Artist in the Spotlight - Bridget Macklin

16 February 2018

Artist Bridget Macklin lives in St Mawes, Cornwall, UK.

Please describe your artwork style

Geology is at the core of my ceramics.

I work with porcelain, mixing other materials - which I collect as I travel around the countryside - into my vessels and then scraping back to reveal fantastic and colourful strata.

The interior of each piece tells a little more of the story.  I often incorporate information from the places or emotions that inspired them.  Drawings, maps and hand written notes hint at a place or time of significance.

 What’s your background?

I was a teacher for many years, teaching science and geography but being drawn more and more towards working with children who had difficulty accessing the normal school curriculum for one reason or another.  About 10 years ago I decided to stop teaching and explore other interests.  I went back to university and there I discovered my love of clay.

My formal qualifications make odd reading because of a huge gap between gaining a first degree at Cambridge University and then, 30 years later doing a foundation degree!

2015    Ceramics Diploma (Merit), City Lit with London Metropolitan University

2013    Structured Ceramics, City Lit College, London

2011    Applied Foundation Degree in Art and Design, Bath Spa University.

1979    Bachelor of Education (Hons), Cambridge University

How long have you been an artist?

I did art at school but didn’t pursue it afterwards because of the need to make a living.  I think I would say that I have been an artist since I realised that I could make things which other people enjoyed, so about half way through the ceramics diploma – about 4 years.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

The landscape and man’s impact on it are the two things that really grab me.  It fascinates me how the geology of our world is so incredibly varied and how we are either in tune with that or, at the other end of the scale, seem inclined to abuse it.

Where do you create your work?

We moved to Cornwall about a year ago and I now have a studio attached to the house.  This means that I can work at any hour of the day or night if I wish to.  I have been known to get up and go there at 3 am if an idea is burning a hole in my brain!

What do you feel is the role of the artist in society?

Sometimes it is about letting people see and appreciate beauty. Mostly I think it is about showing people an idea or making them sit up and think.  Always it needs to be about communication. 

What techniques / mediums do you use? 

I use porcelain which I hand build into vessels using the ancient method of coiling (but with a bit of a twist!)

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed? 

It is the way that I create which is most important to me, although without the landscape which has influenced me it would be pointless.

How do you feel when you are letting your emotions loose on the canvas?

There are so many stages involved in my work and each one has different emotions linked to it.  I always feel slight trepidation when I am starting a new piece and, because of the experimental nature of my materials.The best part of each make is when the lines and patterns begin to emerge on the clay during the, almost hypnotic, stage when I am scraping back the layers to reveal what is hidden underneath.  

What project are you working on now?

I am currently working on a project about the North Norfolk coast.  I am tremendously excited about the variety of natural materials which occur is such a small area.  I have also found the relationship between man and the coastal fringe fascinating.

Any current or up-coming exhibitions?

The Norfolk work is to be exhibited in Great Walsingham Gallery this May and June.  The exhibition, Earthlines, is a collaboration between me and a painter called Candide Turner Bridger.

Where do you find your ideas for your work?

On a walk; clambering over a cliff; reading a book; in the middle of the night!  I think any activity related to the landscape can spark something.  Currently I am engrossed by the story of the discovery and subsequent removal of the ancient sea henge at Holme in Norfolk.Walking that part of the coast I could almost feel the magic of the place and then once I began researching the ideas for the work I found a lot of inspiration in the background reading.

How do you know when a work is finished?

Ceramics isn’t really like painting.  I must follow a set of rules during the making and so the process is easy to follow, and the finish point is clear.  The execution of the piece is therefore almost after the idea has been fully formed in my head.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

My kiln!  That is where the magic happens.  I place the dry work into the kiln and say a little prayer.  Opening it up after a firing is the most exciting moment of all; it can be either Christmas or Armageddon depending on how things have gone so there is great tension and excitement around every single opening!

Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?

That rare and special moment when a brilliant idea flashes, literally, into my brain is amazing.  My head starts to buzz, and I cannot concentrate on anything else until I have tried to explore it a bit.  It feels better than anything else in the world – a hundred times better than chocolate or sex!

View more of Bridget's work here:

Contact Bridget here: [email protected]

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