“Making with Mud”
Ken Eastman, a fascinating talk, poetically, if not comically presented. Humour and positive attributes made this, by far, the best lecture to-date.
I would have to watch the video play back to recall the amount of catch phrases Ken came out with, most, truly representational of the specialism, or as he puts it “making with Mud”.
It was interesting to note that Ken didn’t use the word abstract, may be once at the end of his talk, but otherwise related his passion to childhood experiences. Visiting galleries with his father, the Pre–Raphaelites www.preraphaelites.org , but simply walking past traditional sculptures. Admittedly, due to his age and understanding.
From a young age, Ken, played with Lego, made things from wood, and established a sense for making.
Ken now looks at his surroundings and believes the environment influences his work, amongst his style of clay slab building and painting, as he puts it. Understanding the relationship with what you make, where you live and the connection between the two. In a world of fancy gadgets and technology. Ken’s own working methods involve just the basics, one kiln, two rolling pins, the same clay and slips. Sounds like an idyllic life and philosophy to have. His understanding of technical issues isn’t his main concern, direct, simple- slab building, and hands on approach will do. Low tech, but with lots of thinking. It was interesting yet funny to hear kens narrative on later work, as he’s had the time to make up a story about those pieces, compared to recent work, not much to say. I wonder how can you not have much to say about the work you have just produced. Or is it his philosophical understanding that requires time to construact what he feels, or needs to say.
One ‘Big’ question ken proposed was, “why bother making anything at all, why bother, what is it?, is it any good”. A question many ask themselves nearly everyday, I expect. Ceramics or Mud , is unrestricted, open ended and allows Ken to explore the wonders and properties of making. Creating vessels, which I found very interesting, relating it to my own recent developments on Gorillas Eyes. Explaining the space inside is as important, is there, and intrinsic to the form.
His work is often exhibited abroad in Italy, Belgium, and the USA. For the Vessels, ‘Rise and fall’, won top prize in Italy. The importance of getting out there, more than exhibiting here in the UK was highlighted by him and other visiting artists. Indicating the UK ignorance to design and craftsmanship. Ceramic artists are most certainly revered further away from the UK.
Ken philosophy of making anything is chaos, so to have some rules and parameters helps. “Trying to make work I’ve not seen, making something alive, “making a way forward”. Without sketching down his ideas, Ken, gets straight on with making, painting and firing. Simple! “Making is a way of thinking, without having a direction. It’s also a risky thing, like making a clay box rather than the usual animated stuff”
Architectural forms are often made with comical names, such as ‘Shelf life‘. However he describes a good idea doesn’t always make a good form/ piece of work. His interest in change, always wanting to see new things, how things work. Evolving hard architectural forms by day into soft organic forms by night. I find this philosophy great!
His doesn’t make any excuses for refiring his clay work, I guess one has to question, when is it finished? Repainting with coloured slips to achieve to the required effect.
Ken’s description of form, thing and an object merge into a major question. When is an object a form or an idea? Functional or none functional? Always thinking!
To be influenced by the environment, rooms, home, anything that can create thought and questions about the social needs and expectations. A reflection of his work embodies whether a form is therefore functional or not!
Ken has made abstract yet functional forms like a tea pot and saucer or vase.
Free modelling by space, inspired by space. Decorated using slips, the process between 2D and 3D he then discovers what he’s making.
The one question I thought about asking Ken was “How do you know when to stop“? He actually answered this prior to me asking, usually after 4-6 firings!
Ideas can be transformed into large, medium and small pieces, all with the same theme.
Ken summed up by saying, he was quite happy if people like his work, “that’s alright”.
To-date Ken has wokrd along side Royal Crown Derby creating new and exciting forms. Retails prices around £300-£400. The use of floral transfers create that Crown Derby look. A slight contrast to his usual style, but a great collaboration.