I’m always on the lookout for ‘small joys’ – that’s where ideas hide. Seeing a blackbird intently pecking at the ground recalls the motion of an old sewing machine and sets my mind to thinking, how could these two images be combined to create a narrative?
As a child I valued ‘treasures’ that could travel with me in a pocket or cigar box – seed pods and sea shells, marbles and pipe-cleaner people. It’s no surprise that the felt and ceramic pieces I make today are often small enough to pick up and hold in the hand.
I studied at Camberwell School of Art in London in the 80’s, gaining a degree in Ceramics. The technique I developed there of sculpting paper-thin layers of porcelain over wire frames has recently – and surprisingly – transferred well into needle-felting. The process of creating a bird out of a wilful bundle of wool or deadweight of clay seems to me fascinating and absurd in equal measure.
My paintings – often portraits, always watercolour – also take shape in a similarly sculptural way, using patches of translucent colour to build shadow and form. It’s the one medium I use where I purely interpret what I see, and set imagination aside. My collagraph prints, however, are another matter; I like to take a step away from what is actually there, and imagine what might be.
Whatever the medium and however incongruous the image, of utmost importance to me is that the essence of the subject is realised, whether it’s a bird or an accordion-playing bear. I like to capture the moment of stillness between movements, the moment when something extraordinary might happen.