Cherry Campbell is one of our most recent additions to the Digswell Arts community. She is based at the Fenners. Cherry graduated as a mature student with a BA (Hons) in Interior Architecture & Design in 2020 and took up ceramics soon after. Now, as Cherry moves her career as a ceramic artist forward, we find out a little more about her work and plans.
How would you describe your current practice (e.g. materials, techniques, themes, key questions, approach)?
My tenure at Digswell will begin the process of unpicking 25 years of corporate constraints and logic. As I re-learn to free my imagination and expression, I seek to allow the limitless ‘what if’ to prevail over the functional ‘what for’.
My current desire is simply to sit at the wheel and throw hundreds of identical pots, it is how the master potters learn their craft but is also a form of meditation, a total mental immersion to get comfortable and connect with the clay. With throwing, there is an element of striving for a perfection that is always just out of reach, yet knowing perfection is not possible is very freeing, it allows play to enter and stress to leave.
In terms of my theme direction, that is harder to answer at this early stage, instinctively I am drawn to functional objects with elegant proportions and simple decoration. I am intrigued by the term ‘wabi-sabi’, it is an elusive concept and not simply the appreciation of aged or imperfect things, it also describes the sense of balance and peace a humble object brings.
What are you working on at the moment (forthcoming exhibitions, events, workshops, etc)?
I have a lot of empty shelves to fill and am looking forward to feeling productive again after the lockdown hiatus. It will be interesting to look at my fully stocked shelves in a year’s time and see if any identifiable signature style is emerging. From there, I hope to be able to explore one or two more clearly defined themes and deep dive into a conceptual narrative.
What are your plans for the coming year?
My first year as a full-time artist at Digswell will be a form of apprenticeship. I plan to work on a broad range of building and finishing techniques to develop a robust set of technical skills which will give me the capability and confidence to be more expressive in form, theme, and scale. I will observe and interrogate as many fellow artists as possible about their process as I broaden my creative scope.
I volunteer as a ceramics technician within the Oaklands College art department, which helps my learning and exposes me to a cross-section of creative disciplines, concepts and processes that can be transferred to my ceramics practice. Continuing to work at Oaklands will be an important factor in my development.
What is the question you get asked about your work and how do you answer it?
Friends & family: “Can you make something for me?”
Me: “When I have my own studio I’ll make you a mug”. I guess I’ll have to come good on those promises now.
What or who inspired you to be an artist and why?
Art and a classical aesthetic was a constant influence throughout my childhood. My father, who had dabbled in sculpture and art history, took me around the Santa Croce church in Florence when I was 12 and explained how the frescoes has been made – whether it is nature or nurture I am still very drawn to the artistic making process, almost more than the end product.
In terms of pursuing ceramics as a serious enterprise I have my friend Dee to thank, her pursuit of a passion that turned it into a business has provided a road map for my own journey, her example gave me the courage to take each step, to keep going deeper, and to allow the possibilities to manifest.
Which artist do you most admire and why?
As a student of architecture, large scale design impresses me. Buildings and designed spaces are audacious artworks that cannot be ignored, created for human interaction they must deliver a cohesive connection, something the users can make sense of, which small scale art sometimes does not. In this genre Zaha Hadid shifted thinking and ambition to a new, magnificent level of naturalistic interpretation. Hadid struggled to be taken seriously early on and found success relatively late in [her short] life – her boldness and conviction gives me hope.
How has your relationship with Digswell Arts strengthened your practice as an artist?
Having space at Digswell is a wonderful opportunity to learn, be inspired and practice, practice, practice. I am ready to step up from hobbyist to artist and Digswell provides the perfect environment for my metamorphosis. I am desperate to embark on larger scale projects and having dedicated space at Digswell opens up the possibilities for some really ambitious work.
I believe we are now entering a new Arts & Crafts era. A post-Ikea, sustainable, plastic[less] world that rejects the disposable and homogeneous in favour of hand-crafted, unique pieces that provide authenticity and character. Digswell perpetuates that authentic ethos and I look forward to being part of the community and contributing to the promotion and proliferation of made things.