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One to Watch: May Wild Studio

We speak to Hothouse17 makers Rebecca May and Micheal Wild 

May Wild Studio is the collaborative creative practice of Rebecca May & Michael Wild. Together they create objects that are influenced and inspired by both urban and natural environment, driven by process and ideas.

Rebecca and Michael have been selected for Hothouse, the Crafts Council's Talent Development Programme for emerging makers. Find out more about Hothouse

What got you interested in making?

R: I‘ve had a passion for making, drawing and the creative arts all my life, particularly contemporary art, design and architecture. As a teenager I would scour charity shops and markets, instinctively drawn to 20th century objects and this became a starting point for collecting, learning and further research.  I’m a second careerist; I originally trained and worked as a building surveyor for 13 years.  The shift to more focused making and the start of a new creative career was gradual and began with evening classes. Very quickly it became apparent the creative and making part of my life had to more than an addition to my day job. This led to an Art and Design Foundation course and a 3D Design Degree specialising in ceramics at Manchester School of Art.

M: All of my life I have had a fascination with exploring different properties of materials through the process of handling, sometimes to the detriment of my parents’ treasured ornaments. Examining how objects are made and trying to understand the purpose of what they are made for motivates my constant curiosity of objects and materials. I initially studied Art and Design at Oldham Sixth Form College and specialised in Fine Art Ceramics at Bretton Hall University. This led to further study of 3D Design on an MA course at Manchester School of Art. In my current role as a part-time Lecturer of Fine Art (both in 2D/3D specialisms), I continue to learn about the intrinsic value of making. I really enjoy teaching and communicating my making skills to the next generation of creative practitioners.


What in particular drew you to ceramics?

R: The Art and Design foundation was the main trigger, although at first it wasn’t obvious. I was drawn to a more painterly and sculptural medium, and the 3D and textural element became very prominent in the work I created. I experimented with plaster as a material and this led to clay. Clay then became the ultimate material for me, I felt it had potential to do everything, a blank canvas that fulfilled a desire to explore all my interests from form, texture and colour to concepts covering fine art, sculpture, design and more. This also coincided with the realisation I had built up a ceramic object collection, and I felt the two passions suddenly connected.  

M: I was introduced to clay on my college course and was immediately drawn to its malleable nature, specifically how this versatile medium can be used to translate creative ideas into form. My degree enabled me to further develop my making skills and explore more theoretical and conceptual approaches to working with clay. On my MA course my research investigated the values we place on the presence of the maker in handmade ceramics, and how new methods of making in ceramic production are transforming the work and role of contemporary makers in the field of craft. In our collaborative practice we begin with clay to develop a creative dialogue of ideas and to formulate and realise these ideas into a handmade object.

Where had you shown/sold your work so far?

Both: Before our collaboration we have individually exhibited and sold work at various exhibitions and shows, including British Ceramics Biennial, our pop up ceramics gallery and the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair.  Our collaborative practice May Wild Studio commenced in 2016, we are now in the process of planning exhibitions and the selling of our work for 2017. We have our first design ready for stockists and for sale from July onwards, and are currently developing our next two works, a functional and also a wearable object. Innovative and engaging ways of exhibiting and display of our work by blurring the boundaries between art and design objects is important to our future practice. We also want to develop art- based exhibition pieces that engage with the public, communities and link with the wider community in the field craft and other sectors.

Which project are you most proud of and why?

Both: Birds of Clay and Golden Remains.  When we started May Wild Studio we decided to completely redesign an existing idea, as a collaborative. We started afresh with the original story of the common urban pigeon. This project enabled us to work, communicate and critique as a partnership. We learnt a huge amount during this process. We started with hand sculpting the original bird form and this shared making process took considerable work to perfect in composition and form, constantly critiquing and returning to the narrative of the bird.

The golden remains became a valuable exercise in developing material research and experimental methods of making. Hundreds of models were made using an extensive range of materials.  This element of the design inspired us to open our minds to a new medium other than clay.

This project opened up many new avenues, raising a number of creative challenges along the way.  Working with small batch production and mould makers, we advanced our existing making skills and learnt new skills, our aim to achieve the highest quality outcome and finish. Ultimately the Birds of Clay and Golden Remains has been the foundation for how we would work together successfully as a collaborative and how we approach future work.

May Wild Studio,  Birds of Clay Golden Remains. Photo: Dave Bennet Photography

What do you hope to get from Hothouse?

Both:  Hothouse has already been a great benefit to us and we feel it has come at the right time. We hope to gain valuable experience and support as emerging makers and move our practice forward, learn more about our place in the crafts and design industry and recognise where our practice fits in.  Through the Crafts Council programme and mentor/peer support we hope to further develop our business and networking skills. We hope Hothouse will provide us with an opportunity to realise and focus on our goals and ambitions, with the aim of growing a successful creative practice and achieving longevity as designer makers.

How does your partnership work? Do you split up tasks or is everything collaborative?

Both: An essential element of our partnership is prioritising our creative time together in the studio, specifically at the idea development stage when we commence the process of creating new work. Debate, critique and creative tension can feed our practice in a positive way, recognising we are individuals whose artistic values and aesthetics are similar but our ideas can originate from very different sources of inspiration. We find this duality generates the creative potential to realise more innovative, experimental and accomplished outcomes.

The making aspect and business development side of our practice is divided equally, this facilitates effective production and running of the studio as we also have part time jobs. We find the value of learning from each other’s skills and experience is an integral part of our practice, especially when undertaking new methods of making and material research. A consistent communication and exchange of skills naturally leads on to a successful management of tasks in our practice.

How did the two of you meet and what made you work together? What in each other’s creativity clicked?

We met 16 years ago working part time in an art gallery and clicked immediately through a mutual interest in contemporary art. We have worked individually in various art and design related roles. However it was our first collaborative project in 2012, a pop-up ceramics gallery that we designed, constructed and ran for eighteen months that became the foundation for us working together. We hosted ‘meet your maker’ events, curated two exhibitions that promoted nine North West Ceramic Artists whilst also running the space as a gallery and shop.

This project helped us gain valuable working experience of the contemporary craft industry, including providing a creative platform for local makers to exhibit and inform the public about their work. It also enabled us to realise the potential of collaborating on our own practice. We put together a plan which involved us changing our employment situation, selling up, relocating and creating a new studio. There’s certainly been some risk-taking along the way, but so far it has been a truly life-changing and very exciting next stage of our creative careers.

The much-maligned pigeon is the inspiration behind Birds of Clay; can you tell us more about these objects and why you created them?

An important part of our practice and how we formulate ideas into objects is linked through a narrative. Birds of Clay and Golden Remains are a prime example of using an object to convey a story. We find that in our work common themes are emerging, duality, light and dark, contrasting the unpleasant and the beautiful. We also are very influenced by our environment, the city and the rural, both important to our practice and the ideas we create.

You can see more work from May Wild Studio and follow them at the Crafts Council Directory