I’m often asked where my interest in ceramics comes from.
Around the age of five I was handed a small pot and subsequently informed it was made with cow dung. I later discovered it was a pinch pot — part of a pair — made in Algeria in the 1920s.
Miss Castle, to whom the pots belonged, had been a missionary living on the side of the Atlas mountains with the Kabyle people in the first half of the twentieth century. She lodged with my aunt on her return from Africa and died in the early 70s.
Years afterwards my aunt went into a care home. As we cleared her house in order to sell it a few of Miss Castles’s belongings came to light. Intrigued by the cow dung pots and photographs of Algeria, I kept hold of them.
The two pinch pots sat on my kitchen windowsill for years. The photograph eventually found their way into the loft. However, it’s fair to say this early introduction to ceramics gave me an interest in the subject — beautifully decorated pots often caught my eye.
Several decades later, while an undergraduate studying for a fine art degree, I remembered the pinch pots and rediscovered the photographs. I made digital copies of the images so they could be included in an art installation and investigated Miss Castle’s life in Algeria, learning more about the Kabyle people.
I learnt how the Kabyle women created their ceramic pieces, which they often decorated in red, black and cream with a secret language of symbols. Their process of making ceramics was ritualistic with different aspects of the construction completed at different times of the year.
There are examples of Kabyle ceramics in the V&A’s ceramic section. Over the summer break I became a regular visitor to the museum and in the second year of my degree I chose to incorporate ceramics into my practice.
The first pieces I created were heavily influenced by those Kabyle ceramics.
The Open XCRP
This exhibition is running concurrently to The Open at Turner Contemporary and is a collaboration with the Creative Isle Community Rail Partnership. Images of artworks submitted to The Open but not exhibited in the gallery spaces are now on posters at rail stations across Thanet, rotating every three weeks between Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Westgate-on-Sea, and Birchington-on-Sea. My small bowls represent lockdown walks beside the river, when the world suddenly became isolated and very much constrained. It struck me how the river landscape was dotted with specks of orange, indicating safety of some kind, so these ceramic pieces are tiny landscapes encircled by a ring of orange.
Art Lover Exhibition
I have five of my sculptural ceramics in the Art Lover exhibition at The Halpern Gallery, Chatham. These are all stoneware pieces decorated with slips and glazes and cover the last five years of my practice. The oldest piece, Nailed It! 2017 is still a favourite of mine, while Perched and Inspired by Blossfeldt were created in 2019, Speckled Pair in 2020 and A World In Your Shell-like more recently in 2021. The exhibition runs until 23rd December 2021.
Home is a Feeling
A few of the pieces I will be taking to Faversham for Home is a Feeling, an art show in a living space. Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th November at the Alexander Centre, Faversham, Kent.
This coming weekend, 13th and 14th November, I shall be in Faversham for the group show Home is a Feeling. It's a new type of art show where a room is filled with local artist's work, demonstrating just how much art we have around us. Everything is for sale. Entry to the show, held in the Alexander Centre, is free. Opens at 10am, closes at 4pm.
As one exhibition draws to a close another one opens.
I've been very lucky this year to have taken part in several local exhibitions from The Original Print Show, The Summer Exhibition (both at The Halpern Gallery), Estuary 2021 The Water Replies Creative Journal (online), Tale of A Few Cities (online), through to the Last Dream of My Soul at the Rochester Gallery.
And as the exhibition at the Rochester Gallery draws to a close I find myself moving further down the road to The Halpern Pop in the Halpern Conservancy Board Building, Rochester for the collaborative exhibition 40 Years in the Making.
40 Years in the Making has been postponed twice so fingers crossed nothing happens between now and Wednesday to stop it from going ahead. The collaboration on this occasion is with my husband G. Baxter Smith. You'll find an eclectic collection of our favourite pieces on display should you pop along — and I hope you do. There'll be plenty to look at and think about, and we'd love to have a chat with you about all things under the sun.
The Medway area is a rich source of inspiration for me. It feeds my fascination with textures and layers with its often ignored peeling paint, rusting metal, and torn papers. I often photograph these palimpsests for later use and keep them in mind when collaging, printing, and decorating clay. Walking alongside the River Medway is one of life’s pleasures. The colours change with the seasons, the discarded metal of lost industries expanding its colour palette year on year. On a recent visit to Riverside Country Park, to see Cold War Steve’s installation, I photographed a wall of rusting metal, the patterns created by the rust inspiring this ceramic tray shown below.