Anna-Marie Magson is a ceramic artist living and working in York, England. Originally trained as a painter, Anna-Marie has over the years moved a lot of her creative focus to ceramics. You will see, however, that her ceramics retain a lot of painterly qualities. Anna-Marie also continues to paint and to work with collage. I spoke with Anna-Marie about the evolution of her work.
JW: You originally studied painting. How has that training and body of work influenced your ceramics?
AMM: I studied Fine Arts (Painting) at art college in Liverpool in the early 80’s. It was a quite unstructured course where student were given freedom to explore their own interests. I initially spent a great deal of time in the life studio, drawing mainly with charcoal.
Egon Schiele’s work was an influence. Gradually, I moved from the figurative to the abstract, admiring Paul Klee and then mid century abstract art such as Lee Krasner and William Scott amongst others. Painting became all about shape, texture and color fields for me.
JW: Do you still paint?
AMM: I began painting again to provide background work to display with my ceramics. I now find myself also working with collage and mixed media, again in a style that compliments the pottery.
JW: When did you start doing ceramics – and what drew you to ceramics?
AMM: After graduating from art school, I had no clearly defined career path. My boyfriend (now husband) had studied ceramics and we combined our skills to produce white earthenware domestic ceramics. From the mid 1980’s onwards, we made a living as a small scale craft pottery, firstly in Liverpool and now in our native Yorkshire.
JW: Are there things you can do on a ceramic surface that you perhaps couldn’t do on canvas?
AMM: The 3d form of my pots greatly helps in the evolution of my designs. Different angles and views create interesting shapes to play with, while the surface and texture of the clay gives opportunities to make marks through embossing and sgraffito. Working with wax resist allows me to develop the negative and positive spaces around my abstract designs. There are obvious similarities between my paintings and pots, but I find the internal/external aspects of a 3D vessel invite much more exploration.
JW: You’ve said that you find inspiration in “ancient structures, their weathered surface and the evidence of human mark making.” What examples can you provide?
AMM: Living in York, such a historic city, is inspiring. The different landscapes in this part of Britain – the North York Moors, the dramatic coastline and Yorkshire Wolds are indeed stimulating and uplifting.
I feel I am more directly influenced, however, by my continued love of the ancient world. Visits to Rome, Athens, Cyprus, Ephesus in Turkey, and the caves at Lascaux in France have given much to excite me.
There is an almost endless list of sites I have enjoyed – each with variants of weathered human expression, be they mosaics in Paphos, megalithic structures in Wales or the petroglyphs of indigenous peoples in Utah and around the Colorado River.
JW: How has your ceramic work evolved over time?
AMM: The last few years have seen me move away from decorating domestic pottery to working on my current, less utilitarian vessels. The need for practical items has given way to aesthetic principles of form and texture. Shapes are now pared-down, leaving little to distract from the designs.
JW: I see a consistent use of oval forms in your work. Where did that idea come from?
AMM: I find the oval structure of my pots gives a strong but simple outline while allowing a generous, relatively flat surface to decorate. Thrown, cylindrical vessels remind me more of industrial formality – I prefer the more organic forms that hand-building with slabs affords.
JW: I also see layers in your glaze work on many of your pots. Have you always incorporated these transparent/translucent layers in your work?
AMM: Previously, creating quite flat, distinct pattern for the domestic pottery was a priority. Now I build up and then erase areas and layers of color and shape, leaving traces of previous marks, either obvious or suggested. I look to create contrast with sharp details and occasional flashes of color against a soft, limited background palette. On paper, collage and printing appeals – giving me the opportunity to explore layering, translucence while masking off areas presents negative space to exploit. On the ceramics, I do all the decoration with slips, only using a transparent, satin glaze that gives a soft, less sharply defined finish.
JW: How has the Coronavirus situation in the UK affected artists – particularly ceramic artists?
AMM: Many artists I know have found the situation has led them to discover other ways of being creative. Without access to certain facilities, maybe working more simply with what is available has become apparent. For me, collage has been important in extending my creativity. With many events cancelled, artists and ceramicists have had to increase their use of digital platforms to connect with their audience.
JW: Where do you think you’ll take your work from here? Do you sense a progression in your ceramic work?
AMM: I intend to keep refining my work along the same lines – there is, I feel, still much to explore in my current themes. I am constantly considering and developing ideas and methods with various clays and glazes.
More of Anna-Marie’s work can be found at her website: www.annamariemagson.co.uk