Wednesday 11 June 2008

MAKER OF THE WEEK - Claire Palfreyman


Using clay and occasionally found objects I create one-off ceramic and mixed media figures that I build using coils or sculpt from solid clay. My practice focuses on things and beings in transition – that are neither one thing nor another but that vulnerable state between.

Money spent on someone else’s junk is never wasted -
I find it difficult to pass a junk shop without going in and sometimes there will be something I just have to have, eg, vintage Ercol chairs or vintage plaster deer plaques…

Favourite living artist?
Frank Auerbach – particularly his paintings. I love the quality of the paint, the colour, the depth and the complete sense of being in his works that are about so much more than the mere representations they depict. The melancholy leaps off the canvas.

Favourite historical artist?
Hard choosing one but Rodin for his ability to work in both small and large scale on figures that still drawer the viewer in, constantly forcing the viewer to reassess their perceptions of the work. The style of some of his pieces is still fresh today.

When and where did you first want to do what you do?
I always made stuff as a kid – being brought up in the Scottish countryside there wasn’t always much else to do – but I hated art at secondary school as I couldn’t see why we had to draw perfect renditions of shells and those terrible still life set-ups; I felt that way of teaching art stifled creativity. So I never did a qualification in art and hadn’t ever touched clay until a few years ago.

What was the last art/craft/design thing you purchased?
I have a thing about chairs and have recently bought two original Ercol dining chairs very cheaply at two local junk shops. One has these fantastic rods that form the back and continue down below the seat. It sits in our bedroom and is the first thing I see when I turn the corner from the stair: I love it. Oh, and yesterday I was in Lewes and spent £3 on a fantastic twee vintage painted plaster wall plaque of a mother and baby deer. Still deciding where to hang it for maximum effect!

What do you have on your pinboard?
On my studio wall I have a double-page photo from a newspaper showing the England football team after they were kicked out of the World Cup in 2006 – not because I’m Scottish but because the group dynamic of the picture is fantastic – these men who worked closely together yet each faced their defeat alone. Also a flyer asking for clothing donations with a group of kids on a wall on it and a photo of my son Sam when he was about 11 dressed as a vampire version of Britney for Hallowe’en, plus another great press image of Iraqi men having a meeting on the street surrounded by bombed out buildings, and another of the world leaders at a summit – all standing in near identical poses, plus a postcard of Henry VIII – can’t remember the artist!

Where and what is your studio?
I work in a shared studio on the top floor at the Kingsgate Workshops in West Hampstead. It’s nowhere near where I live so not particularly handy for nipping back to when I’ve got work to finish, but it’s a good place to be. There are around 50 artists/makers in the building. After finishing at uni only last year where there were 12 of us per room I appreciate the ‘mental’ space I have in my studio as I’m usually working there alone. I also love the fact that the building is rather old and not very sound-proof and as people arrive throughout the day the ‘hellos’ sound along the corridors through the gaps in the walls. Radio 4 starts off the day, but I often switch it off halfway through the morning when those irritating ‘comedies’ come on…

Do you have a good work/life balance? Are you able to switch off from art work?
Is any artist/maker? There’s always something demanding one’s attention and never enough time to do them all. My art work is always in my mind, as I hope it always will be. Things constantly inspire me, but I find that most ideas come into my head as I’m trying to sleep – probably the time I get to think clearly.
I had a rare weekend away to Paris without kids this weekend and found it very inspiring – particularly the new Quai de Branly museum with its fascinating collection of early art focusing on non-eurocentric work. Great architecture, great collection, great display… oh, and great café almost under the Eiffel Tower.

What one word would describe your feeling of doing your work?

Would you rather be doing something else?
No! I’ve done a variety of ‘proper jobs’; from a background in marketing smoked salmon to French supermarkets I retrained as a journalist where I worked for free at Elle Decoration when Ilse Crawford was Editor, to being a freelance writer and eventually ending up at the BBC editing websites… I see now that each job was slightly more creative that the previous one but each one also became more stressful as they went on. I may never have ended up doing what I am doing if I hadn’t been forced out of work through ill health and took up an evening class in pottery as something to do. With a nudge in the right direction from my husband and friends two years later I was on a Ceramics degree course and here I am, one year out of uni and finding there aren’t enough hours in the day to make what I have in my head.


aline daka said...

Estranho demais, muito bom.

alison said...

love your work, these little creatures have real feeling to me. (so often they dont)definate personalities, the top one looks a little sad. you can feel the interaction of the group one, excellent job!