In the second of our Maker Interviews we asked ceramicist Elliott Denny from Elliott Ceramics 10 questions...
The Out Takes
LIVES: South East London
LISTENS TO: Audio-books & hip-hop
MOTO: use simple forms, subtract superfluous detail
WANTS: to learn to weave
Q1 where do you live and work?
I live in Brockley in South East London, I moved here 3 years ago after graduating from university. My studio is in Deptford a short cycle/reasonable walk away. Deptford is a pretty diverse community, many artist studios and a great junk market 3 days a week where occasional gems can be found.
Q2 what did you study?
I studied Graphic Design at Brighton. It was a very open course with a strong focus on experimentation. It was a good place to discover what really interested me, without the pressure of real world expectations. My work mainly consisted of experiments with printmaking and image making processes, as well as moving image and self publishing projects. Here I began to get interested in the idea of collecting equipment that I could use in my work and as a result I had a bedroom full of different types of printers (risograph, photocopier, large format) as well as many cameras, slide and moving image projectors and darkroom equipment.
Q3 Ceramics….how did that happen?
Working with ceramics was never something I gave much thought to but after university and having been so focused on 2 dimensional work I began to get really interested in product design and homeware. My partner was attending an evening class where she would make ceramic sculpture and after expressing a slight interest in the idea of learning how to throw, she took me along.
The class is run by a wonderful man who has been teaching people for a great deal of time, I was immediately hooked. There is something very pure and simple about pottery, starting with a ball of clay and using your hands to shape it into an object you can use in your daily life. Over the next 2 and half years I have got more and more besotted with it. Firstly, it was the perfect antidote to the computer heavy world of graphic design but now it is moving towards becoming my primary practice.
Q4 what led you down this creative path?
My parents are both chefs and my brother is a commercial filmmaker. My interest in the visual arts was probably influenced by him. I think the creativity and technical ability that goes with being a chef is also relevant to what I do (...perhaps there is a subconscious link between my parents interest in making food and my interest in creating the vessels for food to be displayed on!)
Q5 walk us through your typical day...
More often than not my day starts with a run, then homemade muesli with fruit, nuts and yoghurt, and tea for breakfast and a short cycle to the studio.
My time at the studio is split up between working on book or print projects for Victory Press (the print studio I started whilst at Brighton), freelance design work or ceramics.
For lunch I often take a walk to the nearby churchyard to get a bit of fresh air. I normally eat something that my partner has cooked or I make the most of one of Deptford’s food offerings - Japanese takeaway or an Indian wrap.
Whilst working I listen to an array of podcasts and audio books. When I’m really getting into a rhythm of throwing I listen to hiphop.
Q6 How do you work, what is your process? Where do you draw influence from? What inspires you?
All of my work is thrown on the wheel using hand coloured porcelain. Firstly, I prepare the clay by wedging in a coloured stain, I then weigh and make it into balls. After the clay is thrown on the wheel, it is ‘turned’, this is where I trim away excess clay and refine the shapes. It is then fired to bisque so I can glaze the inside of the piece and sand the vessel if necessary. The piece is then glaze fired and to finish I sand the exteriors of the pots to make them very smooth.
My influences are from movements like Bauhaus, De Stijl and Suprematism, as well as modernist architecture, industrial design, and utilitarian objects. I am interested in work that utilises simple forms and subtracts superfluous detail.
Q7 highs & lows / what makes your pulse race?!
The feeling of being on a roll with work, when the ideas are flowing and energy levels are high.
Q8 what is in the Elliott pot of dreams? what is next for you?
I am at a very early stage in my ceramics career. I have a lot of ideas that I am really excited to start making, lighting, planters, teapots and ovenware to name a few. Eventually I would like to design homeware made from other materials and learn to weave.
Q9 what one thing would you most like to own?
A house built with my own hands, full of useful beautiful things.
Q10 if you could go anywhere, where would you go?
I would like to have a long trip to Japan sometime soon and after that, India.
Elliott Denny's collection is available on our website. New pieces will be available very soon.