At Number 6 in this weeks New Designers Top Ten is Peter Willis. I was drawn to the colours and textures of Peters ceramic work – like beautiful relics found at the bottom of the ocean. He was a delight to meet as well, clearly alive and excited by his new creative adventure. It’s always great to see young graduates emerge into the creative world but to see a mature student, someone who has had the courage to follow a latent passion is hugely inspiring.
6 – Peter Willis, BA (Hons) Harrow Ceramics, University of Westminster
The work: My work started as an expression of concern for the masses of our fellow men who labour in distressing conditions throughout time and space in order that people like you and I can have a happy, prosperous and secure life. We tend not to be hugely concerned about this, or not sufficiently so to do much about it. These pots are the result of my conscience stirring.
Not obvious? Well, it’s my conscience, not yours that needs this outlet and I am very happy that it can escape in a form that I should love you to find beautiful. They derive from and embody conflict and here’s another one!
The practice: I had collected contemporary ceramics for years and after retiring from my life as a GP I decided to try making. Enquiring about an evening class I found myself enrolled for a BTEC at City & Islington College where the inspiring guidance of Daphne Carnegie got me hooked. After four years there the only way to progress was to University. “Accelerated half time” at Harrow and a succession of superb teachers working against great obstacles in a condemned department led me to this very last graduating class and my new life as a fledged potter. It has been a wonderful and rejuvenating experience.
The process: I like throwing; the speed of the making, the very powerful, hands on process leaving clear evidence of what’s in your mind at the moment and the physical struggle to achieve it. Many of the pots are large and some of the clays grogged and rough on the hands. The wedging, centering and pulling are really hard work. The oxide inclusions stain my hands. All this complements or even embodies some of the struggle that has been an important philosophical foundation for my work, developing over the past nine years.
I use mixed – but not very mixed – clay bodies, sometimes just what I turn out of the reject bucket beside the Shimpo wheel that I can stand over while working. The tall pots are thrown in more than one section, subsequently assembled and turned (to reveal the mixed clays or agate effect) and so that I can graduate the clay body from very rough and dark at the bottom to lighter towards the top.
Technically this shouldn’t work but the kiln has been a kind friend to me and I eagerly wait to see what else it has contributed to my plans, especially so in the glaze firing. I make all my own glazes and shamelessly aim at highly coloured and textured, dramatic surfaces. The pots are fired to 1260°C, a compromise for my wildly different clay bodies. Apart from the wheel I need little equipment. Turning tools, calipers, a wire – above all my hands.
What’s next: The next step – a rest! Mental, but above all physical. And to visit neglected friends in other parts of the world. But finding that people like my work enough to buy it has had a big impact on my plans. I love making the bottles (the form derived from the bottle kilns now becoming extinct) but I was anxious about off- loading even more on kindly family and friends, having little space left in my own house and garden! Now I find that there is another outlet and I feel a happy obligation to get back to work in the autumn for all the people who have shown that they appreciate my work.
At number 5 is surface designer Alice Skipp. With a great talent for combining colours and layers Alice creates gorgeous images for print. I’d quite happily dec my kitchen out in Alices range of fabrics, papers, ceramics and accessories. Yummy stuff.
5 – Alice Skipp, BA Hons in Surface Pattern Design, Textiles for Interiors, Swansea Metropolitan University
The work: Mostly my work is influenced by personal narrative. My recent collection is a celebration of home and draws inspiration from familiar patterns and objects, in particular my families collection of retro ceramics.
The process: As a surface designer and printmaker my practice combines my passion for working with colour, composition and pattern. All of my designs are created through the layering of hand drawn, photographic, screen printed and paper cut imagery. These drawings and prints are then collaged digitally and applied to ceramic and textile, gifts, lifestyle and interior accessories.
What next: Now home after an exciting week at New Designers 2012, I can’t wait to get back to the studio and start playing around with ideas for a new collection of prints. I also hope to start selling my products online and I am very much looking forward to working with the wonderful people I met whilst at new designers!