Saturday, 27 October 2007

MAKERS OF THE WEEK - Christiane Kersten and Alison Milner

Christiane Kersten and Alison Milner

Slip cast ceramics in various pastel colours, functional simple shapes with printed photographic transfer decoration by Alison Milner.

1 Money spent on… good food… i s never wasted.
It makes total sense to me to invest in good food, by that I mean mostly local, organic, home cooked and tasty food. It’s not just for my own obvious pleasure, enjoyment and health but also the bigger picture of how food is produced, where it comes from and how this affects the people, animals and the land it comes from.(CK)

Money spent on .materials and the right computer software......... is never wasted(AM)

2 Favourite living craft maker
I really love the ceramic installations by Gwyn Hanssen Pigott. Her bottles, cups, bowls and beakers are arranged in groups like a still life and she chooses very pale, subtle and similar colours. To me they emphasise something of the essence of ceramic aesthetics. They point out the subtleties of shape, profile, contour and volume. Her glazes are either matt or shiny, playing with the qualities of light, which is either reflected or models the shapes with shadows.(CK)

unto this last’- computer generated furniture. I heard Olivier Geoffroy speak at the V and A and I like the way he sees his computer software as a tool of his trade , plus his ideas on local production and last but not least the look of his furniture. (AM)

3 Favourite historical artist
Constantin Brancusi, especially his later work – again for his beautiful forms, and for being able to represent the essence of things. But also for daring to think big, for believing in himself and for working hard. (CK)
Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1699-, for his exquisite compositions and combinations of people and objects. (AM)

4 Favourite historical maker
Charles and Ray Eames (are they historical enough?) I love the way they cross disciplines (films, furniture, exhibitions…)plus their economy of means their forward looking approach and their curiosity and love of life (and each other!) (AM)

5 When and where did you first want to do what you do?
At school, having to choose a local craft business for a four week work experience.
I started liking the idea of rows and rows of thrown pots and suddenly noticed all kinds of ceramics everywhere around me. I was about thirteen and decided to learn to throw on the wheel.(CK)

I decided to do 3D design specifically after seeing an exhibition at the Crafts Council called “The Makers Eye” that included selections of objects chosen by Alison Brittain and David Pye among others.I was 23 at the time and doing a foundation course at Central school of Art. (AM)

6 Do you work best on your own or in collaboration ?
I enjoy my own company when I am working alone, getting stuck in and absorbed in what I am doing. I thought for a while this is best for me. But working with Alison for nearly three years now has been a pleasure and hugely rewarding. I am still making the pots but every other aspect of the work is shared, discussed and supported by Alison.
This has actually helped to move forward at a time when I had a baby and worried that I would have to slow down. It has opened up new areas of work like the recent commission from Royal Doulton, for which we are designing six large Flambé pieces. Alison has a very good eye for things, an intuitive and spontaneous way of working and she believes in the success of a project. Her positive attitude is contagious and inspiring. I believe working on your own is important but not all of the time.(CK)

I do seem to work well in collaboration, I have a lot of ideas and don’t always have the skills to carry them out, Christiane is very good at being realistic….
It makes sense to combine skills rather than doing everything yourself.(AM)

7 What was the last art/craft/design thing you purchased?
Whilst I was in Japan I was given a few pieces of ceramics by potters and gallery owners we visited. I have admired and treasured these pots ever since and they remind me of the incredible time I had during my three months exchange visit to Nagoya University, of the generosity and kindness of the people I have met and the rich and varied culture of ceramics I was able to see and experience.(CK)

A bought a fruit bowl by Gordon Murdoch with a crystalline glaze and a green jug by Arwyn Jones. I like functional pieces that I can enjoy using every day. Years ago I made some door handles with crafts people in India. I liked the idea of people touching them every day and coming to take them for granted, (My favorite scene in the film “Amelie” is when she takes revenge by changing a door knob). I would love to own a painting by Fiona Rae.(AM)

8 At age 15 who influenced your style? Was there any individual who very much helped you on your way?
After my work experience I carried on throwing pots for the couple who ran the pottery during my school holidays. They eventually supported me during a one-year raku project, helped me build my own kiln and generally integrated me into their life. For a time it was great - very different from home – a happy hippy kind of life style with good food, good music, good people and good work (and little money). I also very much respected the way the couple shared their time equally between family commitments of two small kids and work.(CK)

At 15 no style at all, I just liked sitting up trees or on rocks and daydreaming (AM)

9 Last best read ?
‘A Clockwork Orange’ for its crazy, clever and unique use of language and for being shocking, funny and so surprisingly different from anything else I have ever read.(CK)

I am just reading “The God Delusion “ by Richard Dawkins…So much sense and fascination.(AM)

10 How much do you bend your 'vision' to suit the marketplace?
I do to a certain extent in order to make a living. This makes my work more repetitive and less creative than I would like it to be. But I don’t make and sell anything I don’t actually like.(CK)

The work I do with Christiane is a combination of what we want and what the market wants we definitely get a buzz from getting that right and are always aware that we have to be continually evolving it; to keep up our own enthusiasm as much as anything else.(AM)

11 Who would you say buys your work?
Predominately females of all ages, including kids sometimes. (CK)
Because a lot of the images are natural objects it seems to appeal across a very broad range of people, old ladies in flowery frocks and indie art students.

I identify most with the buyers we get at the Mid Century Modern Shows, people who like slightly worn modernist design and not shiny new things, thing that you can keep for a long time.(AM)

12 Where and what is your studio?
A small bedroom upstairs with a view over the South Downs and a tiny room downstairs big enough for my kiln.
Working from home is just right at the moment, everything I need to do is in one place, I can look after our little daughter during the day, do whatever needs doing at home, answer the phone and use the internet, pack orders, take orders etc…but most of the work is done in the evening after Lina has gone to bed.
I do really like listening to music in the evening (Marc Lamarr’s ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ is my all time favourite!). Sometimes I feel the need to stimulate my brain, listen to something interesting and catch up with what’s going on outside my four walls with Radio 4. (CK)

I work all over the house, including Steve and my bedroom, we have computers in 5 rooms of the house (there are 4 of us in the family) but we have had no TV since 1991. We have a large room overlooking the sea called “the Studio” which is kept empty (no computers) and can be converted into a photographic studio, a work shop, a sweat shop, a spare bedroom or whatever as the need arises. In the summer Steve and I take our tea breaks on the sea wall.(AM)

13 What is your favourite website ?
I came across this website not so long ago and thought it was just very nice. (CK)

Wikipedia- everything is there and it has a great ethos and is exactly what the web should be. (AM

14 Surprising activity/hobby?
Cold sea water fish tank, with anemones, prawns,shannies,crabs etc collected on the beach.(AM)

15 Do you have a good work/life balance?
That’s an area I could definitely improve on. Working from home has the well-known downside of never being away from work. I do struggle to get all the work done in the little time that remains after a day with my daughter. Lots of things I fancy doing for myself or as a couple are put on hold for the time being. There does not seem to be a simple solution and it does become an issue now and again.(CK)

Children help, mine are teenagers now, which is great, small children are a lot more time consuming.(AM)

16 Do you think art and craft has any real importance?
Of course it has, for everybody that has an understanding and appreciation for it.(CK)

Yes contemplation: it helps people to slow down and look and think.(AM)

17 Are their other (unusual) fields that you'd like to apply some facet of your work into?
Design work is a relatively new thing for me and I am keen to pursue it. I have been relatively single-minded on hand made ceramics for so long. I am teaching myself to use a modelling programme at the moment and this is opening up new was of working that are exciting and relevant to the kind of work I am aiming to do in the future. I am keen to integrate new technologies into the way I work and can’t wait to see some of our current designs for industry in the flesh. (ck)

18 Guilty secret?
I sometimes think that if I had more money I might be less eco friendly, it’s easier to be poor and good.(AM)

19 If you could exhibit in any gallery which would it be?
Gallery Besson in London is a small, beautiful place. Alison pointed out that I would have 16 years to develop my work to reach the average age of the people exhibiting there. (CK)

This is pure fantasy I’d love to curate an exhibition at,the Serpentine, it’s self contained and has layers of memories for me. I worked at St Marys hospital as a student nurse at one side of the park and went to the Royal College at the other side. When I was 7 months pregnant I took part in a performance piece there doing yoga on the floor with lots of other pregnant women.
As I walk towards the gallery across the park I remember some of the past highlights, Anthony Caro, Alison Wilding, Bridget Riley, Gillian Wearing.(AM)

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