Thu, 23 Jul 2020
Neither here nor properly there
OVER the last year things had started to ramp up for ceramicist Katherine Kingdon, who five years ago transferred her Reading studio to her Newbury back garden to better accommodate the demands of a young family. She was accepted for Oxford Ceramics Fair, a piece of her work won a prize in the Black Swan Arts Open and New Brewery Arts, Cirencester asked her to put work in their gallery shop.
“This year was I was due to open my studio as part of Open Studios West Berkshire North Hampshire and to take part in several related events, including Celebrating Ceramics at Waterperry Gardens, Earth and Fire International Ceramics Fair and New Ashgate Gallery’s Summer Contemporary Craft Collection,” says Katherine.
Lockdown, of course, scuppered all these plans, but has led to other opportunities. “I now have work in Newbury Art Collective’s online gallery and shop, in Arlington Arts online show Out of plaCe and I’ve finally put some work up on Etsy.7
Battle of the trombones
Katherine had little experience of ceramics when she decided to take a degree in 3D design (ceramics and glass) at Leicester Polytechnic. “My Art Foundation teachers advised me to take textiles. I was good at drawing and have an eye for colour, but I couldn’t see myself fitting into the courses I looked at. I enjoyed making things and thought ceramics would be good medium to understand. Many years later, including lots of art teaching and a few years running the ceramics department at Henley College, I now know how little I understand.”
During her degree she spent time studying figurative work and surface decoration from a wide range of cultures and became interested in the work of sculptors and makers such as Henry Moore, Karel Appel and Mo Jupp. She has also, over the years, found herself drawn to prehistoric sculpture. “For me there’s something magical about a Neolithic figurine. I love the simplicity of form and the lost meaning. The desire to make and draw the human form also intrigues me, it seems innately human.”
Katherine’s current ceramic work is hand-built and developed from lots of drawing and the kind of drawing games she uses to teach creativity.
“The forms are mainly based on things I’ve seen. For the vessels I loosely draw and redraw until I find a shape that I like. I then aim for this kind of looseness as I build the form.
“The surface decoration is a kind of game. I attach thin patches of clay in roughly human proportions and then look at them until I begin to see them as characters in my mind’s eye. I develop these using a range of fine modelling tools and add other surface decoration to suggest the idea of narrative. I prefer to leave some ambiguity as it’s in these gaps that poetry seems to lie.”
She also make groups of figures, created using similarly playful techniques. An uncommissioned piece starts as a group of legs and the characters evolve as she makes. A commissioned piece, such as a family group, takes more planning. The buyer usually sends her photos and ideas and she sends them a sketch or two before she begins.
“If I didn’t work with clay I would like to work with found materials,” she said. “I’ve always admired the way some people can take something as simple as a bicycle seat and transform it into
“My first job after leaving polytechnic was making recycled clothes and furniture for Scrap Scrap, an ‘upcycling’ company based in Ironbridge, and I think some of that ethos of ‘fitting things together’ and ‘being creative with what you have’ is still evident in the things I make.”
New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham has now reopened. They are showing Katherine’s work for the first time in their Craft Collection www.newashgate.org.uk
She also has work in Bell Fine Art, Winchester, www.bellfineart.co.uk and New Brewery Arts, Cirencester, www.newbreweryarts.org.uk
Visit the @newburytoday gallery to view more of Katherine's work together with many more local artists and makers