Community in Clay: Rosamund Coady

When lock down was announced on 14 March 2020 – my first reaction was to think what can I do to help as an artist? I have always known about the therapeutic effects of working with clay and I started to think that I might be able to construct a remote ceramics project to help people to have a focus while being stuck inside.

I came up with the project #flowerpotsinisolation. The idea was that neighbours could pick up terracotta clay from my doorstep and take it home together with some tips on how to work with clay using kitchen utensils. There was a big response and the following week the pots with thank you notes started to arrive back on my doorstep. It made me happy to think that I could help in a small way with people’s mental health in this challenge we are facing.

#flowersinisolation pots

I always wanted to use clay and I remember during secondary school we didn’t have clay or 3D facilities, so I joined an evening class where I was the only teenager surrounded by women who were there mainly to gossip. I learnt a lot while I was there (and not just about the properties of clay).

After school I studied at Camberwell School of Art, it was a golden time when art education was free and well resourced – it was an intimate and flourishing space to work in. In the Ceramics department you always had to attend college as you needed access to the kilns and glaze areas. I really enjoyed the sense of community and creativity, and I thrived in this environment making some very experimental and colourful sculptures.

When I left college I struggled as I missed working in a communal setting. I tried and failed to hire a space in a studio – galleries offered me shows but as I wasn’t established in a studio they withdrew the offers, and I lost an incentive to work and the prospect of earning. I gave all that up and did my own work privately at home and threw myself into youth work, and community teaching of art and ceramics. 

I come from a creative family and that informs the way I work. It took me a long time to realise that I am happiest when I work in a group and surrounded by others who are part of the creative conversation. In my case it is my family – in others it may be some other type of community. Ideas are exchanged and on my kitchen table architectural sketches, graphic designs and a lolly business have all been developed alongside my artwork.

I am inspired by artists like Ruth Kasawa who would work surrounded by her children and often they were involved in the making of her work. She did not make a distinction between work and home. I can relate to struggles for representation. Her wire sculptures were not readily accepted in galleries as they were ‘knitted’ and could not be placed neatly into the category of Craft, Sculpture or Art.

Ruth Asawa at Work with Children (1957) by Imogen Cunningham

I know now that the best way I can work is to play with my environment and make something that suits me and reflects what I am thinking or doing. When I first visited Kettles yard in Cambridge – I completely loved the environment which was somewhere between a home and a gallery. It made sense to me that a wall of plants or a spiral of pebbles were given the same respect as the paintings and sculptures on display. 

In 2016 I made an installation piece called ‘Sand Play’ which was an inter active installation for Crouch end festival. I persuaded a local pub to host the piece and people were encouraged to come and create their own Zen like patterns in the sand, using ceramic combs and sieves which I had made. Local people were able to interact, switch off from a stressful day and have a moment of stillness.

Ceramics by Rosamund Coady

My work has most recently been inspired by Japanese culture. In 2018 I produced an installation of Yunomi cups for a brutalist church in Bloomsbury. I wanted to invite people to enjoy the modern space, and drink tea from the cups which I had made. I love to create interactive events where people can touch and feel the work and react in a visceral way to what I have made.

I am hoping one day to collaborate with my architect husband Simon Roden to build a modern house with an interesting environment inspired by Ray and Charles Eames’ home in California. This playful space would feature ceramics, plants, and plenty of daylight. 

As I approach 60, I feel comfortable working from ideas based on my interior perspective. The validation of others does not bother me too much – I like to be part of the conversation but otherwise I make what I feel like doing and that gives me pleasure. 

Ceramics by Rosamund Coady

Words: Rosamund Coady

Rosamund’s Instagram can be found here.

About the Author

Rosamund Coady’s approach to clay has always been experimental, and she is as strongly influenced by painting and design, as she is by ceramics. Her work has changed direction after a long break from ceramics, and since she started making her own glazes. Previously her work was generally abstract, colourful sculptures, low fired to earthenware. She is now working at a higher temperature, making quieter and more vessel-based forms. Her next exhibition ‘Roots and Shoots’ will be with Cambridge Contemporary Art in 2020.

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