Today I am introducing ceramicist Emily-Kriste Wilcox and her work …. I encountered Emily-Kriste’s work for the first time at the outdoor exhibition ‘Fresh Air Sculpture‘. in Gloucestershire and followed her creations through instagram – a social media platform that I find very interesting and really inspiring especially for the ceramic world. Emily also has her work displayed and available to purchase at the The Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen, just next to the Wilson Museum in Cheltenham amongst other gorgeous galleries, online and directly from her Studio. So are you ready to read with me the beautiful crafted story of Emily-Kriste Wilcox…. ?
POTTERING AROUND. In conversation with … Emily-Kriste Wilcox
1 . How did you start your pottery journey?
I followed a course which regularly encouraged us to create pots alongside paintings – to link the two elements together throughout the projects whether that was through a particular theme or technique. This has definitely been something which I have continued to do throughout my practice so far.
I then went on to follow a ceramic specific degree course where I was introduced to lots of materials, and able to learn a number of different techniques in both construction and surface treatment. This traditional, educational route has given me a wide basis of technical skills, study and understanding before specialising and honing my own direction.
2. Handbuilding or on the wheel? Or both? And why?
I have experience in both, and the ceramics world holds such a vast array of possibilities, but handbuilding remains my preference. Each of my vessels is slabbuilt out of flat panels of clay which gives me a versatile and flexible element to the method of construction. Although a bit of forward planning is required too!
3. Your favourite type of material?
Each stage in my process brings its own joys and challenges – all of which encourage me to investigate further, so to pinpoint a favourite is rather difficult.
The soft clay, wedged and ready to use, is refreshing as it has a sense of positiveness that comes with starting a new piece, along with the unknown of what it will become. The stage of developing the layers of surface treatment is an intriguing one. Even though I am often using the same tones, each becomes its own painting and reflects that moment in time. The flick of a paintbrush, the marks made, the tools used, and the surrounding environment all play their part. The sense of intrigue is exaggerated here, as I am often painting with tones of slip which at their raw stage are varying tones of creams and pale pinks, that only become fully developed and apparent as blues/ greys after firing.
The joining and balancing stage, by its nature has sculptural qualities, which feeds the flexibility of form that handbuilding provides. The clay itself dictates what can be achieved at, or within a certain timeframe.
Then there’s the final outcome – only after multiple firings, and the magic of the kiln’s heat can the pieces be truly seen as a whole, with their tones fully apparent.
4. Functional ceramic or sculpture? Or both and why?
With all of my work I strive to create items which hold an aesthetic function. Early pieces were a little more sculptural in nature, as I was keen to investigate shape and space in terms of how each element interacted with one another in a visual way.
I have also regularly returned to the V & A museum as I am very taken by the tea caddies held within their collections, due to their use of faceted panels similar to my own method of construction. Often the straight edged panels were divided or joined by solder or silver, yet combined through connected imagery or motifs. There is an added notion that these were highly decorated and intricately worked containers to hold the prized tea; and therefore often displayed for their aesthetic value as well. This all resonates with the way I work, and inspired in part, the oval shaped pieces within my collections.
The choice of decorating each panel of my pots in this way, whether it’s inside or out, means that all facets are equally given the same level of attention. This is something I continue to do, and I find helps me to balance the pieces in a cohesive manner.
The current collections have been streamlined in form, my appreciation for the history of ceramics and the importance of the vessel has grown. The surfaces of my pots are becoming richer and deeper as a result, the shape being more refined, simplified, perhaps even sharpened in profile?
The vessel form certainly gives a wonderful vehicle for my painterly surface treatment where the overall aesthetic is one of balance. The story or the view travels around the multi-faceted panels with an effortless flow of movement, softly punctuated by a considered coloured seam or join.
5. Do you prefer making in ‘solitaire’ in your studio or being part of a group?
I am quite happy working independently and have opted for this way of working, as I find it gives me more focus.
However, I do highly value the opportunities that come my way to take the vessels out of the studio set-up. Whether that’s for a gallery, or an exhibition or ultimately in the home, as these events all add context to what I am doing and continues to inform the direction of my work.
6. Working with clay is therapeutic; what is your relationship with clay?
I love working with clay, and I aim for a sense of balance and poise within the vessels. Many of my current collections help to bring elements of the outside world in to the home, whether that’s through the use of colour, creating ‘paintings in clay’ that evoke the landscape or a view across the sea; or indeed the construction of items suitable for plants or fresh flower displays from the garden.
There is so much to explore within this world of clay, and I hope to be able to continue to do just that.
7. Do you have a routine, a typical day, a structure, when you are making?
There are often tasks that require regular attention but in terms of a routine I find each day or week can be very different from the previous.
I like to plan ahead with my schedule, and keep an overview of the year where I can plot in the key dates such as exhibitions or gallery deadlines.
I often start the day early, and, (armed with a cup of tea of course!) I prioritize the tasks that need attention that week and therefore what can be completed on that particular day.
8. What are you in the process of making at the moment?
I have recently completed an exciting commission for a storage jar, and I am putting the final selection together for York Ceramic Fair with the CPA which opens this coming Saturday 23rd of November 2019.
9. What has been your highlight over the last year?
Over the last year I have introduced a new “Pattern & Surface” collection, I have been working on a few commissions and also won a couple of awards. To single out just one highlight would be a little difficult – they are each a result of hard work over several years in order to create a consistent body of work where the pots gently evolve and sit harmoniously with one another.
10. And what’s coming next? What is it that you have been working on?
In the new year, I will be building a new group for the gallery-shop at Contemporary Ceramics, Bloomsbury in London. I am also planning to extend the “Garden & Bloom” collection, and I’m sure I have another couple of things in the pipeline! … more on that in due course.
11. Any tips for a new entry/student in the pottery world?
To those starting out, practice.
Technique is only the beginning, and I believe that so much within the world of clay is learned through the sense of touch. I often liken it to a handwriting, whether it’s understanding the possibilities and the limitations of the raw material, the sense of touch will also help you to develop an understanding for how much to press, which tool you prefer, how much you load the brush, which brush to use, when to work it, when to stop, and a lot of this you can only do by reacting to the clay. Practice will help you find your own style.
12. One (or as many as you like) potter/artist that inspires you?
I often draw reference from an eclectic mix of makers and painters – and I am drawn to those that show a high level of craftsmanship within their work. It can be from museum collections ie the tea caddies as previously mentioned, or the paintings of JMW Turner, found artefacts, or a contemporary artist such as Erin Ward, Clare Conrad or John Ward.
I have a pile of intriguing books waiting to be read at the moment. Perhaps the next one will be “The Beauty of Everyday Things” by Soetsu Yanagi.
Photo Credits: Emily-Kriste Wilcox and Yeshen Venema
Discover more on her website.