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Joanna Atherton MA

I delight in incorporating my immediate surroundings into pottery; by digging and working local clay, imprinting pots with plants that grow outside the studio and by involving a variety of natural materials in the firing process. Through the use of wild materials and forms in my work, my pottery is grounded in a distinct season and place, giving a strong connection to the English countryside.

Celebrating the coming seasons by immortalising plants in clay has caused me to think about the classical elements: earth, air, fire and water. Earth, air and fire are essential in the making of pottery – forms are sculpted from natural clay, left to dry in the air before firing in a kiln. Water, however, remains the one element we seek to remove in this process.

My current work aims to celebrate the natural forces of water. I am seeking to position my pottery in a variety of underwater environments, to provide maximum exposure to the forces of tides and currents to shape final forms.

Low-fired pottery will be placed in locations which experience a significant passage of water – tidal zones, river currents, mill races, piers, offshore dive sites, estuaries – a diverse collection of locations to utilise hydrological activity in my creative process. It is my intention that the action of both tidal and river flows will gradually erode and smooth the surface of my work as seen in a piece of sea glass, or bits of gnarled driftwood washed on the beach. I am in awe of the journey that these objects have taken and the mysterious underwater forces that have acted on them. By providing a clay canvas to highlight these watery forces and natural cycles, I will work directly with Nature to produce a body of work.

In a broader sense, my work seeks to highlight the fundamental role of natural rhythms and forces, all but neglected in today’s fast paced world. Pots placed directly in tidal zones will experience the full force of the waves, ultimately having their surface altered by the gravitational force of the Moon. This, I believe, is a very exciting concept, presenting the opportunity to produce pottery which challenges us to think way beyond the minutia of our earthly lives.

I’m frequently writing about my work on my website, www.potspotspots.co.uk where you can see what I’ve been making in my studio at Fairlands Valley Farmhouse and the shed at home.

Jo is currently Artist in Residence at the Centre for the Arts, North Herts College as part of the Artsist Access to Art Colleges (AA2A) scheme.

Lost & Found: weaving with flotsam
Lost & Found: weaving with flotsam

Joanna describes beach-combing as sitting at the heart of her project on the AA2A scheme.

During her time as Artist in Residence, she has been exploring the concept of Lost and Found alongside exposing ceramics to tidal forces on the Norfolk coastline.

Fascinated by the sea ordering, representing and curating what is essentially discarded rubbish, Joanna gives the unwanted detritus of the beach a new life by weaving flotsam and jetsam together in a colourful tapestry of objects.

Interconnecting these items provides them with a second chance. Weaving these narratives together is an attempt to celebrate the unexpected experiences and people that are deposited on the shorelines of our own lives.