Kate Derbyshire - Ceramic Artist & Teacher
My original training was in ceramics at Howard gardens in Cardiff. I have since gone on to explore mosaic glass and willow, largely due to my connection with Llanover Hall Arts Centre. Whilst working at the Centre I was asked to cover a mosaic class when the teacher rang in sick, and since then I've never really looked back. When taking part in a discussion about the ways of expanding the curriculum at Llanover I suggested stained glass, the Centre paid for part of the course and invested in the equipment to set it up. The willow I learnt from one of my sisters so that I could incorporate it into the children's summer school at the Centre. Llanover also provided my introduction to community art through their community arts programme run by Barbara Williams. I attended Bill Swan's glass course at Llanover and discovered etching slumping and engraving so altogether Llanover has been pretty central to my artistic development.
I currently work as a self employed community artist, using predominately ceramic and mosaic. Examples of this work can be found in Llanover hall, saint David's hospital and numerous schools and community centres in the south Wales area. My own work fits in around these projects and the demands of family life.
Inspiration from Nature and Man
I draw inspiration for my work from all manner of things, both man made and from the natural world. Clever mechanisms of support or movement such as zips, bridges, shells, seed pods and their dispersal methods, insects, armour, buildings, the sea and so on. One of the most amazing things I've seen lately is a print of a bird on a window. It must have flown into the window leaving a print that was incredibly detailed, individual feathers could be seen on the body and wing tips.
I do not work to a theme but rather select elements that seem to me to fit together to achieve the right balance. For example; the long mosaic has elements from propeller and wind dispersed seeds, wings, gondolas, pikes ( weapons not fish !) and an image I have from the description of a bridge in a novel I read. Having said this I am not usually aware of the origin of a particular element of the design during the creative process.
The creative process for me always starts with a shape and evolves from there. I never sit down and draw the whole piece out in any detail or colour before I start. I need to keep the design open otherwise I become too fixed and bored and I find this tends to show in the work. When working with clay I start by making a shape then I fit a pattern to it and lastly fit the colour. With the mosaic I divide the shape up then fill one area and build on it from there.
A Reflection of my Life
I have talked about 'balance' which is the word I use in my head when I am assessing a piece at any stage. Each piece of work is a direct reflection of my life and what I seek to achieve at any given point - this obviously varies. I have a kind of over view of my life and how it connects to others, the structures in it like family work, relationships etc the movement that is possible and what is not and the frustration restriction creates leading to a desire for chaos. Dramatic change. These are all important aspects of my life that require careful 'balancing'. My art is a visual representation of this balancing act.
Order & Structure
In all my work the order and structure are evident, supporting the movement rather than dominating it. The chaos/ drama is added through the techniques I employ during the creative process. These I deliberately put outside of my control. For example chaos and drama are an inherent part of Raku firing which is how I finish my ceramic pieces; anyone who has ever done this will understand. If you haven't experienced this then give it a try - it's unpredictable and incredibly exciting. The process I use for the glass means that structures are assembled in a kiln then fired. The pieces change dramatically during this process in a way I can never predict. Adding chaos to the mosaics is harder as I have to add each tile, which means I still have control and therefore it is not truly chaotic. The way I try to express the chaos is by using random smashed pieces in parts of the design. In my large scale community work I find that the community group, who are obviously outside of my total control, can be relied on to supply the chaotic / dramatic element, so I concentrate more on supporting structure and overall movement.
I feel in a way that a curious 'balance' has been achieved for me with this exhibition. Being back at Llanover with people who have supported and believed in me and made this show possible. I would also like to mention my husband who built my studio and more recently a kiln, who gives up weekends raku firing and cutting templates for large scale community work and installing commissions and now most recently hanging exhibitions.