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Maker in Focus – Jo Davies

Maker in Focus – Jo Davies

Ceramicist Jo Davies is a new member of the Gloucestershire Guild and her work will be part of our New Year, New Members Showcase opening in our shop in Cheltenham on Monday 3 April.

We asked Jo some questions to get a better insight into her practice.

How did you get into ceramics?
I was encouraged at school by an art teacher - Glenys Major - who was also a ceramics specialist. I was lucky enough to have a space in our department that was devoted to ceramics but at that point I was very interested in making sculptural items and would not have thought about being a potter or someone who makes functional things. I think of this now as a 'broad' start, giving me a visual language to draw from later when my interest refined into pottery and functional objects.

What inspires the forms in your work?
Everything. But it's mainly the details of functional objects that inspire me. I use close analysis of details like 'pouring lips' or 'attachment points of handles' to inspire new ideas and give the objects I make a grounding in the familiar while being something brand new.

How do you design your pieces?
On the wheel. Many designers draw their ideas on paper or a computer in order to quickly bring objects into existence, either for themselves or for their clients, but for me it's quicker to make something I am visualising on the wheel. This way I can feel and see a sense of volume and weight and this is an advantage on two dimensional sketches. I will make several iterations of a new design, adjusting elements of the design with each item I make to bring the piece to life and make it just right. Some of these prototypes are fired in order to work out technical issues, or just because I quite like them, but many are recorded through photographs or videos but then the clay is recycled for future use.

What is your favourite process in ceramics?
Throwing on the wheel. This is where items come to life and I get to engage my brain in conjunction with the movement of my body to make a concept become real.

You have just released a book, what is is about?
'Electric Kilns for Ceramics' is a guide to kilns and kiln-firing. My aim with the book was to take the reader through from the very beginning, assuming little to no knowledge in my explanations. My philosophy, particularly when teaching, is that the basics are the building blocks for in depth innovation, if we have this then we can develop our own ways of working that divert from the norm and move our practices forward. Once we have the basics we have the most of what we need. My experience in running a kiln firing service in East London for 10 years also informed the approach I took with the book because, during that time, I would see many of the same misunderstandings coming up again and again amongst ceramicists at the beginning of their journey who were using my service. So many people are now starting in ceramics without formal training, and in contexts where the firing is all done for them, so their knowledge of this side of their work is scant, having been glossed over as a process that happens for them somewhere in the background. My book aims to open up this side of things for people who are setting up studio for the first time as well as those who are early career and need a handy reference book in the studio.

What is your newest make? What do you like about it and why is it special?
One of the latest things I have been making are my Pouring Bowls. I released them for the first time last year and they seem to have been well received. I really enjoyed exploring different approaches to the pouring-lip, which is a very common ceramic component that sits on the rim of many pouring vessels - we barely notice it but, as a ceramicist, getting this right is so important - how well it pours, as well as making it so that it doesn't drip, are vital in its design but, for me, it has become so much more. It's an opportunity for a beautiful, sculptural element on a simple shape and when I speak to people about this body of work they seem to be taken with the surprise and elegance of it, which is all I can ask for as a maker.

What does being part of The Guild mean to you?
I'm very curious about where The Guild will take me! Having moved back to the West after 2 decades away I am keen to be part of this community and want to take part as much as I can. The Guild has a fabulous array of opportunities plus it's an honour to be part of such a respected community of craftspeople.

Do you have any events or workshops coming up? 
I am taking part in Future Icons Selects at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London, 11-14 May. It's part of London Craft Week and the Bargehouse will be hosting this huge exhibition of Craft as part of this city-wide festival.

Alongside my practice I also run a Teaching Studio in East London (splitting my time between Herefordshire and London). I have experienced Assistant Tutors who work with me to deliver classes - all specialising in wheel-throwing. The studio and curriculum is set-up by me, with my tutors mainly teaching beginners while I teach most of the more advanced classes e.g. porcelain throwing or one to one sessions with students wishing to trouble-shoot recurring issues in their throwing. The schedule of Beginners and Taster classes are weekly but the workshops I teach are a little more spread out due to the pressures of the rest of my practice. All forthcoming classes and courses are published on my website.

What is on your wish list from the Guild shop? 
Far too many things!  If I have to narrow it down, I would love to buy an espresso mug by Alistair Young, Fionna Hesketh’s black and white sgraffito enamel brooch and one of Francesca Chalk’s prints.

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