March 2019 Maker of the Month: Claire Henry

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Welcome Home has gladly stocked Glasgow based ceramicist Claire Henry’s pieces for years and years so it feels long overdue to speak to her for this months maker feature!  Claire’s work is diverse in its styles but grounded in her ability to hand throw beautiful vessels on the wheel. Her use of different clays makes her work all the more recognisable with deep matte black surfaces, rich terracottas and light, stoney and speckled ones. 

Alongside Claire's more minimal pieces she injects fun and character into her work with wonderfully wild decal designs, collage-like and entertaining in their surreal content. You can find Claire’s work in Welcome Home as well as sample her pieces in action in lots of your favourite cafes like Short Long Black, East Coffee Company and 27 Elliott’s!

Hi Claire! We’re so happy to have you as our March maker! 

1. Tell us about your creative origins… were you an artistic kid? When did you find yourself choosing this path?

When I was a kid I was always collecting things (mostly rubbish, animal skulls, rocks, pieces of broken glass) and bringing them home. It became such a regular occurrence that every time I'd go out for a walk with my mum, she would bring a bag for all my "treasures". I'm not sure if this counts as being an artistic kid, but I was certainly drawn to collecting and gathering outside sources for inspiration, and looking for curious objects. In high school I had an incredible art teacher - Mr. Lund - who would sneak me the keys to the pottery room, knowing all too well that I was skipping class. I think his encouragement and the way he pushed me critically and conceptually as a young artist, played a huge part in the direction I took. This ultimately lead me to study at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design (Vancouver, Canada) which further expanded my practice to residencies and studio spaces in Hungary, New Zealand and South Korea. 

2. You’ve travelled a lot with your craft, how do you think your place in the world and the context of your surroundings effects your output?

As a maker I continue to be influenced by my environment. No matter where I'm living, I am drawn to urban decay found in abandoned buildings, layers of paint and texture on walls, architectural silhouettes, details in ornate fixtures. These external influences seep into my practice, whether it's the profile of a vase, the texture and mark-making in the surface design, or colours found in my glazes. My work has shifted depending where I'm living and what I'm experiencing on a day-to-day basis. In the past, due to lack of facilities or studio space, my practice would gravitate more to paper collage, painting and sketching. Pottery, and all everything that comes with it, isn't the most portable profession for a traveller. Now that I'm grounded in a full-time studio practice in Glasgow, I can allow myself to focus on ceramics and all the challenges and possibilities that come when one is working with this amazing material. 

3. Describe a typical day in your studio!

I'm not the biggest early bird, so I tend to ease into my mornings with a quick breakfast and then grab a much needed coffee from Short Long Black (a southside cafe owned by my partner, and conveniently just around the corner from our flat). I will catch the bus, hop on my bike or - if I'm feeling super ambitious - run to my shared studio in the east end of town. Then, I'll consult my planner. I'm an anxiously organised person and rely so much on lists and schedules to remember things, so I'll see what jobs need to be done for the day. Depending where I am in my work cycle, I'll start throwing forms on the wheel, trim work which has been thrown, or load pieces into a kiln for a bisque or glaze firing. All these tasks would be impossible to complete without the assistance of podcasts. If you need any recommendations, get in touch. I usually try to finish up at the studio between 5:00-7:00 and then head home, with clay-covered clothes, to relax (or do admin that I've been putting off). It's a very glamorous life.

4. Having taught evening classes in the past do you find teaching your craft to others offers any new perspectives?

Absolutely! I loved teaching throwing courses at the studio. When I taught I found myself having to explain processes, or break down steps in a comprehensive way - and this really made me think about all the physical actions I take when I'm throwing, and all the nuances of making that are normally overlooked because they become second nature, or muscle memory. This is going to sound like a cliche Oprah moment, but I also believe that my students have inspired me. They offer a different perspective when throwing forms, or use a technique in a new way, and this has made me re-think certain actions I take within my own practice. When you explain things out loud, or answer challenging questions, it can reaffirm your knowledge of a material, or make you search for a good answer. I really enjoyed that challenge, because I know this career is a life long learning process, and it's nice to be reminded of this fact. I am continuously surprised and humbled by the unpredictability of clay as a material, and I love this about teaching. 

5. What are your aims for 2019 as a maker?

I think, like most self-employed makers I know, it's an ongoing battle to balance your work life and your personal life. I'm still struggling to do this, but am taking steps to focus my energy on different things besides a life glued to the studio. This year I am prioritising time spent with my friends, and will visit my family in Canada this summer. That being said, in regards to my business, I'm in the process of (finally) launching an online shop, and am working to streamline a more comprehensive wholesale catalogue for my stockists. My aim is to start systems which will enable me to be more productive with my time, so that I'm working more efficiently, and have have the energy and headspace to take on passion projects, or just take an afternoon off. As makers we tend to punish ourselves and feel guilty when we're not constantly working. This can lead to a pretty bad burn out or trigger mental health issues. For my practice to grow in a healthy way,  it's vital that I take time off to reflect, research and gather information and inspiration. I've been accepted to the pilot program of Compass: Emerging Makers, through Creative Scotland, and with this programme, I'm looking forward to taking a practical approach to my practice through mentoring, workshops, and business skills that will develop and help the way that I work. 2019 is shaping up to be a pretty exciting year.

6. What’s your favourite thing about being based in Glasgow?

Besides the glorious sunshine and hot weather... I'd have to say the biggest draw about being a maker in Glasgow is the community I've found. As a non-Scottish migrant, and having gone to art school in another continent, you'd think I would be a bit of an outsider. However, I am surrounded by an incredible circle of artists, shop owners, makers and friends in this city. I enjoy selling at local markets so I can chat with lovely customers (who keep coming back and are so supportive) and catch up with other makers from Glasgow and beyond. I really feel at home in this city, and the makers community is so welcoming and honest. We support and encourage each other, within our failures and successes, and it's a wonderful feeling to be part of this new wave of makers. 


7. Lastly, we always ask our Maker of the Month to chose something from the shop!

It was difficult to pick just one things from the shop, but I was really drawn to the Jazz Cushion by Fun Makes Good. I love the colour and texture combinations and design, and could see this cushion fitting perfectly in my home.


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