In July I had the privilege of visiting Artist Sandy Brown at her studio in North Devon. I exhibited with Sandy in 1993 in ‘With Your Own Face On’ an exhibition curated by Susan Morland who was then director of the Women Artist’s Slide Library and had selected Sandy and I. We were to exhibit alongside amazing artists such as Monic Sjoo and Rita Keegan.
I had admired Sandy’s work for it’s authoritative erectness and scale. Ambitious works that take up space and assert liberty and joy. Sandy’s most recent work includes a colossal Goddess, a public sculpture in St. Austell.
I have travelled a different trajectory to Sandy who had an amazing foundation living in a ceramic community in Japan, where she explained she learnt through observation and gradual taking part. However there are definitely similarities in respect of creative processes. Her playful use of glazes…Sandy tells me how she watched the potters hurl glazes into the air and catch them on a clay platter and her complete confidence in the power of the unconscious.
Sandy describes how she clears her mind before working, almost akin to a state of meditation, this allows the clay to ‘speak to her’ or her mind and hands to speak to the clay as she forms small sculptures she calls ‘doodles’. These often reveal the essence of ideas which she develops further. I saw her doodles scaled up in the studio from shelves of small pieces to colossal structures one could walk around. These were what I came for, I love them!
I felt myself to be in a ceramic forest that was both masculine and feminine, the animus and anima completely integrated. I want this quality in my own work and in my own being. There is no apology in her work, no shrinking away from passion.
I’m not trained in ceramics and she gives me salutary advice, stick to one clay, know everything about it, don’t keep changing, you will get confused, be methodical…disciplined…she refers to her kiln logs, use the body when making…she refers to how physically fit she remains through her passion for rowing… don’t be hindered by intellectualising …it gets in the way. Respect the land, she is a goddess everything comes from her. I wanted one corner of her space to absorb a life time of making ceramics by osmosis. If you can, visit her studio and gallery it is thrilling to visit.
What I came away with was a sense of such clear focus, no distraction, a dogged commitment to an unadulterated connection with earth, heart, hands and soul. Of her 12m Goddess she says, ‘ I made all of her with my hands.’
The lure is that here is always something else, outside of us that we need for inspiration, for self-improvement for happiness, Sandy validates that everything we need, we have already. ‘what you got?’ she asked me and the question startled me.
In my ambition to take up space it is not a question of re-inventing myself but of standing solidly and unflinchingly exactly where I am. You have to see the work to really experience it, if you can hold it and bring a piece home.