Pottery SampleDuring my childhood I spent a great deal of time with my grandfather in the National Gallery in London (or ‘the Nish’ as he called it). This has given me a life-long interest in fine art and my taste is eclectic – my favourite painters include: Piero della Francesca, Rembrandt, Gaugin, Klee and Frida Kahlo!

Above all, this exposure has given me a very strong interest in imagery and in illustration – this impacts my training and other work considerably.

I continue to dabble with art projects: illustrated ‘books’ for my children; posters trying to capture my sense of urgency about the state of the world and collages (a particular favourite because it liberates one from self-consciousness about limited artistic talent).

My mother was a sculptress – maybe that is where my lately developed interest in clay and ceramics originates, though I don’t remember working with clay in her studio when I was a child. What I like about clay is its three-dimensionality and its solidity. I also like the mix of beauty and utilitarianism as well as the fine line between a pot that is handsome and one that is ungainly.

“The precise and the perfect carries no overtones, admits of no freedom; the perfect is static, regulated, cold and hard. We in our own human imperfections are repelled by the perfect, since everything is apparent from the start and there is no suggestion of the infinite. Beauty must have some room, must be associated with freedom. Freedom, indeed, is beauty. The love of the irregular is a sign of the basic quest for freedom”
from: The Unknown Craftsman, 1972, Soetsu Yanagi

Pottery SampleIn recent years, when travel and training courses have taken over my life, it has been a pleasure and a relief to be able to escape into my studio and just work with clay – sometimes listening to classical music, but more often in silence. The pleasure of creating something new and the joy of beginning to know when to work further on a piece and when to just stop is intense and immediate. It is a new and continuous kind of learning – an experiment in letting go of intention and just seeing what happens.

” First, put aside the desire to judge immediately; acquire the habit of just looking. Second, do not treat the object as an object of the intellect. Third, just be ready to receive, passively, without interposing yourself. If you can void your mind of all intellectualisation, like a clear mirror that simply reflects, all the better. This non-conceptualisation – the Zen state of No Mind – may seem to represent a negative attitude but from it springs the true ability to contact things directly and positively”
from: The Unknown Craftsman, 1972, Soetsu Yanagi

The Chinese call this phenomenon ‘Wu Wei’ – “Doing by not doing, doing by allowing things to happen”