AB: He's been one of the key people I think, really, really important. This is not the object I would have chosen of his although it's said lots of things that were current themes for him. It's got very classic Slee things, [a] wonderful sense of colour, it's actually a little bit unstable, too, on this mat, very unserious, very sensual and humourous, beautifully made. There are just other ones that are odder, that I think you can have the humour with a real mysterious form, which I like better. There's a great big pod with a flute coming out of it from a similar time. It's perhaps not quite big enough for me. I like the slightly larger ones.
MP: Why do you think he's important?
AB: Well, he's steeped in a very strong sense of the historic objects; there's a lot of reference, it's a very echoing object. But it's done with kind of satire and reverence mixed. It's affectionate and making some things ridiculous, and ideas like ornaments and the kind of things that humans attach themselves to that they put their memories into. I'm really pleased he's won the Jerwood this year. It's the right choice, although I was competing with him. But I think he's just really sure-footed, he makes them wonderfully well, he's always thinking of something new and witty and provocative to do. It's connected with quite defined ideas about society and politics and things, in a way that's very different from my own approach, and I really enjoy it in him.
MP: He seems to be very popular across a surprisingly wide range of people who are interested in ceramics and were very well respected.
AB: I think that's quite recent though, isn't it? Isn't that quite recent?
MP: I don't know.
AB: Well, I think people interested in ceramics have liked him for a long time, but I think people coming across it freshly have thought, 'Blimey, what's that?' You know I think he hasn't been very popular commercially until recently, really. People haven't known whether the joke's on them, against them or with them. Whether they're actually being ridiculed somehow. [video clip starts] I have also come across people who think that they're slip cast or somehow a very different kind of object, like a cheap kitschy thing, which they're not. They might be looking at ideas about kitsch, but they're certainly not being kitsch in themselves at all, not when you see them in the flesh. There's a terrific amount of skill and knowledge [involved], particularly [in] the way he's glazing things now, building up layer upon layer, and he developed a special clay body that would just take loads of glaze, [so] you could really pile it on. This is before that. He's just got his eye on so many things. He's really engaged, I think. [video clip ends]
MP: Does he have an influence? Do you see students being influenced by his work as a major maker?
AB: Not really. I mean, once or twice. No, he's really been on his own, I think. I think he's quite difficult to imitate. People thought early on that it looked very American, and certainly some of the things he's liked and referred to have been things like the kind of jugs that you were given in the fifties if you bought a fridge. They're just a whole mixture of other influences. I mean, this leg being so crudely squished is very nice, isn't it? And then being bright yellow instead of crusty brown or something.
MP: They're very knowing of ceramic tradition and ...
AB: Very, yes, there's a lot of things coming into them, isn't there? In the kind of use of colour and so on. Yes, and they're not knowing in an exclusive 'I'm cleverer than you' way. They're very affectionate, I think.
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