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  • Surface decorated Vessels, Emily-Kriste Wilcox. Photo: Yeshen Venema

Directory maker of the Week: Emily-Kriste Wilcox

Emily-Kriste Wilcox is exhibiting in Ten Years On: Showing Off at Porthminster Gallery until 6 May

Our Directory Maker of the Week, Emily-Kriste Wilcox, talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and her favourite part of the making process

Who or what got you into making?

I was introduced to the coiling technique through my school years, and was taken in immediately by its versatility; the unrestrictive method provided scope for flexibility of form.  To see something emerge from building ‘bit by bit’, with the time to reflect and adapt on the direction of the form as you go, is rather special.

I still continue to handbuild, perhaps in part, for this reason. Handbuilding is my specialism, and although the ceramics world holds such a vast array of possibilities, the creation of these coherent vessels out of multiple facets, is a concept that continues to drive my current practice, and has informed my method of making over several years. 

Could you tell us a bit about your work?

The vessel is a starting point for exploration of form; the shapes continue to gently evolve, building on what came before and reaching for a pleasing aesthetic and balance.  Tea caddies from the V&A collection have informed a more oval shape, where the story or the view travels around the multi-faceted panels with an effortless flow of movement, softly punctuated by a considered coloured seam or join.

My construction process has developed and refined to a point where my early influences of dressmaking patterns, juxtaposition of colour and texture, are combined with a more painterly approach of surface treatment.  Colours are cohesive; often tonal on single pieces and this control over the colour palette enables me to bring each of the differing elements and facets of clay into harmony with each other. 

Pieces are handbuilt using multiple panels of clay, where layers of decorating slips are applied to build up the surface and create a depth that holds similarities to misty skies, or walks across the hills. 

There are a few places I like to return to more frequently on my walks, which is softly echoed through the construction of similar shaped ceramic forms.  However each vessel is highly individual, each becomes an interpretation rather than a representation, and the marks an indication of this earlier impression or experience.  A painting in clay.

What are your inspirations?

References are diverse, and range from dressmaking patterns, maps, boats, the landscape, to tea caddies and the traditional vessel form.  As all pieces are part of an ongoing investigation, some of these become more prevalent at times over others.  Walking and exploring the landscape has increasingly become an integral part of the process, and my evocative painterly expression in the ceramic form is often abstracted from, or draws reference to my continued works on paper.

The colours and textures of the ever-changing English skies, seas, coastline and accompanying landscape are a constant source influencing my explorations within the ceramic materials, which most notably can be seen in the predominance of blues, greens and greys within the individual vessels.

This interpretation of soft, English landscape hues that has become my signature style, has a way of immediately transporting the viewer to a sense of place - the wide open space - a view across the sea.  These experiences of my surroundings are deliberately abstracted to create an atmospheric impression rather than a representation.

What is your favourite part of the making process?

Each stage in my process brings its own challenges and areas that excite or intice me to investigate further, so to pinpoint a favourite is rather difficult. 

The soft clay, wedged and ready to use, is refreshing as it has a sense of positiveness that comes with starting a new piece, along with the unknown of what it will become.  The stage of developing the layers of surface treatment is an intriguing one.  Even though I am often using the same tones, each becomes its own painting and reflects that moment in time.  The flick of a paintbrush, the marks made, the tools used, and the surrounding environment all play their part.  The sense of intrigue is exaggerated here, as I am often painting with tones of slip which at their raw stage are varying tones of creams and pale pinks, that only become fully developed and apparent as blues/ greys after firing.

The joining and balancing stage, by its nature has sculptural qualities, which feeds the flexibility of form that handbuilding provides. The clay itself dictates what can be achieved at, or within a certain timeframe.

Then there’s the final outcome - only after multiple firings, and the magic of the kiln’s heat can the pieces be truly seen as a whole, with their tones fully apparent.

Perhaps this is why my pieces work as happily exuding calm and balance on their own, as they do harmoniously when in a group or collection.  They have come from this ‘continuing symphony’, where they relate to one another but remain highly individual.

What are you working on right now?

I have been developing a new soft tone of grey alongside a warmer sandy orange to draw on those I find when walking the coastal paths of St Ives.  These pieces are now available at Porthminster Gallery as part of Ten Years On: Showing Off, an exhibition to coincide with their ten year anniversary celebrations. 

I am also currently making a small collection of pieces for an upcoming exhibition entitled Stitch, which will open in April at The Guild at 51, Cheltenham. The element of stitch, particularly in dressmaking terms, has been a pivotal concept for me in relation to the development of my construction techniques. Fastenings, clasps, buttons, collars, trims, seams, darts are a constant source of inspiration; but also the directional messages, the short hand, the code of the dressmaker found within the instructions of the pattern books. Although these elements are so ingrained in my current practice that they often become abstracted, they have been brought to the forefront again in this collection of pieces, some of which are multi-faceted to the point of patchwork, others are subtly suggestive of stitch through the joins as seams.  The dots I regularly use on the interior of my pieces are a reminder of this history within my own practice, as they reference the draft paper used by the dressmaker.

View Emily-Kriste Wilcox's Directory profile

See Emily-Kriste's work in Ten Years On: Showing Off, Porthminster Gallery, St Ives, until 6 May 2017

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