Clay Clay Ceramics: a Collective in an Age of Social Distancing

Clay Clay Ceramics is a ceramics collective, featuring three young female artists; Alice Clarke, Madeline Denny-Gelder and Samantha Warden, whose binding quality lies within their interest in how ceramic artworks behave in a contemporary fine art setting.

Each artist works with clay differently and all members of the collective have different context and meaning behind their artwork. All members of Clay Clay Ceramics studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University and have all been involved in exhibitions and projects within the Nottingham, contemporary art scene. 

In the brink of the COVID-19 pandemic, all artists were left without their normal workspace or facilities, meaning no firing, no glazing and therefore, no finished works. Feeling that any works and projects must be paused, and with a hopeful exhibition on the cards, before the gallery was shut down, things seemed to be slipping away. Now, more than ever, we find ourselves in a world centred around technology and social media, hand-built ceramics hold an essence of human quality about them. Clarke, Denny-Gelder and Warden felt that it was crucial to still be engaged and connected with the art world, even though qualities of the norm were paused for the foreseeable future. 

Alice Clarke, Breathing Space

Alice Clarke is an artist who captures her influences, memories of hours upon hours spent by the ocean, within her colourful, abstract ceramic forms. Clarke has always had an interest in psychology, this is clear within her practice as she focuses on the use of intuition and how it has had an impact on contemporary art. Intuition is a vital stage in Clarke’s making process and past experiences heavily influence future decisions made within her practice. Clarke aims for her work to have the ability to interact with the viewer through a mutually shared connection and/or memory. Within Clarke’s ceramic works she is able to exert a tactile feeling by leaving imprints from her skin and fingers, leaving behind a heavy nod to the presence of the artist’s hand. 

Madeline Denny-Gelder primarily works with clay, Denny-Gelder is drawn to the material for its tactile nature and clear sense of touch manipulation. She uses the material to explore an ongoing interest in craft, process and the domestic, creating hand-build sculpture and thrown objects. Denny-Gelder’s interest lies within people’s interaction with ceramics due to its ubiquity, she explores this through the relationship between the haptic and the optic. Her aims seem to lie in the ability to have her viewers question the gap between craft and fine art, often displaying beautiful forms that feel beyond delicate. 

Madeleine Denny-Gelder, Untitled

Samantha Warden is a place specific artist who explores process through using clay and producing ceramic works. Warden is aware and responsive to the conversations that the method of layering and mixing of materials has. Warden is interested in the relationship that Stoke-on-Trent has to its own industrial landscape, past and present. She also tours the idea of a ‘forgotten’ British culture within her own birth town, Stoke. Warden’s work often possesses raw qualities within it and often incorporates other elements, including hints towards textiles, within her practice. 

Samantha Waldren, Oatcakes I

Clay Clay Ceramics is a relatively new collective and their first exhibition was in planning; however, it was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, therefore the collective’s first exhibition was made digital. The members wanted the collective to be an opportunity to create and showcase their works within a space that is dedicated to the art of ceramics. Along with exhibitions, the collective is also a space where Clarke, Denny-Gelder and Warden can share ideas, contextual references and captures of each artist’s process of making. Their main focus at the moment for the group is building a gallery of images surrounding their work and its context through Instagram, this has allowed them to stay engaged and motivated with their individual practices as well as each other’s. 

Each artist deals with different themes and contextual references, however, they all share a love for ceramics and hope to have an impact on how it is perceived within contemporary art. Ceramics often still holds a negative connotation. All three members of the collective feels that the idea of craft within contemporary art is nothing to shy away from or feel negative towards – it is something that should be embraced and shouldn’t be disregarded.  Clay Clay Ceramics hope to challenge people’s beliefs towards this, through creating works that challenge the functional and decorative qualities that are often attached to ceramic art. 

COVID-19 is creating a stronger feeling of community amongst young artists, it is evident that social media has become more of an important platform to support each other and to reach a wider audience. Therefore, the collective’s aim is to use Instagram as their main platform for reaching out to a wider audience, and fellow artists, Clay Clay Ceramics hope to collaborate and engage with other ceramists, or anyone who is interested in the concepts surrounding ceramics, contemporary art and craft. As well as this, the Instagram account acts somewhat of a personal notebook for all artists as Clarke, Denny-Gelder and Warden are helping one another as they are able to demonstrate how each artist individually engages with their own practices. Clarke, Denny-Gelder and Warden are able to share ideas, context, theories, strengths and weaknesses with each other and their wider audience, meaning that advice, critiques and suggestions are close by at all times, even if currently, we are all away from our studio facilities. 

Words: Alice Clarke

You can find Clay Clay Ceramics on Instagram

About the author: Alice Clarke is an artist who specialises in ceramics. Clarke studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University where she became increasingly engaged with contemporary art and what it means for herself, her practice and ceramics to have a place in a fine art setting. Clarke is fascinated by topics surrounding intuition, impulse and improvisation, as well as how past experiences and the subconscious shapes our future decisions within life and art practice. Clarke captures these ideas and influences from personal past experiences within her abstract ceramic forms that challenge the aesthetic and decorative elements that are often involved with ceramic art.