Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Patsy Hely talks to us about her practice and the inspiration behind her work in 'To There and Back' opening in Gallery 2 at JamFactory on October 29

Tell us about yourself, how did you become a ceramic artist?
My grandmother and mother had some quite lovely ceramic objects, English and Japanese mostly, that I always loved, but had never been curious about how they came into the world. Then one day in the 70’s in England I was wandering around St Ives with a friend and we passed a pottery workshop and - looking through the window - saw someone throwing a pot. It had never occurred to me that pots were made by hand – but I think I was hooked on the spot.

Which ceramic artists, craftspeople, writers, artists, musician, anyone do you find particularly inspiring?
I’m most influenced I think by the written word. The person who over a period of time has had the biggest impact on my thinking and, therefore, on my making, is the writer Phillip Rawson. His text ‘Ceramics’, written I think in the 60’s, is the most critically engaged reflection on pots I’ve ever read and I can still read it today, though I’ve read it many times, and still find new insights. Lately, I’m struck by the concentrated act of producing an extended imaginative text such as, for instance, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel or Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin – both bring a whole world to life.

I’ve just written an essay for an exhibition marking the 80th birthday of Les Blakebrough. I’ve come away from doing the research for that absolutely full of admiration for someone who has managed such a long and fruitful career and made a very tangible contribution to his field. The work I probably most love having at home is that of Kirsten Coehlo, it is just so perfect both to use and to see sitting on the shelf.

Have any of these people had a specific influence your way you approach to making? If so, how?
I think both Les and Kirsten have a strong sense of what they want to make and are very interested in trying to learn something for themselves through developing work. When I work for an exhibition I need to totally immerse myself in a set of ideas that I find valuable and that relate to issues I’m interested in intellectually – so I feel that I know more after I’ve developed a body of work, not just made more. Phillip Rawson’s view of ceramics as an art with a long historical trajectory has always informed my making. It’s given me a love of the history of ceramics and taken away any need to feel I have to make something ‘new’, I’m happiest making work that is connected to that trajectory, even if I’m the only one who recognizes it!

Are there any specific quotes, ideas, places that influence this current body of work?
It has grown out of previous work and a long held interest in intersections between souvenirs, the recording of experience and ideas about place and belonging.

Are there any specific collections, museums that you have found inspiring and why?
I spent a few days wandering the V & A last year - I think that is probably a craftsperson’s heaven. Seeing the collections there reinforces for me that imaginative acts, like making something, are worthwhile pursuits.

Welcome us to your studio - where is it, do you share the space, if so what are the benefit of a shared space?
I work alone in a small studio behind the house. I’ve shared studios in the past and enjoyed that but now – I much prefer working alone and have come to rely on the space it opens up for reverie.

The work for the exhibition: Can you describe the specific themes reflected in this body of work?
I’m interested in how experience of place is recorded both by myself and by others. There is a long tradition of this in ceramics, as both souvenir and document. I’ve been to Adelaide quite a lot over the last few years and spent quite a bit of time walking the city and taking photographs. Painting these images now is a way of thinking about place, of remembering experience - immersing myself in recollection. Many of the images are somewhat mundane, city streetscapes for instance, and it’s a challenge to make something visually interesting through the manipulation of materials.

Describe your method of production in this current work?
All of the work is slipcast porcelain painted with combinations of ceramic under and overglaze and ceramic lustre.