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Interview with Rowena Brown

Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become interested in ceramics?

I went to Saturday morning pottery classes from the age of 13 in York where I was brought up. I came down to London to study for a degree in fashion and textile design at Saint Martin’s School of Art and, although fashion design was my first career, I continued to pursue my interest in making things out of clay at evening classes (notably at Morley College) and at home on the kitchen table. I spent two years living in California and it was there that I began to make and exhibit my sculpture full time. On my return to the UK I took an MA in Fine Art Ceramics, and settled in Herne Hill.

Where do your ideas for your ceramics come from and what materials do you use? Are you inspired by any particular artist?

The creative process is what inspires me. I love spending my days in the studio sculpting, decorating, trying out ideas. I like the combination of having creative control and letting the unpredictability of the ceramic process play its part. I look at and photograph buildings, particularly abandoned structures with their history-revealing surfaces, and use this to inform my work. This often takes me to the wild coastal places that I love. I find inspirational details in art in all its forms. I am especially inspired by architecture, film and drawing.

Can you talk about your process of working?

I build the larger sculptures from slabs of clay, which I’ve rolled out or cut from a block. The houses are carved out from a block of black clay. The walls are decorated with coloured slips and glazes, the roofs are left the matte dark colour of the undecorated clay. I have developed an approach to decoration and firing that results in multi-layered surfaces. This alludes to environmental damage and abandonment, and also creates visual interest to draw the onlooker in.

Where do you exhibit your work?

In galleries in London and all around the UK. And at Dulwich Artists’ Open House, of course. I make a range of smaller pieces that sell through gallery and craft shops – these were also featured in Toast’s winter 2017 home collection.

How long have you been involved in Artists’ Open House and what do you like about being part of it?

I think this is my 10th year of exhibiting. It’s a great opportunity to show and see the work in a domestic environment and in the artist’s workspace. Also it offers the opportunity to show other facets of the work – experiments, work in progress and pieces that might not otherwise be seen in a gallery. It’s interesting to see what appeals to different visitors, and to spend time discussing the work. Having been a part of the event for 10 years, it’s great to see so many visitors returning each year, and a pleasure to catch up with them.

What are you going to be showing for this year’s Artists’ Open House?

I’ll be showing new ceramic sculpture (and will have some Open House specials and a few seconds). I have in the past always invited one or two other artist friends to show their work along with mine in my home. We’ve always enjoyed curating the show – it’s good to work with other artists and interesting to see how the different types of work complement and contrast.

I am delighted this year that Marie Lenclos and I have been invited by Karen Lansdown to show with her in her home near Ruskin Park. I’m looking forward to seeing how my sets of houses and architectural sculptures sit alongside Karen’s collection of mid-century posters, and with Marie’s paintings, with their strong blocks of colour and architectural landscapes.

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