Charlotte’s graduate project Fading Away looked at endangered species and saw her create 200 miniature animal sculptures. She has recently exhibited at the leading international ceramic fair, Ceramic Art London.
When did you first realise that you wanted to work with clay?
During school I always knew I was going to end up doing something creative, they were the subjects I really enjoyed and the academic side of things wasn’t my strong point.
I started studying BA Fashion Contour at London College of Fashion and realised it wasn’t for me. I wanted to go back to being creative and using my hands in a hands on way. I was introduced to ceramics when I was 8 and studied it at A-level, but lost touch during my Art Foundation year at Oxford Brookes, due to a lack of clay facilities. I only really realised my true calling when I was actually studying for a different BA. I started afresh, applied for BA Ceramic Design at CSM and never looked back!
What have you been working on since graduating in 2013?
After graduating I took a year out and did some travelling with close friends. My graduate piece ‘Fading Away’ which looked at endangered species inspired me to travel Africa and see wildlife in natural habitats, and I managed to persuade a few friends to come with me. We drove and camped around large parts of Southern and Eastern Africa. En route we encountered the most amazing wildlife from bull elephants to silverback gorillas, wild places, kind and friendly communities and people.
When I returned I was eager to set up a studio and pick up where I left off after graduating, continuing to make all the endangered mammals on the IUCN red-list (around 1500). In-between that I started making my ‘no time for tea’ collection which has continued to evolve, and is now my main focus. I also exhibited this project at Ceramic Art London this year. I am still hoping to finishing making all the endangered species and present it as a large installation piece.
How has your work developed?
The course was very practice-based, we were taught a lot of different ceramic processes and my work reflected that. With each brief and deadline we would be experimenting with different processes, whether it was with surface design, hand building, throwing, glazing, slip casting etc. One thing that did remain constant throughout was that I always drew inspiration from wildlife and nature.
Looking back at your time studying BA Ceramic Design, how did the course help you refine your skills and what were the biggest challenges/successes?
During the course I learnt an array of skills, we covered so many aspects of ceramics. I was renowned for always making small things, so my tutors pushed me out of my comfort zone by suggesting I make something big. I ended up making a life-size tiger, which was definitely my biggest challenge. The tiger along with my graduate piece, where I made 200 tiny animal sculptures, would be my biggest success on the course.
Wildlife and nature are key inspirations behind your work – what sparked this interest?
I don’t really know where it has come from, I suppose growing up on a farm surrounded by both wildlife and nature has a lot to do with it. My mother said from the age of about 6/7 I used to say I wanted to go to Africa and save all the Rhinos, but I don’t know where it came from. Perhaps Beatrix Potter, The Animals of Farthing Wood and Pingu had a part to play!
What are your key pieces of advice for BA Ceramic Design students?
It’s a great time to experiment with trying out lots of techniques and processes, so utilise it, especially when you’ve got such great facilities.
You should try to push yourself with all the new skills, and experiences that you are learning on the course. Even if you don’t think it’s relevant to your work, it might become useful to you in the future. Learning many types of ceramic processes is integral because you end up having a much deeper understanding and knowledge about clay and it will make you more confident in the studio.
The course is like a community, the tutoring and support is brilliant. I would whole-heartedly recommend the course to anybody who wants to or is thinking about studying ceramics whether it’s design or figurative/fine-art sculpture. However the course is what you make it, if you don’t put in the hard graft there’s only so much the tutors can do to support you. They’re not there to hold your hand - in a good way.