Am I a clay rebel?! Hmmm, I think you may need to decide but I hope so 🙂

I recently started working with an intern and having this new perspective has proved very interesting. He made a comment at the interview that really appealed to me. He’d gone to my website to do some research expecting to see pots and got a big surprise when he saw what I actually make! This got me to thinking, I really love pushing the boundaries of what can be made with clay and I’ve never been about creating anything functional, so am I a clay rebel?

I consider myself to be a ceramic sculptor and my work has always been about getting a reaction from the viewer much the same as a fine artist.

Shop Unique Home Decor I use clay in many ways often twisting and mixing traditional methods and techniques to create something new and challenging but every maker wants to make something unique to them that no-one else makes… I mix different clays and use multiple decorating techniques in one piece. I deliberately take the functionality away from a piece by adding decoration to make it so it can no longer be used and is purely decorative.

I am subverting the traditions of clay and pushing into the boundaries of fine art in a very crafty way.

Paula Armstrong

Clay rebel sculpture by Paula ArmstrongI have to admit, I really like the idea of being a clay rebel. The idea of being someone who doesn’t conform and works to make something new and unusual, breaking from tradition, really appeals to me. Even so I do believe in the importance of learning how to make well with clay however, I also firmly believe that there are as many ways of making as there are makers and that for each, if what you’re making survives the kiln and you’re happy with how it comes out then whatever technique or method you used was the right one for you and that piece.

Don’t get me wrong there are some ‘rules’ that it’s wise not to push too far if you want a reasonably high success rate of pieces surviving the kiln and there are some practicalities you just can’t ignore but clay is such a flexible medium that you can make almost anything you can imagine. It can imitate other materials surprisingly realistically as well as creating something never seen before and ceramicists around the world take advantage of both these qualities. (Can you tell I love clay!? :D)

Ceramic SeedsWhen learning to make with clay so much of it is practice to get a feel for the clay. Each clay has its own feel, its own strengths and weaknesses and it takes time making with it to get to know them and understand what the clay will allow you to do. You need to find the boundaries before you can begin push them and that takes time and learning to listen to the clay as you build. As the maker you then have to choose whether you ignore what the clay wants or to let it have its way. Both choices are equally valid but can lead to very different outcomes with different challenges along the way. It’s also a choice you may have to make several times for a single piece and sometimes it won’t work. (You need to accept failure when making with clay especially if you’re pushing boundaries but I’ll come back to this another week!)

So what do you think? Am I a clay rebel? Are you?

You can find out a bit more about me and my work here and learn the basics of how to make with videos on my YouTube channel.