Ceramicist & Printmaker
This dynamic creative combines ceramics with printmaking in her elegantly layered vessels and monoprints, which explore the changing British coastline
Behind the scenes with creative Hannah Tounsend.
Inspired by our ever-changing, weather-worn British shores, and passionate about the complex combination of slip cast with thrown clay, multi-awarding winning ceramicist Hannah Tounsend is quickly establishing a reputation as one to watch.
Creativity was all around me growing up. The top floor of our home had a dedicated craft room and I spent hours modelling clay and painting. My dad would write poetry and short stories, and mum was always testing her art teaching projects on my sister and me.
“At school, being a creative didn’t seem a possibility. My world was more focused on scientific subjects. I completed three years of a five-year veterinary course at Glasgow University, then took a year’s sabbatical, to regroup, lift my eyes and reconnect with my creativity. I moved home to Leicestershire, took a part-time art foundation course at De Montfort University and, by chance, walked through the ceramics department. It felt like an epiphany.
After graduating from my BA Hons course specialising in ceramics,i worked as a homeware designer for Next. Ultimately though, I missed being more hands-on, so I set up my own studio for a few years, before going on to complete an MA in Fine Art by Independent Study. This enabled me to indulge my love of slip casting and throwing, and develop my hybrid technique that combines both. It also gave me time to test the impact of glazes and colour palettes in depth.
I have always been drawn to the coast – for me, it is a place of reflection. My vessel and monoprint designs, just like the coastline, are constructed from layers of horizontals – a banding structure of lines from sand, sea, horizon and sky. I am attracted to the visual and structural tension that exists at the horizon, and between land and sea. There’s a physical tension in my vessels between the clay sections which nods to this.
My coastline inspirations are captured via drawings, photographs and watercolours. Sketches evolve from the semi realistic to the more abstract. I often add words to recall sounds and feelings. Sometimes I include partial words in a piece, which mean something to me, but are illegible to the eye.
My designs start with an open plaster mould. Layers of printed, poured and painted casting slips are built up, enabling colour to be overlaid onto the porous surface. Once dry, the top section is added to the moulded base and, using a throwing wheel, is thinned and shaped. At the centre of the vessel a flange of clay forms: the mould accentuates the join, which fragments as the vessel shrinks inwards. When dried, the piece is fired and polished and I paint on markings. These details reflect the constant remaking of the shore and often reference elements within my seascape monoprints.
My studio at home in Bruntingthorpe looks out onto a walled garden with dappled light from the surrounding trees. Radio 3 plays while I am working, but I enjoy the distraction of podcasts when I am clearing up.
I feel honoured to have received some prestigious awards (including Best Newcomer at Ceramic Art London 2018). I am currently exploring new collections for 2019 and working on a collaboration with fine furniture makers Byron & Gómez to integrate a display of my designs with their pieces.
Hannah Tounsend, hannahtounsend.co.uk. Instagram: hannah_tounsend. To discuss commissions, email htoun[email protected] Hannah’s work is available on her website, snug-gallery.com and thestratfordgallery.co.uk.
Hannah at work in her studio, building up ceramic colour on a mould.
FROM TOP A packed kiln ready for bisque firing; throwing the top section of a hybrid vessel.