Can you explain more about your technique?
All my work is unglazed on the outside, so I'm mixing different clays together, mixing metal oxides – iron, manganese, cobalt – into the clay itself, which gives you colour, or mixing different clays together for structural reasons or texture or finish. That's the foundation of my practice. But before I figured that out, I started by making glazes. However, I wanted quite a naturalistic look; I didn't want high gloss or a traditional finish. After some, mostly fruitless, experimentation, I decided to try working directly with the clay. I wanted to get a terracotta-looking finish but not orange like a flower pot – I wanted it to come out deep red and robust. Terracotta has quite a low firing temperature because of the iron in it. So, I mixed some white clay – that you are meant to fire high – with terracotta, in 10% increments, and made a series of test pieces. Everything that came out was usable, they were all interesting. It was the process that led me there, so they all had a reason to exist. That was the turning point. The obvious thing was to work with the clay itself.
You have a very specific approach to the shapes of your ceramics. Could you explain your process and how you decide what colours work with particular shapes?
Before I sit down at the wheel, I make an aesthetic decision about what I want the pot to look like when it's finished. I like to come to the studio in the morning and then decide, maybe do a couple of little sketches, just to get something out of my head. I quite often have forms in mind or I think about them on the bus, and then I think about which colours will work with it. Strangely, over time I've noticed various rules that I have. So, generally, I make really bright things small. I don't want to make really big, brightly coloured objects. Or only certain shapes, I think, work in blue. I don't know why exactly but it feels like there’s some internal sense to it.
I'm influenced by industrial objects but I also take cues from nature. So some of my pieces are chimney-shaped, for example, and some of the more organic forms have some key straight lines. I'm interested in the geometric ideas that underpin a form, and where that crosses over into shapes that exist in nature, and what we appreciate as beautiful, or balanced.