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  • Ladder to Brexit Cloud Island, Tessa Eastman. Photo: Sylvain Deleu

Directory Maker of the Week: Tessa Eastman

Tessa Eastman Ceramics has won Craft Emergency showing at Aspex Gallery until 22 Jan 2017

Our Directory Maker of the Week, Tessa Eastman 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?

Like many makers I come across, I started making as it helped me get through a difficult period whilst at school. As a child, I felt my mother and sister were skilled at drawing and painting and I was no good at anything. I had nothing I felt I could claim as my own and decided instead of learning art to try ceramics (aided by a friend called Tamara whose mother had lived in the US and had worked in clay). Tamara’s mum had amazing American ceramics books which intrigued me greatly. I was instantly grabbed by clay and taken into a world where I could challenge myself whilst learning complex hand building techniques.

Both my mother and my ceramics teacher were extremely encouraging and supported my exploration and development. I was given a key to the pottery studio so I could go in on weekends which would not be allowed today.

Tell us a bit about your work

I have developed a fresh new body of work which grew from my master’s degree at the Royal College of Art in 2015. Pieces explore the strangeness of growth seen in natural phenomena where systems flow, but then digress, from an intended pattern.

This disruptive dynamism formed when repetitive growth patterns in living systems mutate recalls human emotions and life cycles, where not all makes sense. Pieces have to appear curiously alive with movement as this transports me away from the mundane and helps make sense of as well as appreciate impermanence.

What are your inspirations?

The often-overlooked details of bone, cloud, crystal and microscopic structures are observed as a starting point to developing inquisitive pieces which portray tension between forms. I aim to fix ungraspable states such as fleeting clouds, which represent both the ideal and the perishable, doom and fantasy. I look for contrasts such as soft and hard, order and chaos, geometry and irregularity as it is through disparity that there is presence.

Voluminous cloud shapes exploring the theme of space pushing out are juxtaposed with opposing harsh mesh structures that reveal the internal. Grouping works highlights this contrast and creates a dialogue between pieces where negative space is valued as much as positive space, and pieces start to take on a personality of their own.

Colour is inspiring to me and it can help create distinction between form and shape. Matt and shiny, coarse and smooth and hot and cool coloured glazes are used to offer depth of character to a work. Much time is invested in glaze research and testing.

What is your favourite part of the making process?

This is a difficult question to answer as I see the whole creative procedure as part of the making process and each stage has to be challenging to engage and spur me on. It really depends on what mood I’m in. For example, if I’m tired I will find it hard to create a new piece or mix complex glaze recipes and prefer instead to brush glaze on a work as this process uses less brain power.

The beginnings of a piece can offer me possibility and hope, and at the same time, there is the risk of failure. Without these two offerings, I would not receive the thrill that making provides. Therefore ultimately, my favourite part has to be hand-building in clay, as the buzz is at its greatest. It is also strong with glazing but I have less control when the kiln is at work so the thrill is lessened.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a piece for Craft Emergency 2016 at Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth, alongside a commission for a collector in Los Angeles. Craft Emergency is a biennial exhibition featuring recent work in diverse media by eleven makers. 

View Tessa Eastman Ceramics' Directory profile

Visit Craft Emergency at Aspex Gallery from 25 November 2016 - 22 January 2017

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