POTTERING AROUND. In conversation with .. Alice Duck
1. How did you start your pottery journey?
I started making ceramics in my little attic room of my Bristol flat after I left Uni. I did Fine art at Uni that was mainly video/photography and when I left I just couldn’t get a job! One day instead of scrolling through gumtree or attending another useless interview in the back room of a pub I made a mug out of clay. I would get them fired at my old Uni and it just sort of went from there.
2. Handbuilding or on the wheel? Or both? And why?
Hand building at first because I didn’t have access to a wheel. Now I do slip casting with plaster moulds that I turn the model on the wheel. I don’t think I have the patience to learn to properly wheel throw!
3. Your favourite type of material/ceramic?
Porcelain! Always porcelain! She can be a cruel mistress but I fell in love a long time ago and now nothing else compares. I always describe it as a really dysfunctional relationship – she always screws you over, and you have so many problems but you always go back because she’s so beautiful!
4. Functional ceramic or sculpture? Or both and why?
Functional, which is weird I guess coming from a Fine art background. I find that I have more of a relationship with an object that I can use. Cups in particular I find very personal because you put it in your mouth and feel it.
5. Do you prefer making in ‘solitaire’ in your studio or being part of a club/group, or both? Pros and cons?
I’ve ne ver worked as part of a group, its always been my job basically. In my studio I have other potters also running their own businesses from separate studios and I love talking about glaze recipes or different forms that we might be working on but then I like going off and do my own thing. I think I’d find it really strange now to go work in a group.
6. Working with clay is therapeutic; what is your relationship with clay?
I have a bit of a love hate relationship I think. When it goes right it’s the best feeling! You’ve created something from mud, put it in a oven with glass all over it and its come out of the other end as a functional product. You cant beat it! When it goes wrong its terrible, and I find that I get on going periods of it going wrong again and again – I find this part of it very difficult and maybe because its my only source of income and everything relies on it and I’m incredibly self critical.
7. Do you have a routine, a typical day, a structure, when you are creating?
I try to work 9-5 in the studio every day, sometimes I might go for a cycle before I head in to clear my head, I find everything goes much smoother if I’m relaxed.
8. What are you in the process of making at the moment?
I started making a new range about a year ago of very minimal, colourful porcelain home wares and I’m constantly adding new products to the collection, the last product I added was a candle stick holder which I was very pleased with because after making the mould, casting and firing the rim was exactly 20mm in diameter which is the standard size to hold a candle (it took about 8 times to get it right!).
9. What has been your highlight over the last year?
This new collection came about after I had a terrible 3 months of everything breaking in the kiln! It was like opening the lid to a mosaic it was awful! It turns out it was a glaze fit problem and my supplier had changed an ingredient down the line somewhere and it just didn’t fit my clay anymore. After I worked this out I had to find a new glaze that matched all the colours I used before so my Stockists were happy and this took about another two months. (ceramics is so slow) after all this time I couldn’t bring myself to make those designs anymore so my choice was either quit ceramics and figure out what the hell I was going to do or make something that didn’t resemble my old designs anymore. I chose to push through and I’m so proud of this new range and everything that it has taught me!
10. And what’s coming next? What is it that you have been working on?
Extending this collection as and when I think of a new product and working with new stockists and shops hopefully, if this pandemic doesn’t kill them all.
11. Any tips for a new entry/student in the pottery world?
Just keep chipping away at it, ask all the questions that you can. Potters are generally very helpful and up for sharing because they know the struggle. Don’t be afraid to approach new Stockists. I have loads of Stockists that I have approached first but make sure your work is right for them.
12. One (or as many as you like) potter/artist that inspires you?
Linda Bloomfield – her technical knowledge is incredible!
Memphis Milano ceramics and also all the things at the moment that have been inspired by it.
Elke Sada – very inspired by early on in my ceramics journey.
I get a lot of my inspiration from Instagram and pinterest. I love seeing what everyone is making!
13. A museum/gallery that should be a must-visit. Or a book to inspire you?
I love all Linda Bloomfield books!
“Contemporary ceramics” by Emmanuel Cooper
I always go to the V and A ceramics collection if I’m short on inspiration! I also love Hauser and Wirth, that’s not ceramics, but it always has brilliant exhibitions!