Emily Hughes

Musings from my shed

Question: where are you currently working?

Hello Everyone! I am Emily Hughes a ceramic artist living and working in North Wales. My work is inspired by the coast and also the quarry which my little village is surrounded by. I have a home studio which in these current times I cant tell you how grateful I am for! Its my little peace of calm in all this chaos. I work in my garden studio most of the time but some of my larger work is created in my university (Glyndwr University). I’m currently studying for my MA which has now been moved to online. As I have my own studio and kiln my production of work thankfully has been able to continue. I stocked up on clay before the lockdown really took hold and have been working on some upcoming shows that have yet to be cancelled. With many Art shows and trade shows being cancelled its hard to keep positive, but the innovation of galleries and event organisers to get work online has been incredibly encouraging and exciting to see. Ive also found I have much more time now to try out new ideas that I previously hadn’t. I smoke fired some work yesterday which was a wonderful change and also tried out some new forms I had been desperate to for the best part of a year! In amongst the uncertainty I feel a strange sense of calm surrounding my practice, a feeling that it is so easy to lose sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life.

Here is my aforementioned garden studio. Complete with lots of furniture and messy buckets! I also have outside it my mini-gamma kiln I made back in second year applied arts at university. I’m amazed it is still standing. When I first start to make my work I will roll the clay out into a wide and long slab. I then treat the surface of that clay slab like a canvas. I mark with various tools, lines and shapes I have seen on the mountain side and beach. Often at this stage I will add some porcelain slip decoration in a brush stoke. I will then place the clay slabs on top of a drop mould which will give me the desired shape of the piece. Once I am happy I will remove the clay and start on the opposite side in the same way. When I have my two halves it is then time to prepare the walls of the vessel, after that is done I will leave all to dry so that it gets Leather hard overnight.

In the morning I will start to piece the vessel together. I first start by attaching the walls to one side of the piece.

Here you can see I have added that porcelain slip and the two sides and the walls are attached and the piece can now stand. At this stage I will refine the piece so that it is ready for bisque firing. (the first firing)

When the pieces have been fired I will them sand the work to remove any little rough bits I might have missed. On completion, I will then apply and oxide brush decoration to the surface of the vessel. This has to be done with gusto otherwise the fluidity isn’t there. I take a deep breath as I load my brush and then go for it!

Once I am happy with the overall surface decoration I will then go over that oxide brush stroke with some clear glaze. Inside the piece I also apply a tin white glaze. I finally fire again in the glaze firing and all being well that is the last step in my process.

Question : What is my favourite artwork or artist and why?

Louise Bourgeois is one of my favourite artists, I couldn’t really choose a favourite piece as it was so hard but I want to talk about her prints and drawings a little. Her drawings were mostly made at home (how appropriate!) and her themes of work suggest this too. Her early works show female figures bound or trapped inside a small scale house. Her cell installations also contained objects associated with her home. In her work she challenged the role of women at the time and she looks at female identity so personally in her work that I feel like I am really seeing very personal thoughts and feelings from the Artist herself. She uses normal everyday life to influence her art by using her surroundings. Something I feel that at the moment is very poignant. Even though these times are very bleak and painful I feel myself excited to see artistic outcomes that are born from this time where artists, musicians, writers and so on are inside their homes creating work the world will one day see.

Question: Can we see a diary page i.e the day in the life of an isolated artist!

Here is my planner spread of a productive week in isolation!

When feeling fairly positive I try as best as I can to plan each day. I find that to do lists even if they are small can really help boost motivation. I find the days that I have made a plan the night before I am much more productive. Don’t be fooled though this is a very good week! (as you can see from the ticks and stickers!) its okay to have weeks where nothing gets done, its also okay to think ‘oh whats the point’. These aren’t normal times and you are allowed to feel lost and confused and far from productive.

Thank you for reading my small little contribution to Darl-e and the Bear’s - Bear Stories. Stay Safe,

Emily Hughes - Ceramic Artist