Henrietta MacPhee

Ceramics Diploma | City Lit

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1. Tell us about yourself, your work, and your career path so far.

My degree was in Classical Studies at Kings College in London, followed by an Art Foundation at Camberwell and the Ceramic Diploma course at City Lit. All I have learnt so far informs and continues to feed into the kind of work I make. I model in terracotta and paint onto clay with coloured slips and glazes to create a language that blends the visual and tangible. I work to form narratives of entertaining illusions and a sense of mystery that traverses the border between 2D and 3D.

2. Describe your first encounter with clay?

I made my first clay pot at Camberwell on the Art Foundation course ten years ago. We didn’t start with the usual pinch pot but were tasked with making a vessel out of cut clay slabs. It was quite a challenge at the time, making a 3d form from the flat. I cut out leaf shapes and built a swirl formed piece, I gave it to my grandmother.

3. Why did you choose ceramics?

I love to try new ways of making and I started by doing alternate terms at Morley College in June 2019 jewellery and ceramics. I found jewellery quite intense and the scale of the work far too small and clay to be much more tactile and flexible and so after a few terms I decided to focus on ceramics.

4. Where do you find inspiration? Places, people, objects, music...

I find inspiration in all sorts of places. I love to walk through Brixton market in the mornings, and in my garden, at home, meeting new people and travelling abroad. There is magic in the mundane, beauty in the exotic and humour all over the place. I sketch, take photos and make notes and often look back and mix things around in my mind. Then when I’m most relaxed usually in the early morning ideas come up.

5. What are the tools of your trade that you can't do without?

My needle and potters knife and my paintbrushes. In clay you can do so much with your hands, but it makes life a lot easier when you have a really useful tool or the right size brush.

6. What is a typical day in the studio like?

I usually spend the early morning doing admin then I walk to my studio through Brockwell Park, I try and have lots of things on the go at once. So that when something needs drying I can get straight into doing something else. I usually do the making in the morning and the painting in the afternoon, we load and set the kiln in the evenings.

7. What do the next 12 months have in store for you?

In August, I am doing a glazing project, I have set myself to expand my colour palette. I am tinting clear glazes with tiny amount of stain and then testing them over coloured slip to create new colours.

In October I am doing a residency in Paris for two weeks with and I am running two clay workshops and one is to be at the International School.

I haven’t planned anything for next year yet, except I have a strong desire to learn stained glass and combine it with my ceramic work. So I hope to go back to do a course at the Morley College in this.

8. What advice do you have for those currently studying ceramics in further education?

Now is the best time to try everything you can, keep an open mind, let yourself explore new ways of making. Listen to the experienced wisdom of your teachers while always being true to you creative self.