Jo Davies Ceramics was part of 'Lives, Loves and Loss' at Fenton House
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Jo Davies Ceramics talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and what she loves most about her work
Who or what got you into making?
I really fell for working with clay when I was an older teenager, I even remember the day it happened during an art exam at school in Monmouth. With encouragement from my Art teachers at school, particularly from Glenys Major, I grew in confidence and was completely hooked. At that point I was most interested in making sculpture and art, my idols were people like Babara Hepworth and Louise Bourgeouis, but as time went on I became increasingly interested in making objects that are useful but, because I had sculpture as my beginning, this has never gone away and so it is at the heart of much of my design work.
Tell us a bit about your work
I make porcelain vessels, lighting, domestic ware, limited editions and one-off objects from my studio in East London. I work in my studio full time and have worked with clay for the best part of twenty years. My knowledge and expertise has increasingly focused on working with porcelain which I use to wheel-throw simple forms as well as constructing vessels from wheel-thrown or hand-built elements. For each design that I develop I work on creating a sense of both sophistication (grace and finesse) and elasticity (as if the form is still wet clay and might just move if you touch it). These qualities are partnered with function in order to make objects that could (should) be used. Some objects that I make have more function than others and there's often a small sense of subversion running through them.
What are your inspirations?
For the most part I find clay itself quite inspiring and my creative inspiration has become quite self-referential over the years: new ideas leading on from the old ones. It has become an endlessly obsessive exploration, but when it comes to developing something new I find it helps to have an end goal clearly in mind, one that I can hang one, or some, of the details that make up my aesthetic language. Even a simple goal like what the final object should achieve - the function it should fulfill - and then I can spend time in development, playing with the shape and materials. This always includes clay but recently I have also started bringing in other materials such as Goldleaf for gilding or rope for suspending. I find that considering the ergonomics of use is important - for instance, the way an object like a cup is held, or are there new ways to make it more comfortable to use? These are some of the considerations, and therefore inspirations, to my design process.
Working with a set of parameters like this allows for certain aspects to be ruled in or out quite quickly in the first stages, simply based on whether or not it fulfills its function but the later, finer details have been known to take years...I can be slow or easily distracted by problems that are easier to solve. Having said that, it's not a simple case of "form follows function" more that "form mixes it up with function along with the designer's inherent aesthetic interests that are just non-negotiable"
What is your favourite part of the making process?
There are lots of great moments but, up there alongside the thrill of creating something new, there is that wonderful moment when you open a kiln to see that the glazes and results are looking amazing. That is satisfying.
What are you working on right now?
When I get back into the studio after a break over Christmas I will be working on developing some new lighting designs for Heals, which I will then pitch in the New Year. I will also be producing a body of work for the exhibition 'A Fine Line' at Cambridge Contemporary Art, an exhibition highlighting the use of 'line' in ceramics which will showcase some the best in contemporary studio ceramics made in Britain today, which opens on 11 March 2017.