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Ceramics come out to play Katherine Kingdon tells Trish lee how her pots take on characters of their own

Katherine Kingdon - Ceramics

Katherine moved to Newbury with her family at the end of 2015 and within a year had transferred her Reading-based studio to her back garden.

This gave her a much better ability to balance her making with the demands of a young family. She even had some part-time work in the art department at St Bart’s School, took part in her first Open Studios WBNH in 2018, had a few local shows and became involved with the wonderful creative community that is City Arts, Newbury.

Katherine Kingdon at work

Over the last year things had started to ramp up for Katherine. "I was accepted for Oxford Ceramics Fair, a piece of my work won a prize in the Black Swan Arts Open and New Brewery Arts, Cirencester asked me to put work in their gallery shop," she says. "This year I was due to open my studio as part of Open Studios West Berkshire North Hampshire and to take part in several related events. I had also been accepted to take part in Celebrating Ceramics at Waterperry Gardens, Earth and Fire International Ceramics Fair and New Ashgate Gallery’s Summer Contemporary Craft Collection."

Lockdown has of course scuppered all these plans. But has led to other opportunities. She now has work in Newbury Art Collective’s online gallery and shop, in Arlington Arts online show ‘Out of plaCe’ and she says she has "finally put some work up on Etsy".

Battle of the Trombones 20.5cm x 13cm

"I had little experience of ceramics when I decided to take a degree in 3D design (ceramics and glass) at Leicester Polytechnic," she explains. "My Art Foundation teachers advised me to take textiles. I was good at drawing and have an eye for colour, but I couldn’t see myself fitting into the courses I looked at. I enjoyed making things and thought ceramics would be good medium to understand. Many years later, including lots of art teaching and a few years running the Ceramics department at The Henley College, I now know how little I understand.

"During my degree I spent time studying figurative work and surface decoration from a wide range of cultures and became interested in the work of sculptors and makers such as Henry Moore, Karel Appel and Mo Jupp.

"I have also, over the years, found myself drawn to prehistoric sculpture. For me there’s something magical about a Neolithic figurine. I love the simplicity of form and the lost meaning. The desire to make and draw the human form also intrigues me, it seems innately human.

"My current ceramic work is hand built and developed from lots of drawing and the kind of drawing games I use to teach creativity. The forms are mainly based on things I’ve seen. For the vessels I loosely draw and redraw until I find a shape that I like. I then aim for this kind of looseness as I build the form.

"The surface decoration is a kind of game. I attach thin patches of clay in roughly human proportions and then look at them until I begin to see them as characters in my mind’s eye. I develop these using a range of fine modelling tools and add other surface decoration to suggest the idea of narrative. I prefer to leave some ambiguity as it’s in these gaps that poetry seems to lie."

Identify 10.5cm x 10.5 cm

Katherine also makes groups of figures which she creates using similarly playful techniques. An un-commissioned piece starts as a group of legs and the characters evolve as she makes. A commissioned piece such as a family group, takes more planning, she explains. The buyer usually sends her photos and ideas and she then sends them a sketch or two before she begins.

All of her work is fired to about 1250C, with colour added using slips, underglaze and glaze. Katherine says that if she didn’t work with clay she would like to work with found materials.

"I’ve always admired the way some people can take something as simple as a bicycle seat and transform it into something else," she says. "My first job after leaving polytechnic was making recycled clothes and furniture for a Scrap Scrap, an ‘upcycling’ company based in Ironbridge and I think some of that ethos of ‘fitting things together’ and ‘being creative with what you have’ is still evident in the things that I make."

You can find out more about Katherine's work on her website.

Clarinet Solo 24cm x 8cm
Geometry 9cm x 10 cm
Ladybird 11cm x 7cm
Little calm box 8cm x 5.5cm
Neither here nor properly there 24cm x 13cm
Place somewhere quiet 17cm x 9.5cm

You can also find her on social media and Etsy and the links to each of her accounts are below.