Carol finds her niche with perfect porcelain

PUBLISHED: 01:16 25 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:39 20 February 2013

Carol finds her niche with perfect porcelain

Carol finds her niche with perfect porcelain

After years of experimenting with various media, Carol Pask, of Bardwell, has found her niche as a sculptor in ceramics. Judith Tooth went to meet the winner of this year's Suffolk Open Studios' showcase exhibition

After years of experimenting with various media, Carol Pask, of Bardwell, has found her niche as a sculptor in ceramics. Judith Tooth went to meet the winner of this years Suffolk Open Studios showcase exhibition

Recognition has been swift for sculptor Carol Pask last month, just two years since her graduation, she scooped the art prize at Suffolk Open Studios showcase exhibition.

Carol, who lives at Bardwell, was chosen as winner of the art prize by three judges Maureen Denny, of Bury St Edmunds art and craft supplier Denny Bros, sponsor of the prize, Suffolk magazine editor, Jayne Lindill and modern art dealer Caroline Wiseman, who organises the visual art festival Aldeburgh Art.

"We were unanimous," says Caroline. "We all felt her work was incredibly original and really stood out. It was beautifully made and had a clear concept. And like all good artwork the pieces could be interpreted in different ways we all had our different thoughts."

That recognition might never have come, had it not been for Carols decision to set herself a personal challenge to do what she had first planned 30 years ago to go to art college. Back then, she had got a summer job and never went. In 2005, having worked with clay for a few years and done various short courses, she finally wanted to give her work credibility and turn her hobby into a profession.

"I like the medium," says Carol. "Its old people have been using it for centuries. Its a natural material, and I find it forgiving though not everyone does but it works for me. You can . . . not necessarily make mistakes . . . but its not as precise as, say, painting you can work with it.

"A lot of my work is quite instinctive, I let it materialise on its own and I quite like that, it almost has its own personality."

Carol had also done a lot of printmaking and after experimenting in her foundation year at (what is now) Suffolk New College in graphics, animation, illustration, painting and more, she remained torn between printmaking and ceramics. But it was the discovery that there were other ways of creating surface patterns on clay such as smoke-firing she had never been happy with glazes that were more natural and gave such spontaneous results that swayed her. Even then, though, it wasnt ceramics that she went on to study, but fine art, at Norwich University College of Art.

"I knew I didnt want to make utility ware, that I wanted to do sculptural work, and fine art was a better route to sculpture," says Carol. "And there were no pure ceramics courses locally, and going away was not an option with my two sons still at school."

She studied for a foundation degree in fine art practice at West Suffolk College and topped up the qualification to an honours degree at Norwich. That final year was hard, she says you need to hit the ground running for your dissertation and final exhibition but she really enjoyed it and found Norwich a fabulous university.

"The course pulled lots of things together and made me focus more and question why I was doing what I was," she says. "I discovered that Im very immersed in where I live and very influenced by my environment, and not just the natural world though thats where my main interest lies but also in architecture.

"I learned to look actually more and to have a deeper understanding. Now, rather than just making, I can still see something, an idea, that inspires me, but its how I formulate that information theres a bit more feeling about it, more consideration."

Two years on, Carol is most pleased with her current work. Its somewhere around where she wants to be, distilling her ideas into shapes that represent something, but dont necessarily prescribe to people, rather people make what they want out of it. Its quite abstract in that respect, she says.

"I usually start by making a I hesitate to call it a bowl a base or a vessel," she says. "I dont use a wheel, I make little pinch pots or a coil base.

"Ive been obsessed for quite some time with very thin porcelain I love the challenge of it and I love rock formations, the different layers, different times, the idea that people have walked on these different layers, and that historical relationship is where a lot of my ideas come from. So I make stacks of porcelain.

"And I love seed pods, the fact that somethings hidden inside. And my work is a combination of all those things that fascinate me, everyday things that I see when I wander in the garden or walk the dog or ride my horse."

Rather than glazing, she creates surface patterns and textures, which are then emphasised with colour using oxides such as manganese or cobalt in the firing process.

The resulting, chunkier smoke-fired vessels contrast with the fine porcelain discs that fit snugly inside them. Burnished and polished finishes to some of the vessels provide a further contrast.

As well as an electric kiln, and a sawdust-filled dustbin for smoke-firing, Carol also has an old mobile forge and a small anvil for making the spikes on which her works are stacked.

Work as an artist, as for any self-employed person, she says, is a case of feast or famine, but she is building up more exhibitions each year.

She also works part-time at West Suffolk College as a technician in the ceramics department and as an adult education lecturer in ceramics work in a creative environment which she loves and which feeds into her own practice.

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