Originally from Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast (UK) one of my earliest memories is of attacking a large piece of stone in my back garden with hammer and chisel. I must have been around 4 years old and been inspired by a stone carver I had seen on the television. I have always felt the need to create, be it 3D or 2D and at school it was one of the things I could excel at, that was not affected by my dyslexia.
Rather than opting for the more academic route of university I studied 3D Design at York College of Further Education for 4 years in the 1990’s, followed by time as a technician. Here I learnt the hands on, day –to-day techniques which I feel have allowed me to develop a sound knowledge of practical skills and the ability to adapt.
Several years helping my Father in his car body repair workshop and a stint on a North Sea oil rig as a roustabout taught me a lot about rust and repair. Layers of rust, laid down by years in a harsh, unforgiving environment will weaken a structure and if the corrosion has gone too far, too deep, you are left with only the outer shell, the original form preserved in rust alone. However if caught early enough, the corrosion can be rubbed away, any remaining sound metal treated, repaired and repainted, presenting a surface that appears as good as new.
I have also worked as a technical instructor in secure and medium secure psychiatric units, providing art and pottery sessions as part of the therapeutic program for clients. Here I have found that people can react in much the same way. A person existing in a harsh, unforgiving environment, be it an abusive childhood, a downward spiral of life opportunities or a combination of neurological and environmental conditions, may erode both physically and mentally.
Combining these threads I have developed my own range of studio ceramics “Salvage Ware”. Inspired by the industrial landscape and the way in which the processes of erosion and corrosion change and distort the material itself, I combine clay, oxide, slip and glaze to design and create thought provoking, original, hand-built, retro-industrial pieces where functionality has been tempered by the corrosive nature of environment and time. Each piece is individual and can evolve from photographs taken along the East coast between Hull and Whitby of rusting industrial and shipping metal work or from the marine environment itself.
The Porthole pieces invite you to look through the eyes of another, they give the illusion of safety within the vessel on the sea. Looking out through the porthole you are protected from the maelstrom of life. The facade presented to the world appears in good order, intact and undamaged. But on the inside the corrosion, the scars, the damage is evident, and there is always the possibility that the reality of what is being kept out might break through.
The Double Face forms represent the face we try to present to the world, may be scarred, may be repaired but appearing fundamentally sound but on the other side, the hidden scars, where the erosion and the rust has built up over the years threatening our stability.
I now work from my own studio which is located on the outskirts of the East Yorkshire village of Holme-on-Spalding Moor, where I run regular pottery classes and a myriad of external workshops for historical re-enactment events, community groups, schools, universities and museums including York University, The Leeds International Medieval Congress and the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth. This has allowed me the time and freedom to develop my own work, which at times has been challenging, however I can honestly say that the catalyst for me to continue to persevere with Salvage Ware was when I sold my first piece to a member of Arts Council England.
I think the thing I have learnt is to have many strings to your bow. When the class membership is down I have been able to concentrate on external events, when they are less frequent I can spend time developing my studio ceramics.
Over the next few years I plan to increase the studio space, possibly incorporating a gallery and space for other artists and makers to run classes. I will continue to develop my own work, exploring ways to further represent the corrosion of the physical form and the mental scars that remain hidden.
Ultimately I would like more people to see my work and develop their own understanding of the forces at work on our physical environment and on ourselves. I hope to put on a solo exhibition over the next 18 months, once I find a suitable and inspiring location. Art should be seen, and hopefully enjoyed.
And finally, you need the support and understanding of family and friends to help you through the difficult times and celebrate the good ones.