Earlier this month BA (Hons) Ceramics grad Rebecca Roberts represented the college at the International Ceramics Festival in South Wales, working alongside international artist Jonathan Keep.
Now with an award from her degree show under her belt and a fascinating residency at our free school – Plymouth School of Creative Arts – we catch up with her to talk ceramics, college and her future plans...
Rebecca, firstly congratulations on your 'Potclay Ceramics Graduate of the Year' award! Can you tell us a little about it?
Thank you and yes it was a complete but lovely surprise as I didn't even know that the award existed or that I had even been put forward by college. It's been great to see some of the other winners, there was such a wide range of styles and work. I have been trying to really celebrate the clay through my work and this award is a lovely confirmation of that.
"There is a crude beauty in the natural behaviour of clay and through my work I aim to draw attention to these qualities." — Rebecca Roberts.
Definitely well deserved, so what first got you interested in ceramics?
It was actually my art teacher Mr Shuter when I was 15 years old, he introduced me to ceramics and I fell in love with the whole process. I knew from that point on that this is what I wanted to do. Seeing something grow before your eyes, knowing that you have created it, it became a part of me that hasn't left since.
What do you want to achieve with your work?
There is a crude beauty in the natural behaviour of clay and through my work I aim to draw attention to these qualities. I want the material to be itself, without the conforming view of what is perfection within ceramics, dictating the final form. My final collection was called 'celebration of materials, contrasts and contractions' and has definitely been a journey of discovery, both for myself and my work.
And you demonstrated your work process at the International Ceramic Festival.
Yes it was a brilliant experience, one that I would recommend to anyone who gets the chance to go. I applied not really thinking that I stood a chance or about the logistics of the whole weekend. I was demonstrating using a hydraulic hand press and jelly mould for most of the weekend in the trade tent, alongside internationally renowned ceramist Jonathan Keep.
People were really interested in my work and the whole process of using the press, which was lovely and gave me a huge amount of confidence in what I was doing. It wasn't all talking and demonstrating though and I managed to see some amazing artists in action and some pretty unusual kiln firings too!
And now you are using those skills in your placement with Plymouth School of Creative Arts. How did that come about?
Well, an email came through offering the chance of a residency until the end of term at the free school and I just applied to see what would happen. I was accepted and started in June, not long after our Summer Show had been set up. It's been an interesting experience, working next to Year 7 students in their environment during their lessons.
"It’s been really great, I found it really useful having lecturers and technicians that actually have their own practices as well." — Rebecca Roberts.
They might be learning Maths or History, but because of the 'learning without walls' programme they can still see my studio set up and be in that constant creative environment, meaning I can carry on doing my work alongside them. This has led to lots of interesting questions and exchanging of ideas.
I have also been able to lend a hand whilst they had their first clay lessons, reminding me of the pure joy of introducing clay to people for the first time. I have been very lucky in that the school have offered me the chance to stay on in September and keep doing my own practice alongside the students.
It’s always exciting to be in a new environment – for both yourself and the students. How did you find your time here at college?
It’s been really great, I found it really useful having lecturers and technicians that actually have their own practices as well. Their insight and understanding of the ceramic world was invaluable.
So were the visiting artist lectures and visits; Sandy Brown, Liam Reeves, Jenny Ayrton and Keith Harrison were definite highlights. Overall this past year at college has been an experience I would love to repeat, I would definitely recommend the course and the college.
So what’s next for you?
Apart from enjoying some family time over the summer nothing is really set in stone yet. I have entered my work for the British Ceramic Biennial exhibition 'Fresh' in Stoke On Trent and I’m applying for Hothouse6.
I’m also looking for galleries to exhibit and sell my work through, both locally and further afield. Whilst working at the school is a brilliant experience and opportunity, I would love to have my own studio or share a workshop, so I am constantly on the lookout for spaces!
See more of Rebecca’s work on her website here.