Today I am sharing with you the story of English ceramist Kirsty Adams, specialised in – and always in love with – porcelain. Just sit down with a cup of your favourite tea to read this inspirational interview and to discover more about Kirsty, her work and her new Icelandic collection.
1 . How did you start your pottery journey?
I began making from clay and mud from a very early age. I love shaping small things from clay and although my mum was a languages teacher, she was very creative and we always had a bag of clay in the house. My father was an academic writer and a very creative person too.
I never studied ceramics at school, but from the age of around 13, I travelled in to the Arts and Tech college in York (now completely demolished and rebuilt again!) from the village outside of York where I grew up, to make in the pottery room, mainly on the wheel.
2. Handbuilding or on the wheel? Or both? And why?
Whilst studying ceramics as part of a combined wood, metal, ceramics and plastics degree at Brighton Art College, I always hand built, knowing that I would eventually study wheel throwing, but felt that I wanted college to be about the freedom to express conceptual ideas through clay and wood as materials.
My chance to study wheel throwing came a few years after Brighton, when I was accepted on a Japanese government cultural exchange programme to travel to Japan. There, I received training on the potters’ wheel from a local potter (Tateyama-Machi) to where I was living in Toyama-Ken, on the West coast of Japan. It was a very rural place and very beautiful, close to the Japanese Alps and the Japanese Sea. I was the only English speaker in the town where I lived. I stayed there for two years and this experience changed my life. I began to believe in myself and my abilities and gained a great amount of confidence. I had work selected for an exhibition in Tokyo whilst in Japan and also a solo exhibition of my ceramics in my local town. I would say this is when I truly became a potter and thought of myself as such.
3. Your favourite type of material?
My favourite clay is porcelain and I am always drawn back to porcelain whether working in Grogged Porcelain, Royale or Black Onyx Porcelain.
4. Functional ceramic or sculpture? Or both and why?
Now my pieces always have a use, no matter whether I am also exploring something more conceptual alongside, in terms of a childhood memory through tower shell Turitella vases or otherworldly landscapes of Iceland through moon jars and layered glazes. It is important for me to have a use for each piece I make in addition to its aesthetic or conceptual value.
5. Do you prefer making in ‘solitaire’ in your studio or being part of a group?
I work on my own in my studio from home now. This is more due to circumstance as I live with my family in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and it is easier for me to work from home at the moment. This may change as my family’s needs change. It means I can make in the daytime and be there for my two children when they return from school. This is also very important to me. Before having a family and whilst still in London I shared a studio with established ceramicists Daniel Smith, Mo Jupp, Jacqui Ramrayka, Alice Mara and Victoria Jardine at Archway Ceramics, Mile End. I learned so much from each and every one of them.
6. Working with clay is therapeutic; what is your relationship with clay?
I have always known from a very early age that I wanted to work with clay. I found it a very accessible way to express my ideas and have always needed to have a way to express myself creatively within my life.
7. Do you have a routine, a typical day, a structure, when you are making?
I am quite ordered about what I do each day, week. Despite sometimes have a lot going on within my head, I plan carefully each week what I am going to make and whether it is a making or glazing week or a lead up to a show week, which requires time away from the studio. When throwing, I work in series and will throw a series of a particular shape all at once. I may also have a ‘paper work, approaching new outlets or galleries, delivering work, wrapping work’ type of week depending on what’s required.
8. What are you in the process of making at the moment?
I am getting ready for an open studio up at The Old Bath House in Northumberland so finishing off some salt bowls and other smaller items (i.e. Christmas decorations) to sell up there. I am also continuing to work on my Icelandic moon range and will be making larger pieces in black onyx porcelain with both cobalt blue and copper green glaze and fluted bowls too in this range for a new range of pieces I am developing. I am also making an order of pasta bowls for someone.
9. What has been your highlight over the last year?
Winning the Artisan and Craft Open Call with the Crafts Council/National Trust, to create a bespoke range of pieces for National Trust shops and online, was a big highlight and this range is now almost completely sold out. Winning this for my business was of huge significance to me. I have come close to winning things in the past with my work and been a runner up for selection processes I have entered, so felt great to finally be the winner!
10. And what’s coming next? What is it that you have been working on?
I am coming to the end of my shows for 2019 and looking towards 2020 but I intend to promote my Icelandic collection further and expand it further in the new year and build on the galleries I already have and hopefully gain more outlets too.
11. Any tips for a new entry/student in the pottery world?
Keep going, have other income streams (perhaps teaching) too to help with the lean times and don’t give up. It sounds a bit clichéd but believe in yourself.
12. One (or as many as you like) potter/artist that inspires you?
I have always loved and admired the intuitive and visceral throwing approach of American ceramicist Peter Voulkos. I am also inspired by the Japanese pottery masters such as 14th Century Fujita Oribe for intuitive approach to making and glazing.
13. A museum/gallery that should be a must-visit. Or a book to inspire you?
Gosh there are so many but the British Museum and Victoria Albert Museum are a feast for the eyes and have always inspired and informed what I do.
Photo Credits: Kirsty Adams
Discover more on her website.