Interview with the Artist - Sarah Bagouin-Harris, Ceramics

bagouin ceramics harris pottery sarah stoneware

Artist name, chosen medium, location.

Sarah Bagouin Harris, Ceramics, Devon

What first inspired you to become a full time ceramicist?

I always knew I wanted a creative career, but I didn’t have much direction. I graduated with a degree in illustration from Falmouth University in 2010. Since then I worked in numerous jobs, and did a little freelance illustration work. It wasn’t until I did a taster session just over two years ago at my local pottery studio that I realised I wanted to make pottery as a career.

Why did you choose ceramics?

I’ve always loved design. For me the idea of being able to design every aspect of a pot, down to the finest detail is inspiring. I also love the process, having a finished piece in your hands that started as a ball of clay is incredibly rewarding.

Talk us through the creative process and how you generate ideas and inspiration for new work.

For me generating new ideas often comes from working through old ones; I always try to improve on my last pot. If I’m really stuck I will go back to drawing and sketching ideas. Inspiration also comes from the glazes I use; I will quite often get a new idea when I see one glaze and how it could work with another. Nature is a big theme in my work; I find the natural world, the shapes, textures and colours, and patterns all inspiring and something I try to incorporate.

Take us through the physical / technical process of creating your work.

First I wedge and prepare the clay. Throwing is a fairly quick process of centering the clay, pulling the walls up, forming the basic shape and wiring off the pot to dry on a wooden board. The next stage is trimming, which is done usually a couple of days after throwing the pot. This is where I use a metal file and the wheel to trim and refine the shape. I will add handles at this point too. Then the pots dry for a few more days before their first firing (bisque). Once bisque fired they are dipped into different glazes to create the desired combination of colours…they are then fired once again. After the glaze firing I hand paint a design using gold lustre…this is usually the most time consuming of the whole process, and some pieces I can spend hours painting the design. The pots are then fired for a third and final time.

How do you know when you’re happy with what you have created?

I make a lot of functional ceramics, so for me if a pot is easy to use and nice to look at then I’m happy. If I’m making a mug I try to ensure it’s comfortable to hold and to drink from. I try to keep the shape and glazes fairly simple. The gold should compliment the form and the colours within the glazes and clay body I’m happy when all these elements come together.

What are the frustrations of the end-to-end process of creating ceramics?

There are a few! Pots may crack and/or warp in the firing, the glaze might run onto the kiln shelf and get stuck….glazes might not fire correctly…I’ve dropped work loading it into the kiln, or chipped bits off catching it slightly on the edges of doors….so many things can go wrong! There have been occasions where I have spent hours on a pot only to ruin it in a second! That’s the hardest thing; fortunately the good far outweighs the bad.

If resources were no barrier, what would be your ‘masterpiece’?

I would love to explore soda firing, so maybe a large moon jar fired in this way.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring ceramicist?

I struggle with this question as I feel as though I am an aspiring ceramist…but if you want to try pottery the best place to start is with local pottery studios where they can teach you throwing and/or hand building techniques. If you already love and are familiar with the process then try to learn from a more experienced potter. I did a three-day throwing course at Leach Pottery and it was honestly the best thing I have done- I learnt a lot! I think it’s a good time to be a creative; social media is an amazing tool at promoting your work and networking with other creatives. The Internet also has a wealth of knowledge on glaze recipes, problem shooting and video tutorials.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Same advice I would give myself now- relax!

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