East London makers Image: Matthew Booth Gilded Finch bowls Christine Preisig meets local ceramicist Jo Davies Jo Davies's love of ceramics was kindled as a young teenager at school when she had the opportunity to work on a pottery project. The intensity of the work and the encouragement of the teacher changed her. “I just loved the material, its malleability and the fact that I could be so autonomous with just the hands as my tools,” she explains. Ceramic is a very complex material. There are different clays, many ways of firing it and that’s before you start to think about the glaze, where the possibilities are infinite. While studying in Bath and later at the Royal College of Art, she came to love those tricky elements of her craft. 8 LOVEEAST A harder nut to crack for her was the fact that ceramic traditions, such as British studio ceramics, Stoke-on-Trent bone china or South East Asian traditions, seemed to weight heavily on what is seen as the right or wrong way to produce ceramics. Jo rebelled against that. She wanted to work more creatively, artistically – with a mind unclouded by traditional requirements. Jo comes from a sculptural point of view. “I wanted to be an artist – with a capital A – and was probably massively pretentious,” she says. Her earlier pottery work was mainly wall pieces, and nothing with a practical use. This changed during her time at the RCA when she started to focus on making functional ware. Vases are her favourite things to make. “They are nice sculptural vehicles that have a use – just about.” Over the years, Jo has developed a unique aesthetic that fuses simplicity with humorous details. She works exclusively in hand-thrown porcelain and sticks to her signature black and white glazes (with occasional gilded gold leaf details). It's fascinating to see how she morphs a basic piece of clay into a sophisticated object. Guided by Jo’s skillful hands, the clay on the throwing wheel takes the shape of a cone before it is transformed into a beehive and then opened up to give it a vessel shape.
East London makers She smoothly and effortlessly pulls up the sides and brings them to a clear form. Once the object has dried a bit overnight it becomes more receptive and can be further shaped and sculptured. “I slowly move and build tension in the body of the piece to really sharpen up the form." Image: Layton Thompson She uses sponges and her hands to make sure the final piece reflects the liquidity of the clay and the flow of the throwing process. This procedure happens over the course of a few days until it is ready to go into the kiln. Once it comes out it's sanded and then glazed. The glazes have a very liquid, satin and tactile feel and further enhance the tension of the piece. For Jo, the way an object feels is as equally important as the way it looks. Asked if she’s still a bit rebellious she admits to feeling a bit of an outsider in ceramics. Having said that, she acknowledges that she has just been selected for the Craft Potters Association. “I’m glad that they like what I’m doing but, oh my god, this is Jo at work in her studio I could be autonomous, with just the hands as my tools pottery establishment. It is a bit weird.” Jo offers tuition in wheel-thrown porcelain as well as a kiln firing service. Studio visits are welcome, please get in touch with her to arrange. A full range of items can be bought from her webshop: jo-davies.com Images: Far left, middle Matthew Booth; right Layton Thompson From left: Twist Pendant lampshade; Imelda half light; Jo at the throwing wheel LOVEEAST JULY 2016 9