Jo Taylor began working with ceramics at an evening class in the early 90s, whilst working in finance & administration. She took a career change in 1995 to become a police officer and pursued her newfound hobby at home. However, she felt held back by her lack of knowledge of the material, and a desire to learn more about her hobby led her to study Ceramics part-time at Bath Spa University, UK. After graduating, Jo changed careers and took up teaching ceramics, before returning to study a Masters Degree, graduating in 2012. We spoke to Jo to find out more about her inspirational journey as an artist, and the inspiration behind her decorative sculptures. Read on to see the interview.
How did you start working with ceramics?
I'd had a couple of careers whilst ceramics was my hobby before I became a professional artist; I'm not a young person but I am quite a young artist! I learnt to throw at evening classes in the early 90s whilst working in finance & administration; I bought a wheel and a kiln so I could make at home. I changed career becoming a police officer in 1995 and continued my hobby at home, although I eventually became frustrated at my lack of knowledge so decided to study for a degree in ceramics part-time at Bath Spa University and work part-time. This took 5 years and upon graduation in 2005 I changed career again to start teaching ceramics and make tableware, selling in galleries around the South West. After 4 years I decided there was more to learn and returned to study for a Masters degree where my work became sculptural. I graduated in 2012 and my work has been evolving ever since.
Your pieces are decorative and look to resemble features from architecture, such as cornices, and ornate plasterwork. Where did inspiration for this come from?
Inspiration comes from architectural sources including plaster ceilings, columns, piers and coastal buildings. I'm interested in how light affects architectural features through changing daylight or when artificially lit. This contrast adds drama to organic shapes and forms, enhancing the sculptural qualities and I aim to convey this sense of movement and drama in my work.
On a slightly different theme, a number of works were inspired by a Chinese pot with later Italian carved wooden stand exhibited at Corsham Court; the ornate stand was made in a different country at a different time to the pot but they were put together. I became interested in putting together decorative elements that weren't intended that way, which happened in another project inspired by Piranesi's candelabrum, which was constructed from architectural fragments that didn't match.
How do you develop your ideas and what’s your process of working?
I collect a lot of source material, taking photos of bits of buildings, decorative interior features, anything that interests me as I'm out & about. When something sparks my curiosity I will read about it or make drawings to get to know it a little better before considering what I might take forward and make in 3D. I combine ceramic techniques (hand building, extrusion, potter’s wheel) to achieve the structure and movement that I'm exploring. I make a number of components which are joined together at the leather hard stage to build a composition.
Works are fired once, unglazed, in order for the clay to communicate the marks, texture and surface without hindrance. Colouring the clay began in reference to Wedgwood and developed into a wider palette as the work evolved. Where do you work from? How do you like to work?
I work from a very small studio at home in Wiltshire and have separate storage in an old railway wagon on a local farm. I'm happy in the small space as a skylight allows excellent daylight and my workbench is the right height for me to work at as a tall person - these are the priorities! My time is split between making, teaching and admin/writing, depending upon what is most pressing. Jo's work is available through Vessel London, Rabley Gallery in Marlborough & Culture Object in New York. You can follow Jo on Instagram, and see more of her work over on her website.