A passion for colour and craftsmanship is evident in Natalie Bell’s slip-cast forms. She tells us more about her journey so far.
I would describe my work as colourful and contemporary. It is all about evoking a vibrant aesthetic with eye-catching colours. As soon as I got my studio space, I started experimenting with different colours – I tried as many as I could get my hands on. I couldn’t settle for a select few, so I decided, why not use them all? Right now, I am working with a palette of 21 different colours but I have plans to expand and add even more to my repertoire.
I see myself as a maker. I have always had a dynamic and varied approach to creativity. I am deeply passionate about hands-on craftsmanship, innovation and constantly exploring new artistic horizons. In fact, I’ve got my eyes set on experimenting with mixed media in the future – blending ceramics with other materials.
Primarily, I use the slip-casting technique for my ceramic work. While it is often associated with mass production, I appreciate the repetitive and meditative aspects of this method. It allows me to create multiple pieces with precision and consistency. I find the repetition in slip-casting to be quite therapeutic, I know for many it can be tedious but I honestly enjoy it.
I work with porcelain clay due to its remarkable ability to intensify the colours of the stains I incorporate. The purity and brilliance of porcelain’s white canvas provides the ideal base for my added pigments, allowing them to truly come alive in a vibrant and vivid display.
My ceramics are fired at 1260˚C. This high firing temperature ensures that the porcelain becomes fully vitrified, resulting in a durable and non-porous finish. As my pieces are often not glazed, I also typically use a single-firing process for all my ceramic pieces. This involves continuous firing for approximately 15 hours. This method not only streamlines production but also contributes to energy efficiency and sustainability.
The moment I first recognised my unique voice as a maker was at a ceramics fair I attended as a visitor in 2018. While I was excited to explore the work of other talented artists, I found that much of the ceramics on display didn’t resonate with me personally. It wasn’t a matter of disliking the work; it was more about realising that I had a vision and artistic approach that differed from what I saw. I subsequently felt a strong desire to create the work I wanted to see. As I explored more of the ceramics world, I couldn’t help but notice that much of the work didn’t align with my personal vision and taste. This inspired me to take matters into my own hands and bring my unique perspective to life through my ceramic creations.
A pivotal moment for me was during a session at university with the writer and mentor Melody Vaughan. We delved into the key themes in our work. Reflecting on my creative journey, I realised that colour and repetition have been recurring themes for me – from A-levels and my Foundation degree, to a year on a fine art degree and beyond. Even before I started working with clay, these themes were deeply ingrained in my work across different mediums. It is often when we are asked to step back and reflect that things become more apparent, as I hadn’t realised how much of an impact these themes were having across my work.
People often express a deep appreciation for my work. They are drawn to the vibrant and diverse array of colours. Many individuals are particularly delighted by the opportunity to select their own colour choices, which adds a personal and interactive dimension to the experience of my pieces.
I hope that my work serves as a source of joy and inspiration for people. I aim to provide an array of colours and forms that resonate with individual tastes and emotions. More than just a piece of art or a functional object, I want my work to be a reflection of the diverse and dynamic personalities of those who choose it. Ultimately, I hope that my ceramics can brighten someone’s day, evoke a sense of wonder, or even spark a meaningful conversation about the role of art in our lives.
As a new maker, every step in my journey feels significant and exhilarating. The moments that stand out include the delight and shock (for the most part) of being accepted into various ceramic shows and having galleries approach me to showcase my work. Each acceptance feels like a validation of the path I have chosen and inspires me to keep pushing my creative boundaries.
In addition to these pivotal moments, the interactions with fellow makers during ceramic shows and fairs have been so exciting for me. Sharing experiences, techniques and the collective passion for working with clay has broadened my perspective on the world of ceramics. It is mind-blowing how we all start with a simple bag of clay and end up with such beautifully diverse outcomes. These connections with fellow makers have been a welcome source of inspiration and growth.
As I continue on this journey, I remain grateful for the support, encouragement and friendships I have found in the ceramics community. Each interaction, show and gallery display has been a building block in my evolving career and I look forward to what the future holds.
In the near future, my main drive is curiosity and the desire to push creative boundaries in ceramics. I am itching to experiment with new designs and techniques. The potential for artistic expression in ceramics is vast, and I am eager to create exciting interior products that harmonise form and function. I am also considering exploring fashion accessories and jewellery crafted from colourful clay – there is just so much to discover and create.