In this first of a series of posts, Julie Ayton relates her own introduction to making, a step that led eventually to her career as a potter.
This year’s ‘praktis/ exhibition at Bury Court near Farnham in Surrey presents a group of makers who have spent years developing their creative voices to produce distinctive work that is both highly skilled and deeply personal.
Behind every artist and maker, whatever their discipline, is a story of discovery. Like many others, my own interest in clay was born when, as a child, I was bundled along to an art activity session for children on Saturday mornings. My first creation was a wonderful galloping horse, its main and tail flying, sinewy legs outstretched. I was in another world.
I don’t know what happened to it, but that really doesn’t matter. The making of it was the thing.
With the clarity of hindsight, I can see that the reality was a rather stodgy sausage-like creature, with an unruly clutch of straw stuck up its bottom. But what also remains true is that the act of creating something takes us, in our heads, to a different place. My mother, like every parent, saw the first part of the reality, and understood the second.
We humans have evolved to create things with our hands, and our brains are hardwired to spark and respond to that instinct – to be curious about what materials can do, to experiment, to interpret the world, to express ourselves. And, over time, to learn to use our hands as readily as our imaginations.
Those of us who have made a life of making things are following that impulse to create with our hands the vision in our heads, and to do it better and better. It is challenging, sometimes frustrating, but deeply satisfying when things go well. As a maker, to see someone ‘get’ your work is a wonderful confirmation of a shared recognition, of having hit the right note.
The getting of knowledge is a lifelong process. And gradually, as we exhibit more widely and connect with those who appreciate what we do, our enquiry and thinking becomes still more sharply focused. Feedback from our audiences informs our ideas, sometimes confirming our impulses, sometimes challenging them.
So we never stop learning, and as makers we never stop responding to the fascination of what can be done with materials and processes, whether to meet a practical need – a favoured cup to drink from – or to create a work that defies practical purpose but simply delights us with its human ingenuity, mastery of process, and its beauty – and often both.
The exhibitors showing at ‘praktis/ at Bury Court Barn this October are makers who have established themselves through years of refining their practice, and are still looking for ways to move forward creatively. At this year’s exhibition, in a wonderfully sympathetic setting, we will be showing fresh and inspirational work across disciplines prompted by a strong sense of enquiry, with illustrated talks and demonstrations and an invitation to talk to pre-eminent makers about their craft.
Between now and October, through this blog, you are invited to share some of their insights, find out what inspires them and see examples of polished skills, the trial and error that leads to successes and occasional failures, and above all the thinking that goes into the work of 21st century makers.
Please follow us on Twitter @craftpraktis and call back if you’d like to see how we progress towards our exhibition, and share with your friends.