After exhibiting the ceramics of Charlotte Jones in Cornwall Contemporary for the last ten years, I thought it was high time I visited her studio to see her at work and talk to her about her creative process.
The studio itself is stunning and hand built by her furniture-maker husband Ron. The attention to detail is incredible (and mirrors much of Charlotte’s workmanship in her own creative practice).
After working in their house for years and years (a converted chapel with tantalising sea glimpses) Charlotte finally got a designated studio-haven at the bottom of the garden in January this year. At first I couldn’t quite believe that it was a making studio and not just a show room as it was pretty immaculate for a ceramics studio – even her wheel was suspiciously clean! But she is a firm believer in cleaning up her space at the end of each day and keeping some semblance of order in the studio.
After being surrounded by Charlotte’s ceramics for the last decade – both in the gallery and in my own home, it was a very special experience to see her in action and to learn more about the painstaking and time consuming methods that she uses. Each vessel is started on the wheel to create a strong base and then a combination of slab and coil work is used to complete each pot. All the clay used is local – with Charlotte often sourcing and digging the clay herself. In fact she told me she was keeping an eye on a piece of land in a nearby field and was pleased to see cattle in there as she could see the cows nicely treading and working the clay each time they walked past.
Not only does Charlotte source her own clay, she also adds earth and mineral pigments to the clay to create colour, as unusually for a potter, none of Charlotte’s bowls and pots are glazed, yet still remain water tight and functional. So colour is added to the actual clay and runs throughout the fabric of the pot, rather than being added on as surface decoration after the pot is fired. This is a very lengthy and involved process and speaks volumes of Charlotte’s patience and dedication to each vessel as some bowls can be worked on for weeks and weeks before they’re finished.
All of Charlotte’s inspiration is sourced from nature and each working day starts with walking the dog through surrounding fields and countryside, where field shapes and patterns and gradated landscape horizons can spark an idea back in the studio. She has a strong work ethic and is in the studio working every day from 10am onwards, and can often find herself there until the evening. She recently allowed herself a week off and spent all of it sketching and painting, creating source material for future works. Shells hold a particular fascination for her and she can look at them in the most minute detail, noting a particular subtle line of pink on the underside which will be then translated into a pot.
Charlotte’s pottery has become highly collectable and sought after over the years and rightly so. I know from my own personal experience how special each piece becomes to the owner and I was recently contacted by a customer in Australia who had bought a small pot by Charlotte some years ago and was desperate to buy a replacement for it after breaking it. I luckily had a bowl that was similar in size and colour and he was delighted to receive it (the postage paid, far exceeded the price of the pot!) The most common question I’m asked in the gallery is “but are they functional?” and yes they are, it was a particular treat to see a stack of Charlotte’s bowls above the cooker in her kitchen as I, and I think most people who buy them, treat them in a very revered kind of way, but they are fully intended to be functional pieces and particular care is taken to ensure they hold liquid and can be used in a variety of ways. And I think that’s why I’m so drawn to Charlotte’s work – as each one is a work of art in it’s own right, while straddling that art/ function divide. Each bowl is incredibly tactile and holds my interest like a piece of sculpture.
You can view pieces in the range of pottery by Charlotte Jones that we have in the gallery here.
Director, Cornwall Contemporary