Rebecca Wilson


14 Sunday 14th August 2011

What made you decide to follow a path in ceramics? What is it you enjoy about them?

I always thought I wanted to be sculptor when I was younger, and at art school I quickly realised that the only material that I really wanted to work in was clay, so I switched my sights to the ceramics department. It makes sense for me to work in the medium that informs my work. By that I mean that I am drawn to kitsch and retro ceramic objects, so it makes sense for ceramics to be my chosen material as well as my subject matter.

Light Spill- wall lamp

You often apply traditional fine chinaware patterns to your ceramics but use them in a modern way, in Light Spill for instance. Is this contrast something you like to experiment with?

One of the recurring themes in my work is the reinvention and the reinvigoration of old things and this applies equally to physical objects, ideas and aesthetics. So I am just as likely to recycle an old pattern or concept as I am a reclaimed object. We are always inspired by what goes before us, and nothing is original. I like to acknowledge that in my work.

You have said your Finest Paperware pieces allude to the throwaway culture we now live in, do you like to have messages within your pieces?

‘Big Messages’ are not my thing. I’m more about probing the more trivial questions in life and drawing attention to the little things that pass us by. It’s more about posing questions and provoking a thought than conveying a big message.

Finest Paperware

How did you make the delicate ‘paper’ pieces?

I started by learning traditional paper making techniques from a good friend and fellow artist; Clare Waddle, and then adapted the techniques to suit the ceramic process. Each piece starts from a flat cast sheet of ‘paper’ clay and is assembled by hand into a 3D object. I then took the process a stage further and combined the paper pulp with ceramic slip. The resulting pieces look exactly like paper but are actually a very delicate and lightweight porcelain.

Finest Paperware

Some would consider china a bit dated, your ideas however, like the Blow Me! series are often quite playful. Do you think it’s time for ceramics to become a bit more fun and inventive?

If you look at the current trend for upcycling reclaimed objects from the past you can see that ‘old’ is really in just now. In the same way as many people are transforming old objects and re-inventing them for today, I am taking old ideas and old aesthetics and giving them a modern twist.

Blow Me! from the Warm Collection

What is the process of creating one of your ceramic pieces?
My work is never dictated by the process. The idea always comes first and then I start to explore the processes and materials that would best realise the idea. This often involves digressing from ceramic materials and learning new processes, adopting new materials; for example in the Finest Paperware range, or in my latest body of work Blow Me! where many pieces are cast in glass.

Have you created your own personal dining set to use at home?
None of my work at present is functional. I am however exploring the possibility of creating a range of dessert specific dishes inspired by high end gastronomy. I like the idea of designing a vessel to suit a specific dish, rather than the other way around.

Blow Me! from the Cool Collection

Your recent project, Light Snack sees you using bone china jammy dodgers in a chandelier, where do you get your inspiration from?

I get my inspiration from everyday things, observations in day-to-day life, chats with friends and family. Language plays quite an important part in my work and the starting point is often an odd turn of phrase I’ve overheard in a conversation or read in an old book, which then often becomes the title of the work.

During the Edinburgh Festival you and your fellow ceramicists open up your studios to the public, how do you feel about people watching you work and possibly seeing unfinished pieces?

I have just finished putting my studio back together following the Open Studios event this past weekend. It’s an exhausting three days, but I think it’s a really valuable exercise in educating the public as to how much work goes into what we as artists do, and that we operate as professionals is a serious working environment.

Light Snack, porcelain jammy dodger chandelier

What projects are you working on now?

I’m re-visiting an old installation piece that I created in 2007 called Memoria; 100 cups of tea, never to be. In its original form it was a swarm of winged porcelain teacups emerging from a shattered gold tea pot. I’m working with a fibre optics company now (Starscape in Berwick Upon Tweed) to find a way to integrate an individual light source into each cup so that they glow in a ghostly way. I’m using bone china now for its whiteness and translucency. The Memoria chandelier will make its debut at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh in November this year.

Detail of Light Snack

For more of Rebecca Wilson's ceramics, visit her website here.

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