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ARTISTS rarely work in complete isolation. Over generations, collaborations are an exciting part of creativity, and vital to artists who want to spark something new. In their new exhibition ‘Dialogues’, at Sarah Wiseman Gallery, ceramicist Linda Bloomfield and painter Sarah Spackman will present new work that explores the course of a friendship, and their shared influences.
Can you start by telling us who you are and what you do?
Linda Bloomfield: I am a scientist turned potter, making thrown porcelain tableware, vases and bottles in my West London studio.
Sarah Spackman: I am an artist living and working in Oxford. I make paintings based on observation, mainly still life paintings of everyday objects including ceramics, fruits and vegetables.
When and how did you both meet?
LB: I met Sarah at Art in Action, Waterperry Gardens, where I was demonstrating throwing on the wheel in the ceramics tent.
SS: We met up again the following year when I also became a demonstrator in the painting tent. We swapped some pots for a painting and I also commissioned some bowls.
What drew you to each other’s work?
LB: I love still life paintings like Sarah’s. After our meeting at Art in Action, Sarah started to include some of my pots in her paintings. I visited her studio in Oxford to lend her some more pots and found she had shelves of objects, ranging from old cider flagons to contemporary studio pottery.
SS: I love the shape and glaze that Linda uses in her ceramics, I find them very paintable! They are also lovely to handle and use. There are certain pieces [by Linda] that have appeared over and over again in my paintings.
Tell us more about the Dialogues exhibition…
LB: I made a range of different porcelain bottles and vases, some plain, some fluted, inspired by mid-century modern Scandinavian and British studio pottery. In the exhibition, the bottles will be displayed in frames like a still life. I asked Sarah to choose a selection of pots to include in her paintings.
SS: I have always enjoyed painting Linda’s pots and have incorporated them into many paintings. These paintings are a direct response to the ceramics themselves and also to the way in which such objects are displayed. Many pots are made for every-day use but they can become elevated into something else by the way we look at them.
Do you hope to achieve new things as artists by exhibiting together?
SS: My work is about looking at things and how we see them. Recently, I have
been painting either single things or a couple of objects that I feel relate to each other in some way. Working for this exhibition is giving me the opportunity to create more complex compositions, combining ceramics with organic objects. For me this means more questions about how these things that we see and use daily, relate to one another when we spend more time looking at their diverse colours and forms. Dialogues for me is more of an individual response to Linda’s work, incorporating it into my own.
LB: I usually make repeat tableware for galleries, shops and restaurants, so I am excited to make larger, one-off pieces and still life groups in a gallery installation. This will expand my practise as an artist as well as a production potter and tableware designer. We have visited each other’s studios and discussed the exhibition together and with Sarah Wiseman in the gallery. I am making three dimensional still life compositions, inspired by Morandi’s objects and Sarah’s paintings.
Can you describe a typical day in the studio?
LB: My favourite day would be when I am throwing on the wheel. I try to make at least one or two batches of 12 pots before lunch, and then another two batches in the afternoon, depending on orders. My orders come from my website and by email from galleries, shops and restaurants. Recently I have been making a lot of handmade plates for restaurants as well as new vase and bottle shapes for exhibitions.
SS: I am lucky enough to have a beautiful studio just a ten-minute bike ride from home. I begin my day with drawing for a little while. It’s a way to get my eye in. Then I spend the rest of the day painting. I usually have two still life set ups in the studio at any one time, one that I work on during the morning and then as the light goes around, I work on the other one in the afternoon. It’s a lovely light and quiet space where I can spend my time thinking, looking, and mixing colours.
When exhibiting, what memorable responses have you had to your work?
LB: The best one was from a National Trust buyer who said mine was the best thing she’d seen in the show!
SS: I had a review of an exhibition in Dublin where my work was described as giving the viewer a ‘Breathing Space’. Most people say that my work has a sense of calm. I like to think that still life paintings ‘still’ the viewer.
What’s next – do you have a particular ambition or dream project?
LB: I am very excited about the Dialogues exhibition with Sarah. In September, I am also exhibiting in the British Craft Pavilion at the London Design Fair. I would love to make more installations.
SS: I just want to keep painting! I would like to develop the stillness in my work and give the colour more clarity.
Small cherry bowl, oil on board, by Sarah Spackman
28 Linda Bloomfield and Sarah Spackman
Thrown porcelain bottles, satin matt glazes, height 15cm, 2017, by Linda Bloomfield