Convergence of Old and New
Twenty three year-old Eluned Glyn, a native of Wales, took a leap and decided to study ceramics. That risk has since paid off and then some; Eluned’s ceramics have caught the attention of many in Wales and beyond. She was even one of the five individuals shortlisted for the Wales International Young Artist Award. I spoke to Eluned about her choice to pursue ceramics, the inspiration behind her designs, and her goals for the future.
At what age did you become interested in art and ceramics? How did that interest develop?
My father was an art teacher, so I’ve always had an interest in art and have been visiting art galleries and museums from a young age. When I was in school I had an interest in painting with gouache especially, and I decided to study a foundation diploma to further my skills. From this foundation at West Wales School of the Arts my love for ceramics grew when I specialized in 3D and sculpture for my final term. I originally was going to study Fine Art at Aberystwyth but changed my mind and re-applied to a BA Ceramics at Cardiff Metropolitan University after developing my interest in Ceramics.
What is your favourite piece of work?
There are many pieces that inspire my work; some artists such as Matisse and Miro have always amazed me after visiting their museums. Recently, I have been looking at the constructivists as a point of reference due to the harsh lines and faceted sketches that almost look 3D on paper. My first ceramic inspiration was the artist Clare Twomey. I came across her work in the book ‘Breaking the Mould’ that explores the work of contemporary ceramic artists that use modern techniques in their work. Her work ‘Consciousness’ is an installation made of Bone China tiles on the floor of the exhibition. The pieces must be walked over in order to proceed, therefore destroying the work in order to gain access to others. I was inspired by the concept of the work, in which the artist is not afraid of the work getting broken, and more of the message behind the installation.
What is your inspiration?
I am inspired by the form of the classic forms of the 20th and 21st centuries. The modernist and cubist movements have been my points of reference. This is explored through the cohesive integration of form, drawing, and surface pattern. I deconstruct my drawings and create my own interpretation of the abstract jug. It is the marriage of form and function that intrigues me and the distortion of the domestic object which is familiar yet foreign in form. I deconstruct the shape of the jug by folding the drawings and re-designing them through a layout pad. This is where they evolve into three dimensional objects.
Is there a message you hope to convey through art to viewers?
I’d like to think that my work reflects and echoes the old traditions of clay, but also gives a new dimension and perspective to contemporary ceramics. I want my pieces to portray the old ceramic factories of Stoke on Trent through their decoration and forms. By collecting the original pieces from charity shops and giving them a new lease of life, they have become loved objects once again.
What is your creative process from thinking of an idea to creating the final product?
My process is inspired by past ceramics pieces, so I visit museums and old heritage sites for inspiration. I take photos then sketch from these in order to gain access to the sort of grotesque and over-indulgent detail in the pieces. When I was studying in university I found it difficult to portray my sketches into three dimensional pieces. I’d started working straight into plaster with a band saw in order to get the facets similar to my sketches, but these weren’t as successful as I’d hoped. I then thought, what if I break up the pieces that inspire me and merge them into a master copy so that the inspiration is literally within the process? This is how the idea evolved.
What does a typical day on the job entail?
Early morning I pour the slip (liquid clay) into the plaster moulds. I leave them in the mould for around 4-8 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, enough to create a thickness of a regular cup. The slip is then poured out. This then needs roughly 6 hours to dry, so during this time I continue with other aspects of the formation, such as creating new pieces, sketching, and glazing pieces. When the pieces in the mould are dry enough, I then use a scalpel to trim off the excess clay and tidy the pieces up. The pieces are then placed in a kiln three separate times to be fired to different temperatures. A firing usually takes around 8 hours to fully reach temperature. Recently, I have been traveling around Wales and England taking work to different exhibitions, so this also takes up some of my spare time. I try to alternate my process from day to day in order to keep my interest in the work. I’ve also been to Sain Ffagan, The National Museum of Wales, recently in order to get inspiration from different eras including fashion of tableware from those periods.
What barriers do you and/or young artists in general today face? What is your advice for young artists today?
I think, just like any other artist that’s starting out, it’s difficult to make a living from the arts. With the recession the first luxury that is cut is the arts, so it’s hard for customers to understand why the prices of hand-made gifts are higher than that of mass produced factories. All I say to myself is, even on a bad day, it’s important to be passionate about all that you do. I’d like to think that being enthusiastic and active in applying for grants and competitions will eventually pay off. Don’t be afraid to be turned down, as some might love the work that you do, but some might hate it, and that’s a fact. As some people say, if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle.
What is your greatest achievement thus far in your career?
Being Shortlisted for the British Council’s Wales International Young Artist Award. I’m used to working in my little shed in the garden, so it was great to get acknowledgment as I’ve been working for the past year creating a new tea set. It has encouraged me and given me the confidence to carry on with my practice and to research into new work.
What future projects are you currently working toward?
I have just sent some pieces to the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, which is a great achievement for me. Hopefully in the next few months I will hear back from some galleries that I have applied to exhibit in their shows. I would also like to apply for funding with the Arts Council of Wales, which could help me with the development of new work and research into new ways of working.
Where do you aspire to be in five years?
After graduating I gave myself some goals to reach as a way of keep working and not giving up! I hope in ten years to be partly or wholly sustainable as a ceramicist. I would also love to be able to exhibit at Ceramic Art London and at the Victoria & Albert Ceramic Collection in London. It’s been great to get acknowledgment for my work so far, and I do hope that this grows with time by collaborating with other artists within exhibitions.