Monday, 21 April 2008

MAKER OF THE WEEK - Carys Davies

Carys Davies - 079 3376 1645 -

I make bowls, vases and beakers, thrown on the wheel in porcelain. They are smooth and white inside, but organic on the outside – rough with volcanic glazes, and sometimes sitting on flotsam as though washed up on the tide. I like very simple shapes, but ones that show the marks of their making – so oval from lifting them while wet, or curved in from the heat of the firing.

Recently I have started to re-fire pieces together: they look like cargoes of pots found at the bottom of the sea, worked on by sea and sand until they have become something half-organic, half-made.

Money spent on coffee is never wasted.
I know it's a vice but hey, you can't give up everything. My particular favourite for everyday is Lavazza Red label. I often think private views would do better to have wonderful coffee and chocolate rather than alcohol (or maybe as well as... )

What place in the world has inspired you
I love water: the sea, the beach, rivers. I recently noticed that all but one picture in my flat includes the sea or a lake (the other's an aquatint of a fish). I particularly love beaches with rockpools – especially as the tide comes in and the whole landscape changes.

Manorbier beach especially inspired me, with its green and red rocks and fantastic flotsam. The ebb and flow, the rhythms and repetitions, and the way the essential landscape remains throughout, I find strangely like life, and strangely comforting.

Being on the beach is about touch, smell and sound too: and I like my bowls to be picked up, and to make that scraping noise like walking on the beach. I haven't managed to reproduce the smell yet, though.

I was brought up in Wales, by the sea, and when I'm online I like to sneak a look through webcams
Snowdon − and see what the weather's like. It's really great when it snows.

What was the last art/craft/design thing you purchased? and what one product/item do you really covet? (and why?)
I've been on an economy drive recently, but managed to get a fantastic mask from my friend Claire Palfreyman through swapping some of my work for hers.

I really want a mask with gold antlers –I'm on the waiting list – I've always loved stories about Herne the Hunter leading the Wild Hunt, where the wildness of nature somehow spills over into our civilised world for a night or two.

I went to the Collect Craft fair at the V&A in 2007 and fell in love with the 'forever rings' of Bettina Dittlmann and Michael Jenk. They looked rough, but the second you put them on they just felt wonderful, as though made for your own particular hand, and with a fantastic solidity and weight. I can still remember the feeling... and one day I will have one (or even two..) It made me realise how powerful good jewelery is – I felt I could conquer the world while I was wearing it (I so shouldhave bought it...)

When and where did you first want to do what you do?
I was an engineer first. I loved the idea of design, of making things that really worked, that were surprising and ground breaking, and that were serious. And I suppose art wasn’t considered to be anything like that at my school, then.

Later I worked on designing organisations – designing conceptual structures, although very concretely grounded in how people feel at work, and about work. But this was in the new, virtual working world of conference calls and on-line communities, and I started to really miss ‘stuff’: real places, real people, fresh air.

So I decided to do what I do on 4th Feb 2004, in a basement office of a computer company on the SouthBank. I left my job and went back to college to study Ceramics.

Surprising hobby?
I love working in the countryside, conserving it through coppicing, hedgelaying, dry-stone walling, or stone-pitching (making stone paths). Winter working, with the sun slanting through the woods, the kettle on the fire, and a nice sharp axe in your hand, is just fantastic.

Unfortunately it means that when people show me their holiday photos - especially if they are walkers – I tend to think (if not say) - “Ooh, you shouldn't be walking there, look at that terrible path erosion, you should be mending that path not walking on it”. Which doesn't go down very well.

I also like the down-to-earth attitude people who work like this have. The sculptor Andy Goldsworthy has made it into the official dry-stone walling handbook but you would think he was a stone-waller, not a sculptor. Which is probably a compliment!

Do you think art and craft has any real importance?
Although I had really interesting jobs in engineering and in business, I definitely missed something: that’s what made me change. So it has a real importance to me.

And going to see art wasn’t what I wanted; it was to be making things – objects – that reminded me I was a “feeling” person – feeling emotion, feeling with my fingers, being able to engage with something – an object, as well as an idea – outside myself in the real world. And through those objects, connecting with other people too.

So, speaking very pragmatically, I think there is something in art and craft that we need in our lives, at a fundamental level. But I've always been a bit put off by 'high culture' – by the imposing doors of the museum or the 'white cube'. So although we need art and craft, I'm not sure we need the art and craft 'establishments', as they are today.

Can anything be ‘art’?
What I choose to think of as art says more about me than about 'art', I think. The definition of 'art' is a cultural construct, depending on the needs of people, their communities and their rulers (“We need to show those Commies that freedom is what they need – find me some Pollocks to take on tour”). It's very interesting, but not absolute; and you have to be very aware of what people are using the idea of 'art' (or 'craft') for.

But on the other hand, I went to the Peter Doig exhibition at Tate Britain recently.

It was really fantastic: his pictures are not like anything I’ve seen before, but seemed to me as accomplished and wonderful as any famous artist’s. While being modern, they also seemed to me to be ‘classics’: pictures you could imagine people looking at in 100 or 500 years’ time.

So I think although maybe anything can be ‘art’, some of it just won’t be remembered for very long, unlike Doig.

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