Chloe, maker behind, Whinblossom creates beautiful and unique ceramic pieces that awaken the senses and create feelings of nostalgia. Originally from the Isle of Wight, Chloe moved to Plymouth to fuel her growing passion and complete a degree in ceramics.
How did you first become involved in ceramics?
When I was studying Fine Art at Newcastle University, I became very interested in using clay from the cliffs on the Isle of Wight, my home. Looking at the landscape that surrounded me I had a longing to bring it back to University. So I began by collecting from the cliffs that surrounded me. It travelled with me on the eight hour train journey in a huge suitcase with my bicycle in tow as well! I learnt how to process the clay at Newcastle and the first objects I created were a set of unglazed red earthenware vases. I found it difficult to push my ideas further because the Newcastle didn’t have the facilities I needed.
When did you realise being a ceramist was the career that you wanted?
When I moved back to the Island, I began working at Tregear Pottery. From Neil Tregear, I learnt more about glazes, clay and ceramic production. I was so inspired by Neil that I decided to transfer to the ceramics degree at Plymouth College of Art where I started to learn more about how the cliffs reacted within my practice. I continued to source materials from home and developed my own base glaze. I created raw and earthy vessels where the minerals spoke louder than the glaze itself. I wanted to take my audience back to the cliffs as they looked at my work.
Could you tell us a little bit about the work you’re doing at the moment with a loupe lens?
Yes of course! I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Botanical Companions’ by Frieda Knobloch, she talks about a Botanist called Aven Nelson who spends hours pouring over specimens and looking really closely at things. Knobloch says that it’s not just about looking with your eyes but that it’s also about awakening your senses within the landscape. That’s what I want to get across to people in my work. By looking through a loupe lens at my work, you can see it’s details, look past the vessel itself and into the minerals on the cliff.
Do you continue to use the Island as your inspiration?
Yes, I love how the landscape is always transforming. There have been a lot of landslips all over the island, it even happens right outside my house, which means that the bay changes every time I go home. Every time I go back, it’s a different place, there’s a different movement and the minerals revealed are different. Even some of the places that I once loved and sat in have disappeared into the sea, I love that unpredictability! Also because of this, each of my collections are unique because often I can’t collect from the same place.
How would you describe your style?
I always try and create quiet collections that you can have in your home. Pieces that you will look at one day and see some details but then you will look at the work the next day and see something different. Collections that you want to pick up and touch.
Could you tell us about the whittling process you use?
It’s not actually called whittling; I don’t really know what it’s called! It just fits!
When I was up in Newcastle, my friend used to carve spoons and in wood terms she used to call it whittling. She used to spend hours making one spoon! It’s very peaceful and I just used to sit and watch her doing this quiet process. I wanted to have a go in my work and once I started I just couldn’t stop!
This sounds a little silly, but I love watching the ocean carve away the cliffs on the bay and I feel that when I’m whittling away on the clay I’ve collected from those cliffs, it’s almost like I’m the ocean and that process is repeating itself even after the clay has been removed.
What do you think of first, the design or the material?
Definitely the materials, I spend a lot of time sitting at the bay writing poetry, describing the landscape and looking at how it all interacts and changes. My process always starts at the bay. If it was just about the making in the studio, I wouldn’t have the drive or the excitement that I get from going out into the landscape. I love how the material I use is so unpredictable, today I packed the kiln and for the first time my work came out with flecks of blue in it! I was so excited! It’s always the material that drives that excitement rather than the design.
How do you practice sustainably?
I’m very conscious about the materials that I use and where I’m sourcing them from. I only take very small amounts of material from the cliffs conscious of the effect it could have on the landscape. One day, I would love to only have to rely on different areas of the cliffs for my materials, but for now I have to use some stoneware in my ceramics.
Sarah Jerath a maker I greatly admire showed me the work of Anne Mette Hjortshøj and she has become an inspiration of mine. She sources from the cliffs at her home in Bornholm, Denmark. I love her attitude towards making and how she tries to draw people back to the landscape. We are living in an age that is machine driven, most people don’t know where a tea cup has come from. I’ve used this aspect in my work and every collection is named after the place it came from to try and point people back to the location. I record all my investigations in a leger book just as a scientist would.
Anne also talks about thinking before putting work into the kiln and that you are responsible for every item you put in the kiln because once you’ve fired it, that’s it, you pretty much can’t get that back to the clay. It made me think that every time I’m making an object, I need to be making it with a purpose rather than mass producing for no reason. I am very intentional about every piece of work I put in the kiln.
Can you give our readers any advice about starting a career in ceramics?
In my experience, the first step was handling the clay in the studio and figuring out if it was what I really wanted to do. Did I feel comfortable? Was I hungry to learn more? For me it definitely was!
I think if you’re setting up to be a ceramist, try to find out what excites you and makes you passionate! Don’t try to do too much at once, keep it simple. Abigail Booth and Max Bainbridge from Forest + Found once told me that for them it’s the depth not the width that counts and I’ve really taken this the heart. I’ve chosen one location, one glaze and one type of clay and I’m trying to get as much out of it as I can!
Any plans for the future?
I love Craft, Botany and the cliff minerals, I feel that I need to push that further and figure out how it works in a viable studio practice. I need to push it and challenge myself to find out why I do it. I’ve always been very nervous about being in studio production because I don’t want to be creating masses of the same thing but I know that it’s very hard to be viable creating one off pieces. I feel that I’m only on the tip of something, it honestly excites me so much! I love reading and writing about my craft and sitting in the studio with a loupe lens analysing. I think that perhaps those aspects interest me more than the end product.
I think it’s safe to say that I haven’t yet met another ceramist as free spirited and passionate about their craft as Chloe.
For more information and sales | www.whinblossom.com
Maria Bell Photography | www.mariabellphotography.co.uk
Grace Elizabeth Photography | www.graceelizabethphoto.com