We speak to ceramic artist and Hothouse17 participant Verity Howard
Verity Howard uses clay to create contemplative ceramic artworks which respond to themes linked to people’s lives. In her work clay becomes a medium for drawing and monoprinting.
Verity has been selected for Hothouse, the Crafts Council's Talent Development Programme for emerging makers. Find out more about Hothouse
What first got you interested in making?
I have always loved making things from a very young age; I used to dig up clay from my garden and use it to make pieces of pretend fruit. I also used to make photo frames out of old pieces of pottery that I had collected from ploughed fields. I have been very lucky to have been surrounded by some incredibly creative people. My Mum is an artist and my Dad is very interested in art, especially paintings. My godfather was the Principal at Hereford College of Art and I used to make sculptures with him in many materials such as clay, wax, plaster and bronze.
What in particular drew you to ceramics?
During art foundation I really enjoyed experimenting with metal, ceramics and also creating surface patterns. However most things I designed were too complicated to make in metal but easier to make in ceramics. Therefore I found myself using clay a lot more.
I love how you can manipulate the surface of clay to create patterns, textures and any form you want. I find the transformation of firing a piece fascinating; I love the permanence of fired clay. I also enjoy how you can use clay as a medium for drawing and printing, a canvas for ideas.
Which project are you most proud of so far and why?
I am proud of all of my projects for different reasons however I am very proud of the work I made whist participating in a residency at Guldagergaard, International Ceramic Research Centre, Denmark. I was lucky enough to be awarded the Guldagergaard Network Award at my degree show which enabled me to be able to apply to take part in Project Network. ‘The aim of Project Network is to create a network and a dialogue within the same generation of emerging artists in ceramic arts. The project supports international exchanges and investigations for the future development of the ceramic arts.’
During my time at Guldagergaard I worked with eleven other international ceramic artists from countries such as Switzerland, Korea, Canada and America. The work I made there was my first after completing my degree and was quite experimental compared to the very controlled black forms I had previously made.
My proposal at the start of the residency was to continue to explore my degree show body of work, ‘Presence Through Absence’, whilst also responding to the town and the urban environment surrounding Guldagergaard. I was also keen to take advantage of the amazing facilities at Guldagergaard and therefore I wood fired my pieces as this was a process I had never tried before and I was intrigued to learn more about it. As the pieces I made were in response to the surrounding town of Skælskør I was interested in the idea of the physical mark and process of the wood firing embedding in the work a further sense of place.
At the end of this residency we had a group exhibition at the Apple House Gallery which was my first international exhibition. This was an amazing experience which taught me a lot about my own practice, broadened my ceramic knowledge and linked me to a worldwide network of likeminded makers.
What do you hope to get from Hothouse?
I hope that Hothouse will support me in achieving my long term aspirations to continue exhibiting nationally and internationally. I am excited to have been assigned Grant Aston as my mentor who will help guide my practice. I look forward to learning from his experience and knowledge that he has accrued over his career. Participating in Hothouse will also allow me to build on my network of fellow makers. I welcome the valuable feedback and critiques that I will receive from my Hothouse peers, and I am excited to share in their experiences. I look forward to further understanding the market for my work and develop my creative thinking in order to stand out in this very competitive industry.
Your work strikes me as foreboding and macabre, with some really interesting and intriguing titles. Where do the ideas stem from and begin?
I am always interested in responding to themes surrounding people’s lives when coming up with ideas for a new body of work. I am also mostly drawn to subjects which have a feeling of stillness and mystery surrounding them, therefore these themes are reflected in my work.For instance ‘Presence through Absence’ is my response to capturing glimpses into people’s lives as seen through their windows in the evening.
You use ceramics as a vessel for drawing and monoprinting, why ceramics?
I love drawing and printing and the surfaces you can create by monoprinting onto clay. I use clay as a canvas for my ideas and drawings, to convey moods and themes. I really enjoy experimenting with the relationship between form and surface decoration. I try to be restrained and minimal in my use of surface decoration in order to create a balanced composition.
Where do you find your inspirations? For instance Alfred Watkins photography in ‘A Ley Landscape’, and how does this translate to your work?
A Ley Landscape’ was the body of work I made in response to Alfred Watkins’ photographs documenting his research into Ley Lines in the early 1900s. These pieces were created in order to be site specific works for an exhibition at the Old Mayor’s Parlour Gallery, Hereford.
The Old Mayor’s Parlour dates back to the early fourteenth century. When I first walked into the building I was immediately drawn to its strong sense of history and imagined the people’s lives that had been lived out in the building. I then went to the Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre to try and find out more about the history of Hereford. I came across Alfred Watkins’ photographs and was fascinated by the still and mysterious qualities of his images. I decided to make work in response to these photographs and to capture in my work the qualities I was drawn to in his.
When I start a new project I always do lots of timed, blind and continuous line drawings in order to discover what is most important to me about an image. I quickly learnt through drawing from Watkins’ photographs that I wanted to create a grey, still mysterious landscape of objects that depicted elements from his photographs such as hills, mounds, caves, trees and paths leading to nowhere.
You can see more work from Verity and follow her at the Crafts Council Directory