Clare Conrad graduated in ceramics from Bristol Polytechnic in 1987. She makes individual work in oxidised stoneware – mostly bowls, vases and dishes, which are wheel-thrown, then refined and often altered. The work has its roots in high quality craft skills, combined with innovation and artistic expression. Although designed to be functional, it is essentially, three dimensional-painting. Strong, elegant shapes are aimed for, and contrast is paramount to the work. The exterior surfaces are textured and decorated using subtle colours, which are mixed from the three primaries into a vitreous slip. This results in a smooth, matt, impervious finish. The interiors are glazed with a satin, flat colour, which enhances the pattern and texture outside. Inspirations for shape and colour come from such diverse directions as ancient weathered artefacts and architecture to woven textiles and organic forms.

Clare exhibited widely for three years, then spent three years in Shropshire renovating a 16th century farmhouse, when few pots could be made. She now works from her studio in Northampton and has work in collections throughout Britain, Europe, the U.S.A. and the Far East.

‘In my work I try to capture the poignant beauty and drama of weathering and corrosion - the point of balance between existence and decay.

I enjoy the traditional method of wheel-throwing, which adds to the sense of capturing time. I find the vessel form the most successful in satisfying my desire to combine sculpture with painting: my preferred shape, a challenge to get right - but ultimately the most rewarding - because a fraction of a centimetre in proportion, or curve, can make a huge difference to the success of the form.

For many years I have experimented with methods of colour application to the surface of my pots, having been entranced by the peeling paint and sun-faded natural colours in Southern Europe. Later, living near the coast in Kent added a contrasting strand to my inspiration:- stark, white chalk, deep green/blue sea, erosion and weathering of paintwork, along with dramatic skies and sea.

I use vitreous slips, which I mix from raw materials and primary pigments, in this way achieving an infinite palette of subtle colours, which I apply to the exterior surface in layers, whilst the pot is still damp. The expressive, apparent randomness of the design belies the laborious and careful method necessary to achieve it.

Intense concentration is key at this stage, as the ratio of dampness of pot to slip is crucial in producing crisp edges of colour, while a keen memory ensures the required juxtaposition of colours, the full intensity of which are not revealed until after the final firing. The smooth, matt interior, applied after bisque firing, is formulated to complement and provide a dramatic contrast to the rugged exterior. The top edge, seen against the interior, becomes the focal point of the piece.

I fire to 1250c in an electric kiln and I enjoy knowing that all the colours are the result of my design and application’.

Stoneware firing ensures that the surface and colours are fully permanent and lightproof, the vessel is strong, waterproof and durable.

Clare Conrad 2015