This month we were due to open the City Lit Ceramics Show in the City Lit Gallery, we caught up student Ceramicist Josie Lennox from the course to hear about the final project she was going to display in the exhibition and how she's adjusting to life during the Covid-19 outbreak. You can find more images of Josie's work on Instagram@lennoxjosie.
What inspired you to do a ceramics course at City Lit?
Having studied Textiles and Printmaking at Art school I am intrigued by different materials, (E.g. wood, paper, plastics, fabric), and what you can do with them - how you can manipulate them, and make them into art pieces. It has never mattered to me if the artwork is functional or not, it is the process that I am interested in.
It's true to say, I love clay. In my second year at Art School I did a module using clay. It offered me a challenge that other materials did not. It had a memory - it could chose to change shape in the kiln, so that the form you put in could be completely different from what came out. It had a mind of its own which at times could be soul destroying but, at other times, inspiring. I recall my tutor using the phrase “Happy accident” many times during that module to jolly me along. The colouring and glazing processes were like a whole new science that I found interesting and needed to explore more. It was the first material that I didn’t have full control over. It broke my heart when it didn’t do as I wanted and delighted me when it did...rather like teenage children....(I have four). I saw that City Lit did courses in Ceramics and I felt the time was right to re-connect with clay. I wanted to see if we (clay and I) could develop that relationship of frustration, and at the same time, inspiration and delight that we started all those years ago. Luckily we did. I thoroughly enjoyed the City Lit ceramics course. I learned so much and now have a passion for clay that I want to take forward into my art practice.
Your end of year show, City Lit Ceramics, was due to open in the City Lit Gallery this month, can you tell us about the work you had intended to display and what inspired the project?
I made three large coil pots, that were almost A2 in size - at least they were before going in the kiln! I haven’t seen them since, due to Covid19 and college shutting. They were to give me three large canvases on which to paint. Around the time that I was planning for the show, a renowned local potter, who we had known for a number of years became ill, and sadly passed away. He was a lovely man and a true artist and it felt right to gain inspiration from his work. I went to Reading museum where he has a permanent collection, and sat and drew the shapes of his pots. They were really large vessels that had been hand thrown in sections and joined together. I knew my throwing skills were not up to the challenge of recreating such wonders.... and the kilns at City lit would not be up for the challenge either! So, I opted to coil three pots from the drawings I made. I could thus get the scale I needed, and gave my work an essence of Alan, in coil rather than thrown work. He had a distinctive style in how he decorated his pots, and at first I considered creating a similar look. However, this didn’t feel right as it did not represent me and I did not want to create a pastiche. Two of the pots I painted with slips. Colour is important to me, but on looking at Alan’s work, which was uncluttered and with few colours, I chose to follow suit, creating my own patterns using organic shapes, which I hand painted. As for the third pot, I was planning to glaze it with a tin white glaze and paint on top of this with oxides. I often like to work in the moment, painting freely without a planned approach. This can give a freedom to my work allowing me to not worry about getting the artwork right. When working like this there can be a moment when its just you and the pot-working together. There are no right or wrong brush strokes.... your mood takes you where it wants to go and when in full flow, working in this way is like a symphony in full harmony.... (or it is to me, my mind is free of worry). I never got around to painting this pot, he is waiting for me at City Lit when I return.
What adjustments have you made to your daily routine and your ceramics practice at home during our new situation during the outbreak?
In the beginning it just felt like I was on a holiday from college. My house is pretty much cluttered full of my art work and equipment.... with paints, printing press, screen printing frames and plan chests spilling out of most rooms... (much to the irritation of my husband, children and dog!). Despite my desire to hog the kitchen table... and dining room..ok, and hallway... and bedroom with my artwork, I am lucky enough to have a basement at home with space to which I can work from. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak I had been thinking about setting up a pottery studio in my basement, but as I was still going into college - plus feeling timid about getting the right equipment, I kept pushing the idea to the back of my mind. This has now changed. I have been pro-active- gone for it- nervous that I am entering new territory, but at the same time excited-happy to bumble along and make mistakes along the way. You cannot avoid mistakes. I now have a potters wheel, several bags of clay, a battered old plan chest, and an old kitchen table set up in my basement. As I type this my husband Jim is scratching his head and musing over some flatpack shelving that arrived yesterday..... He is very supportive over what I do and that gives me some comfort. It will be good when college re-opens to have my home studio space working alongside my learning at college. I will be able to consolidate work better, and play on new ideas without any time constraints. Until then, I will see what I can manage on my own.
Can you tell us how the outbreak changed the way you think about your work, your ideas or what you would like to create in the future?
I feel that it will inevitably change the way I think, and the work I go on to produce. Nothing like this has ever happened in my lifetime and it’s impact on the world cannot help but affect you.
Creating art has never been about commercial gain for me. Even when I was an MA student at The Royal College of Art and repeatedly being told my work had commercial appeal. I just never had the hunger for it. I did though have the hunger to produce the art itself. It was important to who I was as a person. It completed me. Creativity makes me happy. I feel blessed to have found a way to express myself. I have met lovely people and gained good friends through art, including more recently my fellow ceramic students and staff at City Lit. I am lucky enough to be a mother and homemaker and more than ever during these Covid -19 times it resonates within me just how important all these things are. The simplicity of life can be beautiful, and I want this to come across in my work. It is challenging, but Just hearing the clapping for the NHS and key workers on Thursday evenings fills me with such emotion. Its these feelings I want to take forward.
What are your plans for the future? Your course, your ceramics and anything else you would like to share?
I would like to continue to do ceramic courses at City Lit to further my knowledge and gain more confidence with clay. My aim would be to do the City Lit Ceramic Diploma. Overall I would like to combine all my artistic skills together and bridge the gap between Fine Art and Ceramics. I see my development with ceramics as being another form of my artistic language. I shall continue to work from home more... alongside the courses I do. By doing this, my hope is to consolidate my work and bring a ceramic practice into my everyday life-hence it becomes me.... what I do. I would like to exhibit with other artists and hopefully create pieces that can be enjoyed and maybe provoke emotion within people who see them.
You can follow Josie and her work on Instagram @lennoxjosie