such as the Keeley at the top.

Initially I thought of these two as opposites in a linear polarity between chaos and control. I was most drawn to the more 'chaotic' end of the spectrum so it slightly perturbed me that my work seemed to be going in the opposite direction becoming more controlled and precise. This morning, reflecting on this, it seemed rather than being dichotomous opposites the two are actually tendencies in tension. One or other may be more dominant but the other is also always present. Even at the very 'point' of the wedge the two forces are still present.

Escaping the horns of a dichotomy always helps, meaning I no longer have to align myself with either one choice or the other when really both are meaningful to me.

I have been pondering this in relation to my archetypes of 'creative' and 'explorer'. The creative is constantly bombarded by a tumult of interesting external stimuli and a stream of new ideas and to escape this chaos is sometimes drawn to the calm of a more controlled minimalism. The explorer is quickly tired of the familiar and thus constantly looking over the horizon for the new and is drawn one step at a time further out into the chaos of the world.

Looking again at the work I photographed and noted to share with you here I can see that actually all of them contain elements of both. Saunders is an interesting example of this. There is a quiet mastery that can focus on one line to produce a precisely controlled profile that then appears calm and simple, but each piece also has a depth of markings that speak of process and texture and chaos. Keeley's work is apparently opposite, giving an impression of expressionist wildness, but actually these marks demonstrate a strong fluency of gesture and a knowing when to stop. The point of balance is different but both are a marriage of forces.

Having thought this through a little more I will have to return to the studio and see how the tension plays out in my work, where my own point of balance may turn out to be...

The show is on til 5pm Sunday 9th April if you want to check it out yourself. I'd highly recommend it.