CC: It's rather wobbly, isn't it? Hence the hard surface. [video clip starts] I think it's a great piece of work for all sorts of reasons, for me personally, because I started to study Ceramics in 1987, in Cork in Ireland, and there was only, I think, about eight of us in the course. It was a very, very small, young course and everybody was talking about the New Ceramics and Alison Britton and all these people doing very exciting things with the vessel and the intellectual pot, I suppose. And even though I never really worked with the vessel I was always drawn to the method of making and the construction. You know, this slabbing, the various sides so it's not just four sides or two sides. And I think it's a very curious thing because you can really respond to its ever-shifting planes. And it's always moving. [video clip ends]
I also quite like the idea where the surface and the decoration or the marks made travels onto the rim, and there's an interesting connection between the outside and the inside. And it's also quite liberating as well. It's quite exciting. It's just great to be actually this close to it. And the fact that it is very much a jug, the playing with that focus and spend[ing] probably the rest of your life working with it, which I think she still does. This is quite interesting, this handle, in that it's really quick, and it's considered because it is so quick. It's kind of twisted and put there. It seems the right thing to do.
And I think there's incredible confidence in it as well, which I think Alison Britton's work carries a lot of, her confidence in its making. It's not apologetic, anyway. I just try to think of how she actually makes it. I think she actually works flat and paints, and then constructs with that. And there seems to be that very important starting point in that the process seems very evident and very important in the construction of it. So from the very beginning of rolling a slab and then responding to the flat surface to make an abstract mark, and then what kind of decision she makes to actually construct this particular form, I find quite fascinating really. It's that responding to something quite abstract and intuitive as well. There [are] some lovely little details. In the photographs it seems much duller. There seems a lot more of a quality of surface because you actually do have raised surface here where the slip has been applied and then cut into again. So these planes [are] going on again. It's shifting all over here, [it] moves and then it shifts on the surface and it seems to be very animated. And it's architectural and it's bodily, it's very interesting.
Yes, thinking about that New Ceramics [class in] the middle of the eighties, and I think Hans Coper was their tutor, and the fact that they all came out at the same time and it was a group of five or six women... I thought that was very interesting and very exciting in that they were women. I don't think that I was hugely interested in that they were just women making art work. It's just that they happened to be women as well. But I suppose when I was studying then it was very interesting to see the profiles of women in periodicals and things like that. And even though I wasn't interested so much in the feminist element, I just found it very liberating because I thought, 'I want to be where they are.' They're doing very well, and they're independent, successful women doing their work [and] living in London. But I felt it was something that really bred in the college in that group because there was only really a very few of us on that course as well.
So there was a real opportunity for debate about this new work, this New Ceramics, and I think our tutors were very sympathetic to the argument and talking about it, [and] encouraged that quite a lot. So it did create quite a lot of discussion about the value of these constructed forms. For instance, this one as a vessel and how does it function? How do we read it? Does it matter that it's a vessel? Is it a piece of sculpture? Well, I suppose, I see it as a piece of sculpture. I think it's irrelevant that it is a vessel, even though I think [the] movement of the abstract vessel talks about it being important that it is a container. I mean, just because it has a handle and a spout doesn't really matter. That could also be something buttressing or architectural. And sculpture has insight as well.
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