17 Mar Meet the Makers: Jo Mair
Meet the Makers: Jo Mair. As part of our studio’s open doors sessions, “The Way of Clay”, we invite you to explore a series of exhibitions that will showcase the works of our most outstanding artists. On this occasion we are pleased to present you the talented Jo Mair, a ceramicist who draws inspiration from the natural world to create stunning sculptures and functional pieces. In this interview, we dive into Jo’s creative process, her challenges, and her upcoming exhibition at 137º, where she’ll showcase her latest pieces alongside fellow ceramicist Jason Showard. If you’re a fan of ceramics or curious about the intersection of art and nature, keep reading to learn more about Jo’s journey and passion.
Jo, how did your interest in ceramics begin?
The first time I worked with clay was at school, handbuilding. Back then I didn’t feel much connection to it for some reason. I’ve continued working creatively with various other mediums throughout the years, and someone gifted me a wheel throwing class a few years ago. I loved the feeling of being back in a studio environment and immediately knew I needed to start handbuilding again. Being able to create any shape you want from this solid lump of clay was so exciting to me. I became completely obsessed from that point.
What are your main influences and inspirations?
The natural world. Every piece I make is attempting to transpose a piece of what I feel experiencing nature into an object or sculpture. I’m obsessed with rock formations and textures, the finishes of stone, dried out wood, the desert, cracked earth, light. I gravitate towards dry landscapes and spending time in deserts and canyons. The shapes of the rocks and the way the sunlight moves and gives different perspectives and colours with the changing hours fascinates me infinitely. But it´s not only visual, being in the desert is also where I feel the most in touch with myself. There’s something so calming about the dryness, stillness and silence.
How would you describe your creative process, from the conception of an idea to the creation of a piece?
I’m more intuitive than a planner. I keep a small sketchbook with me most of the time; inspiration comes to me from seeing a shape in nature, or sometimes as I’m on the point of sleep or waking I will “see” a form, which I then sketch so I don’t lose it. Once in the studio I don’t think much besides being aware of the proportions or scale I want to achieve, and just start building. It kind of depends how my hands are moving that particular day, assessing and reassessing in the moment. Some days I work very fast and almost compulsively, and I have stopped trying to hold that back as it is kind of a meditation to let my hands move without controlling it too much. But building this main form of a piece is only the beginning, and a sculpture often changes quite dramatically once I start to work into it with my hands. To di this I prefer to use my fingers, a wet sponge or various carving tools.
What challenges have you faced in your life as an artist and how have you overcome them?
Because a lot of my pieces are quite big, I’ve had to learn the hard way about building structures in a way that can support the weight of the wet clay. I’ve had pieces I loved ruined due to serious cracks or full collapses. I’ve improved this over time by trial and error, and by listening to the other artists in the studio who always have some good advice. These days I have more intuition about the humidity and texture of whichever clay I’m working with and I can kind of feel its boundaries in that sense. Glazing is still my biggest challenge in the studio, I crave very specific stone-like finishes for my pieces which I am yet to achieve with any sort of regularity or confidence, so I guess this is what I’d like to continue working on.
How has your technique and style developed over time?
My technique has mostly developed through hours spent practising- trying and failing- and through watching videos of other sculptors and ceramicists. I now have more intuition about how the clay is responding to the form, the moisture levels, how some different clays act in the hands. Having not been working with clay for so many years, I feel like my style is still developing. I’m always finding new inspiration and this necessarily leads to new techniques as I figure out how to create the shape or effect I’m trying to achieve.
What excites you most about your upcoming exhibition at 137º?
I guess the chance to curate and bring together my pieces in a cohesive way that I’ve not had the opportunity to do yet, and see the body of work as a whole. I’m excited to exhibit with Jason, as our work is so contrasting. While we both work big, he is a wheel thrower and uses a lot of dark toned glazes, while I exclusively hand build and am drawn towards whites, light colours and paler neutral tones.
What are your future projects or goals as a ceramicist?
I’m really excited about exploring ceramic furniture, things like side tables and tall floor lamps. I want to experiment with combining ceramics with other materials like wood and glass. I love working big scale, and while this is expensive and comes with other structural challenges, it’s something I can’t wait to try.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in ceramics now?
Listen to the advice of others with experience, but don’t always be constrained by other peoples’ limitations and opinions.
On April 1st, from 12pm to 8pm, Jo will be welcoming you to show you her work and share her path and passion with you. Don’t miss this opportunity and save the date!
Edited by Dalia Sofronie / Photography by Sara Lopez