Claudia Clare's work, for all its diverse imagery, has its origin in a distinct set of ideas and beliefs. ‘I make clay pots to tell stories.’ she says. ‘Feminism shapes decisions I make about which stories to tell and how to research them and bring a sense of intimacy and respect for the everyday to the stories I work with and to the political issues they illuminate.’
Trained initially in the discipline of painting (though she was already making pots at eight years of age), Clare turned to ceramics for formal and narrative reasons. ‘I got interested in ceramics,’ she writes, ‘because they seemed so interconnected with domestic life and with the lives of women.’ Pots also provide indispensable archaeological evidence of ancient civilisations. ‘The work of Claudia Clare,’ Edmund de Waal has written, ‘is migratory: it crosses disciplines and it crosses frontiers.’ ‘Ancient pots,’ whose forms she frequently adopts, ‘carry with them,’ Clare adds, ‘the stories of migrations, of kings and queens and of ordinary people; of everyone from the highest class to peasants.’ If Clare’s own pots have a larger purpose beyond strict function, it may be because clay pots are good at sustaining the memory of marginalised social stories: they are our museum pieces and archaeological evidence.
Uniting the broad range of narrative unfurled in Claudia Clare’s work is the artist’s down-to earth approach to her material. Subjects such as the Royal wedding or the pageant may have a larger ritual significance in the life of the nation – just as the banking crisis or the Arab Spring have an undoubted global impact – but the artist’s response is never grandiloquent. Her viewpoint is always that of the spectator, occupying the lower level of the frieze below the outermost curve at some remove from the events depicted, responding to these in the most direct manner – as best suits, in her view, the ancient and domestic medium of earthenware, her chosen means of expression
Claudia Clare (born Oxford 1962) trained as a painter at Camberwell in the early 1980s, went on to do an apprenticeship at Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire in 1990 and completed a PhD in Ceramics at the University of Westminster in 2007. In 1987 she won a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust award to study at the International Ceramics Centre at Kecskemét, Hungary, and in 2002 a Churchill Travel Fellowship funded her research into large-scale ceramics in Iran, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
Since 1995 she has exhibited extensively throughout the UK and in Europe, including residencies in Kecskemét and Guldagergaard, Denmark. One-person exhibitions include The World Service, Geffrye Museum, London, Museum of Oxford and other locations (1996-98), Genetic Café, Harris Museum, Preston (2000) and Shattered, Bradford Museums and Art Galleries (2010). Group exhibitions include Talk of the Table, Leicester City Art Gallery (1996), Contemporary Ceramics, Leeds City Art Gallery (1998), Diverse, Western Australian School of Art and Design, Perth (1999), Florilegium, Cartwright Hall, Bradford (2008), Clay and Meaning, Gallery Oldham (2010) and with Francis Kyle Gallery Byzantium (2009), This twittering world: Contemporary artists celebrate TS Eliot’s Four Quartets (2011) and Jumping for Joyce: Contemporary painters revel in the world of James Joyce (2013). Public collections include Transcultural Collection, Bradford Museums and Art Galleries and Womens’ Art Collection, New Hall, Cambridge. First one-person exhibition with Francis Kyle Gallery 2012.
Claudia Clare has published widely on ceramics, has been a regular contributor to Ceramic Review since 1997 and in 2011 co-authored with Edmund de Waal The Pot Book (Phaidon, UK). Her work is featured in numerous publications including Emmanuel Cooper’s Contemporary Ceramics (Thames & Hudson, 2009) and Paul Scott’s Ceramics and Print (A&C Black, 2012).
I make clay pots to tell stories. Feminism shapes the decisions I make about which stories to tell and how to research them and brings a sense of intimacy and a respect for the everyday to the stories I work with and to the political issues they illuminate. I trained as painter originally and then turned to ceramics for both formal and narrative reasons. Painting on the curved surface, where the edges are defined only by the base of the vessel and by its opening, was far more enticing than the edges of the picture frame. The narrative possibilities of the ceramic forms – their social, political, historic and human associations – are immensely generative and have proved to be fertile ground for exploration.
Writing, drawing and painting, play a significant part in the process. The written word sometimes migrates to the ceramic surface but more often becomes part of my blog or of a printed publication. Snapshot photography from my phone is now helping me to record some of the most intimate and fleeting moments, providing images which my memory alone
While maintaining a profound interest in the big events that shape our time, it is the impact of these events on the everyday that inspires the pots: I am more interested in the effect of a revolution on families and shop-keepers than on the fighting, flames and televisual drama engulfing the streets.
Clay pots are good at sustaining the memory of marginalised social stories: they are our museum pieces and archaeological evidence. As part of our everyday lives they are easily recognised and understood. In these two ways, clay pots can function both as memorials and as a call for action.
© Francis Kyle Gallery. All Rights Reserved