If you are looking for a vase to put some flowers in that will blend into the background, Faye Hadfield’s anthropomorphic creations are probably not what you are looking for.
“They are intentionally raw and crude, deliberately drawing attention to a status of their own materiality,” Faye tells It’s Nice That. “I see my work as emotionally charged objects that I think people find easy to empathise with. They’re raw, tactile and very gestural. There is something really satirical about the scary pots that gives them a humorous side.”
Taking inspiration in shape from traditional Greek amphora, these unique ceramic pieces have been given an undoubtedly modern edge and texture – and faces, of course…
Faye, who is from the northeast of England but studied contemporary art in Bath, gained a solid grounding in a variety of ceramic techniques whilst at university, most of them traditional. It was not until her year abroad at Kunst University in Linz that she really found her feet artistically, and was exposed to a wider range of disciplines and schools of thought.
“It was wild! Probably the best experience art-wise in my life to date,” she says of this year. “In Austria, I felt a contradiction to all the rules I had been taught – they all just kinda went out the window. I decided I wanted to make something that was imperfect and rough around the edges.”
This didn’t go entirely to plan at first: “I was struggling massively to do it. I just wanted something that had some naivety, and I kept ending up with a lumpy coiled vase; nothing like I had envisaged the artwork to be like.”
This frustration at being unable to embrace this new way of working actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Faye: “One evening I was so fed up I made a clay sausage and two small balls of clay and in a bad mood I pushed them onto the vase, making a stupid face. I then left the studio and went home. The next day I came back and decided that I actually really liked it, and pretty much since then I’ve been developing these vases.”
The outline of Faye’s vases may be classical, however, almost everything else veers away from tradition, including the techniques she employs. “The first set of anthropomorphic vases were made using a coiling technique which, after a while, became too laborious for me, so I created this patty technique where I’ll just grab a handful of clay, squeeze it on my hand till I’m happy with the shape, and then attach it to the base and I just work up like that,” she says. “I’m a very impulsive maker, sometimes I’ll even just smush the vase up if I'm not happy with its shape, or pull clay off and add it back to reform the shape if it's not going my way.”
The noticeably eclectic textures are also created in a certain way, in a manner that is planned but can lead to natural variations. “I also love to layer my glazes, it’s one of my favourite techniques. The main purpose of it is to create different textures on my vases. It adds an element of surprise as different glazes layer differently depending on the finish of the glaze,” she says. “More is more for me, and if it comes out the kiln looking strange (which I normally like anyways) I add more glaze, lustre, or anything to make it stronger. I love excessive detail.”
Faye, who has just completed a residency at 44AD Gallery in Bath, initially began creating happy anthropomorphic vases. It was only following positive feedback from an exhibition displaying her first few “scary” ones at Enclave Gallery in Deptford, that she realised “they were actually pieces of work that I should be proud of and not shy away from.”
“I came back with a new outlook on the scary pots and felt compelled to create more of them, making them cruder, more twisted and medieval. Through the creation of these scary pots the gesture moved from adding the faces to the pots to literally tearing them away,” she says. At exhibitions, comments have since included “it looks like a pavlova” and that “the glaze looks like green lava,” which in her book are positives. “It’s definitely a win for me,” she says.
Despite not appreciating her traditional education in ceramics at the time, Faye has since come to realise how useful it has been: “Looking back I’m actually super thankful to have learned all those techniques, as now the way I construct my vases involves pushing the material to its limit. I don’t think I’d be able to do it well if I didn’t know about the material qualities of clay.”
Her passion for the medium remains obvious, and she is looking forward to creating more work in 2020 as part of the new cohort of School of the Damned. “The beauty of ceramics is that it could change at any point you put it in the kiln. You have no idea what’s coming back out, whether it will hold shape or the colour might go strange,” she says. “It’s so unpredictable, which keeps it exciting and challenging!”
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.