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Ceramic Review is the magazine for contemporary and historical ceramics, ceramic art and pottery.

Ceramic Review Issue 327

May/June 2024

Mitch Pilkington - Ceramic Review Magazine

Mitch Pilkington’s curvaceous pots are inspired by organic forms found on the coast. We caught up with the artist after she exhibited at One Year In at New Designers to find out more about her background, influences and techniques.

Mitch Pilkington, 2019; Image courtesy of the artist

I am interested in the shadows my sculptural pieces create throughout the day’s changing light. Sharp and curved lines contrast to produce an ever changing sculpture with the void of each vessel adding contrasting depth. I am drawn to the organic, natural forms found on my coastal walks near where I live in North Devon and the worn spirals of weathered conch shells gathered on Caribbean beaches. I strive to communicate the sculptural elements of these influences through my ceramics and create dry, textured, shell-like qualities in each piece.

Handbuilding drives me to create my ceramics, the rhythmic, meditative and mindful process of coiling, and the many hours of scraping and sculpting provide an emotional salve to the stresses of life’s everyday challenges.

I use traditional handbuilding techniques such as coiling and modelling, working with grogged stoneware clay and concentrating on surface texture and fluid organic lines. I fire to 1220 ̊C in my top loader, bought with much eager anticipation over 20 years ago. My work isn’t glazed as I allow the clay to speak for itself. However, I do colour the clay with body stains producing a ‘coastal palette’ and use slips to enhance the natural stone-like surface. Handbuilding drives me to create my ceramics, the rhythmic, meditative and mindful process of coiling, and the many hours of scraping and sculpting provide an emotional salve to the stresses of life’s everyday challenges. Each piece I create is an emotional response to the clay.

I feel so connected when handling my work that I call them my ‘haptic pots’ and I’m not the only one who has this response. When people first see my work they want to pick them up, hold, touch and feel them. Only recently, at a ceramics fair, a gentleman was stroking one of my large low vessels while he listened to the inside and the sounds he was creating. I find it both gratifying and amazing in equal measure that other people have an emotional connection to my work.

Aged seven, I announced that when I grew up I was going to art school to be a potter. It took me a while, but I got there in the end. Family tragedy meant that I missed my O and A–Levels, but a year of evening classes when I was 24 meant I was able to cobble a portfolio together and at the grand age of 25 I headed to art college. In the early 1990s, I studied at Falmouth School of Art and we were duly taken to Barbara Hepworth’s studio and gardens in St Ives. Seeing her work in the flesh had a profound effect on me – all that chiseled stone, it gives me goose bumps to see her work. That love for texture has never left me. After studying, I ran away to sea with my now husband, Johno, had children, and then concentrated on looking after them. My daughter is autistic, so I was a full-time mum. She is now thriving at university, which has given me a new lease of life, but most importantly the time to be a potter.

Mitch Pilkington, 2019; Image courtesy of the artist

Mitch Pilkington, 2019; Image courtesy of the artist

For many years I snatched snippets of time to make ceramics, constantly trying new clays, techniques and glazes – there has always been so much swirling around my head and twitchy fingers eager to get going. Two years ago I did my first craft fair – Start Up at The Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey. I thought this was my time and had lots of shows booked, I was so excited. However, a cancer diagnosis dashed all that. I spent over a year recovering, which gave me time to think, time to ponder what makes me tick, why I am driven to make what I do, what it is that makes my ceramics such an emotional part of my life?

Last October I was allocated space on the CPA Associates stand at Oxford Ceramics Fair. Being surrounded by such a seasoned and illustrious group of ceramists was daunting but the whole experience was a revelation. The response from buyers and makers alike was amazing and provided the validation and confidence boost I needed after years of constantly ‘trying to be a potter’. Buoyed by this, I applied to The Crafts Council’s Hothouse Scheme and quite unbelievably, I was selected. So far the experience has been phenomenal. It has focused my mind to consider the what, where and why of my work and this has given me so much confidence that, for the first time in my life, I am able to proudly present my work and not feel too intimidated.

As a result of these valuable opportunities, my profile has been raised and so much has come my way this year. I was invited to take part in the Rising Stars 2019 exhibition at the New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, where I won the Rising Star 2019 Award, with an exhibition of my own next year. I was also invited to take part in One Year In 2019 at New Designers. When I was contacted by New Designers, I was thrilled to be able to have the chance to showcase my work in London. One Year In has such a great reputation and many makers have been able to use this event as a launchpad for their creative businesses. Generally, I’m excited to see what the rest of the year will bring as wonderful things are now coming my way including a whole stand to myself at the Oxford Ceramics Fair this October.

At the moment I am focusing on my current body of work, which will naturally evolve as I create more pieces. I am keen, however, to see how far I can go with it. It is also a goal of mine for my work to be represented by a gallery in London and of course, the jewels in the crown, Collect and Ceramic Art London. Fingers crossed these may happen one day.



For details visit mitchpilkington.wixsite.com; Oxford Ceramics Fair 26-27 October 2019. This article is taken from Ceramic Review issue 299 (September/October 2019). For more, subscribe below.

Mitch Pilkington, 2019; Image courtesy of the artist