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Potter of the Month (July) - Jacqui Atkin

1. What general skills & techniques do you use ?

I use all making methods regularly combining techniques to create composite shapes – moulded sections with slabbed additions, thrown sections with coiled additions etc., I also make tiles and wall plaques/installations - textured, patterned and colourful with quirky little birds.  However, commissions for this type of work have incorporated imagery of many kinds. 

 

2. Tell us about your experience and knowledge.

Where have you studied and learnt your skills ?

Many people say that my work has a textile quality to it and I have to admit that this is another of my great interests and in fact when I was training at City College in Manchester I was always torn between textiles and ceramics so perhaps it is unsurprising that the one discipline influences the other if only subliminally – again it all comes back to a love of surface pattern and design and is perhaps a reflection of my training which was as much about design as the clay itself.

How long have you been a potter ?

Before moving to Shropshire I taught ceramics in colleges and for the NHS mental health service which teaches art as therapy.

I have been potting for twenty years now and during that time the main focuses of my work have encompassed low firing techniques and especially resist Raku. However, in an attempt to move away from this extreme firing process, recent work has been exploring new themes to create subtle surface treatments where texture is used to create movement as a background for botanical imagery with colourful generic birds.  I have endeavoured to reproduce the very black surfaces created in Raku firing using engobes which can also be used in a painterly way for dramatic colour variation. 

 

3. Where does you inspiration come from ?

Inspiration for form and pattern is drawn from many sources but the view from my studio window which looks out over my garden and the woodland beyond in rural Shropshire has the most enduring influence, ever changing with the seasons, a rich palette of colour, shape and bird life.

 

4. Who has inspired you along the way ?

Early inspiration came from smoke firers such as Jane Perryman, Magdalena Odundo, Gabrielle Coch and Antonia Salmon – this is how I began, burnishing, patterning using resists and smoke firing in newspaper or sawdust.  The labour intensive nature of my working process led to a search for a technique where the outcome could be more controlled and I progressed into resist Raku firing, developing a method for applying surface treatments to create specific pattern over several years with much experimentation but this proved to be a demanding way of working from the perspective of my health so the work you see now is really my third clay incarnation but probably not my last because I like to create new designs regularly to stretch my mind and keep the work fresh.  Now I am amazed and inspired by many potters’ work - it is so diverse yet all made from the same material – how incredible is that?  

 

5. Please explain your work - process involved, clays used, firing range ?

I am essentially interested in clay as an art form rather than for its functional properties so my work is mainly decorative – something beautiful to look at rather than use.  Form is of course important but surface design developments are what interest me most.  Each piece is unique and made from Valentines’ grogged white earthenware clay fired to 1120°c. Or KGM body for the thrown pieces.  The interiors of most vessel forms are glazed now because so many people asked me if they could use them for flowers and I got tired of saying that they couldn’t! 

 

6. What has been your proudest piece that you have produced and why ?

It would be incredibly hard for me to say which piece of my work I am most proud of – I like to think I have not made it yet.  Like many artists, I always see how I could have improved the work and so am never completely happy with it – therefore always striving for a better outcome.  There have been pieces I thought were pleasing but always room for improvement – so onwards to that end and future ambitions are to just keep going – potting is my obsession and I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

 

7. You have had several books published, please tell us more.

Some years ago I was approached by a publisher to write a ceramics book of my own after being a project maker for book by Steve Mattison and I now have five books published to date.  I like the discipline of writing and always feel that I am using the other half of my brain when researching and organising the content for a book.  They are hard work and the deadlines sometimes difficult but I think that maybe I work best under pressure and within time lines.  It is also a good way to expand my learning as I get to discover many things I had not previously been aware of. 

 

Additional information

I exhibit in galleries throughout the UK and I have work in public collections at the University of Wales Aberystwyth and the City Museum Stoke on Trent.

I am a professional member of the Craft Potters Association and my books are listed below:

 

‘Hand Built Pottery Techniques Revealed’ – revised edition 2013

‘Pottery Basics’

‘The tile Artists’ Motif Bible’

‘250 Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets’

‘Troubleshooting for Potters’ – published this year - 2014

 

View Jacqui Atkin's gallery

Visit their website: www.jacquiatkin.com