Zoë is currently exhibiting in (Surface) Pattern at Unit Twelve Gallery
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Zoë Hillyard, 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 have both my parents and grandparents to thank for nurturing my creativity and love of materials from a young age. Later a foundation course led onto a degree in textile design. Various career chapters followed involving; commercial fashion embroidery and knitwear roles, academic lecturing and overseas development, before I returned to making my own work again.
Could you please tell us a bit about your work?
Ceramic patchwork vessels are created by wrapping individual ceramic shards in silk, then slowly joined them back together using only stitch and tension. It represents a new application of a traditional textile technique (patchwork) to a complexly different context (the mending of broken ceramics). It is an approach I conceived back in 2010 after an accident in my kitchen left a ceramic bowl in pieces (and with no glue to hand). I had not long returned from spending a year as a VSO volunteer in Mongolia and had been inspired by the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the nomadic families I’d met. I was looking to re-establish a personal practice – ceramic patchwork was my creative response to the immediate situation and subsequently became a whole exploration of concept and creative possibility. I enjoy breathing new life into old ceramic and textile materials, creating pieces designed to delight and be treasured in the long-term.
What are your inspirations?
I love old objects, things that have worn surfaces made more beautiful and interesting by flaws and imperfections. Visible mending, whether it be traditional Japanese ceramic techniques or restored archaeological artifacts, also never cease to inspire. Travel continues to be hugely important. Being immersed in a culture that is different from my own is invigorating and helps me to challenge my thinking, approaches and decision-making. I have always been interested in the role of craft and design within livelihood activities and am drawn to remote communities whose challenging environments have shaped unique cultures. I spent some time in Nepal last year, exploring fragile structures and the repurposing of materials by people affected by the devastating earthquakes in 2015. It led to a series of work called Build Back Better, currently touring in Craftspace’s Made in the Middle exhibition.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
The problem-solving that each piece requires (although the ‘breaking’ stage is certainly fun!). Whilst experience now helps me to make more informed decisions, there is a lot that is out of my control. Constant choices are necessary when rebuilding the form, that affect the outcome and success of each piece. Once I’ve started (a bit like a jigsaw) I am always eager to see the character that emerges.
What are you working on right now?
I have a solo show at Anthropologie’s gallery on the Kings Road, London, later this summer, which I am very excited about. I am also working on a vase commission, which incorporates Japanese fabrics that have sentimental significance to the client. At the same time I am growing my ‘kiln cracked’ series – making use of the pieces ceramicists make that emerge from the firing process flawed. Catch the first series in ‘SuperBowls’ at Craft in the Bay, Cardiff.