Artist name, chosen medium, location.
Louise Hall, porcelain, Cardiff
What first inspired you to become a full time ceramicist?
The seed of inspiration was definitely planted when I visited a contemporary craft fair/market in my second year of University. Lustre, set within Nottingham University campus ground, is a beautifully set out fair filled with incredible hand-made objects created by talented and passionate people. Attending Lustre in 2009 was certainly a bit of a light-bulb moment! Although at that point I did not know I wanted to pursue ceramics (I had gone to University with the textiles industry in mind) I began to dabble in mixing textiles with ceramics in my final year of university. My Masters then helped to consolidate all I had learned and gave me a clearer direction to follow and develop my material-inspired porcelain vessels. I knew it was something that I could not just stop after my MA. Luckily enough I found ‘Fireworks Clay Studios’ in Cardiff and was offered a Graduate Scholarship for a year. The rest, I guess, is history!
Why did you choose ceramics?
I simply love how porcelain looks when it is illuminated/lifted to the light! That’s the bottom line. I don’t necessarily have the same feeling for any other clay. I love impressing something into porcelain, as it means it is a captured moment and frozen forever. Porcelain retains textures really well and I have amassed a vast number of lacy off-cuts for imprinting now; from my Nan’s old net curtains, to a small strip my mum had on a dress as a child, to all the pieces friends have found in charity shops/car boots/their lofts, etc. ‒ they basically need their own wardrobe now! Mixing my two favourite materials together is such a joy and helps to preserve the beauty of both modern and vintage items.
Talk us through the creative process and how you generate ideas and inspiration for new work.
I know I should probably say I work through ideas in a sketchbook… but I don’t anymore! Generally, early ideas are worked through in the form of paper maquettes, the successful forms are deconstructed and used as templates for the porcelain. The initial porcelain experiment will differ to the paper as it folds, twists and manipulates in a much more organic way. I guess it is a two-fold experiment. I’ll then take a look at scale, (as the porcelain will shrink by nearly 20% in the glaze firing!).
My studio space is covered in magazine pull outs, artists and ceramicists from various shows I’ve attended to photos I’ve taken from trips to Denmark, Barcelona, walks around Britain, the salvage yard near my family’s home, etc.
Take us through the physical / technical process of creating your work.
I start by kneading a ball of clay, and then it gets rolled down on the slab roller until it is at its desired ‘thinness’. I progress to roughly cutting around a template; it goes back under the slab roller this time with the wallpaper or lace pieces and rolled again. When it comes out, the template is brought back and I very neatly cut around it. I have to leave things to dry a little, mainly the bases, so they will support the piece when it is built upon, but not too dry so they’re at different ‘dry’ levels or, if just too dry, the piece will crack when any pressure is put on it. Sides are joined together and, the piece is either complete (tada!) or I take to my favourite tool – my ‘hitting’ stick – a slabbing lath, and proceed to bash the piece either at the joins/ and on the top, until it successfully collapses/caves in a way I’m happy with. The piece will then take anywhere between 2-4 weeks to dry out. It is then bisque fired, wet sanded, dried and glaze fired. Depending on the piece, it is then put back in for a third firing which is the lustre firing.
What are the frustrations of the end-to-end process of creating ceramics?
The time it takes and the cracking! If I could eliminate one problem to make things a little easier in the Universe of ‘Louise Hall Ceramics’ it would be cracking. I once heard someone describe porcelain as the diva of the ceramics world, and I can only bring my complete agreement to this statement! Sometimes I can try to save pieces, which is another process I’m still learning about, but other times something will come out and it’ll be a complete goner- despite not having shown any visible problems before.
If resources were no barrier, what would be your ‘masterpiece’?
Something completely covered in gold perhaps! Gold lustre is super expensive, and gold leaf can be too, so I think if expenses were not an issue, that’s what id like to try. Also, scale- I’d love to make huge versions of some of my non-functional pieces. At the moment they’re time consuming to make and I have better selling pieces, but I’d love to spend time making some whoppers I think!