A conversation with clay

My work is the outcome of a conversation with the clay.  The seed of an idea will often come from something I find beautiful    a pebble on a beach, a tree on a walk – and working directly with the clay I see how the idea grows.  Thoughts, feelings, music, found objects, conversations, all have the potential to influence the way the piece develops until a sense of resolution arrives and there is no more to be said.

I love the gradual nature of this process which seems to mimic the creation of the objects that inspire me; the pebble eroded by waves and tides, the tree shaped by prevailing winds. Being curious rather than prescriptive about the outcome I am often surprised, and occasionally delighted, by what emerges and sometimes the pieces seems to reflect things that matter to me in life to do with nature, intimacy and connection.  I know that not everyone will see those things, but it makes me happy to relinquish any idea of control over that and to focus on the process of making, which I love. 

Life before clay

My creative life has been delightfully varied; as a musician and sound engineer, a science and environment journalist, a producer and presenter of natural history radio, a furniture maker and a  landscape painter.  Through all of that there have been two constants – nature as inspiration, and the search for an underlying, unifying simplicity in what I make and how I make it.  

I think it’s that search that has led to a change in emphasis over the years from knowledge to experience, thinking to feeling, words to form, outcome to process, and from concept and control to curiosity and surprise.

Meeting with clay

Then, at what seemed the perfect moment, when I was ready to appreciate it fully, into my life came clay.  Tactile, responsive, expressive clay that was shaped by the hands of the earliest humans into pots and effigies. Clay that, in the creation stories, was the unity from which the diversity of life was made. For me it has been a significant meeting; a sense of coming home, finally finding in clay a medium with which I can rest, be open, and delight in what emerges. For that I am deeply grateful.

Here’s an interview about my creative life and influences in the context of the 2023 exhibition, Clay, Nature and Us.