Do the seasons provide a different rhythm for your ceramics? – an interview with Vivien Phelan

Do the seasons provide a different rhythm for your ceramics?

My whole life is governed by the seasons. I am like a sunflower, I light up and full of energy when the sun shines. My ceramics get more fun loving and I make more for outdoors such as my wall or fence hung animals.

How do you develop your ideas?

I think I have a very strange brain waves, I see something and I somehow make an association with something totally different in my head. From there an idea grows, changes, gets doodled and then gets started in clay. Again this could change many times. The work I do I must enjoy making and I must have fun even if it’s difficult and trying to do.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on what I call ‘My life’ commission. It is a deviation from my ladies on display and is usually requested as a present. Instead of an English saying on the lady’s head the customer requests a personalised piece where the style colour of dress is specified and the persons likes in life such as car, flowers, chicken…etc are depicted.

An example of a ‘My Life’ commission

How do you create your ceramic ladies from start to finish?

Making the ladies is quite a lengthy process. I use the potter’s wheel, and throw three separate pieces of different shapes and size. I enjoy using the wheel. I reshape these pieces, add on and take away some of the clay, when the clay is at the right consistency, then I join the pieces into head, neck & body, add hair, hand paint them and dry totally. Then it’s time for first firing in kiln at 1000 degrees C, when cool apply glazes and re-fire at 1250 degrees C.

What frustrates you/ elates you about your work?

I will start with the elation, it is an absolute thrill to hand over your work to someone who loves it. It is a feeling of pride at seeing your own successfully finished work.

The downers are kneading the clay so there are no air bubbles as air bubbles will blow up your work in the kiln, having to reconstitute your clay when it arrives too hard, the kiln not working properly and not reaching the right temperature, as the work can easily get ruined. It is difficult- and extremely pricey – to get a good engineer and means very anxious times.

Vivien will soon be on BBC One’s “ Home is where the art is” where Nick Knowles challenges artists to create artworks for people they’ve never met. Her work is currently in the window of Skylark Galleries 1 in Gabriel’s Wharf. Enquiries via info@skylarkgalleries.com welcome.

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