Ceramic artist Lorna Fraser shares the processes and techniques she uses to create one of her intricate handmade flower heads
When I arrived at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen in 1980, I never imagined I would end up following a career in ceramics, however, the moment I entered the ceramics department, I fell in love with clay and that feeling remains to this day.
I am at my happiest when I am in my studio and just love the process of ‘making’. A very significant moment in my practice was when I got my first garden, it was winter and I was bowled over by the incredible stark shapes I could see around me. The infinite array of forms in the botanical world continue to fascinate me and my work explores the sculptural quality of plants, responding to their structure while selecting favourite composite shapes in order to create my own ‘hybrids’.
I work primarily with porcelain combining traditional handbuilt and industrial mould-making techniques to create unique one-off pieces, small series of works and site-specific installations.
I am lucky enough to have a studio in the heart of Edinburgh, a short walk from the wonderful Royal Botanic Garden (RBGE). As well as living plants, I also draw inspiration from the huge collection of pressed plant specimens, impressive seed pods and jars of pickled flowers and fruits stored in the herbarium of RBGE. I am in the unique position of having an open invitation to visit and explore the collection anytime I wish. Getting to know the botanists has changed the way I think about my ceramics – it has definitely widened the horizons of my work.
I enjoy art and science collaborations, which have shown me the power of art and how it can help tell a story. I have an ongoing working relationship with a tropical botanist who uses my ceramics as a starting point to discuss his research, including threats to the rainforests of Southeast Asia.
Usually, people are curious and want to touch my work as it is very tactile, I like to encourage this – my mum was blind and loved it when I gently placed a particularly spiky piece in her hands. They are also flabbergasted when I explain to them how I construct my pieces, one spike at a time. It is very repetitive, definitively slow craft, but I have huge amounts of patience and love losing myself in my process: just me, some porcelain and my radio. I can’t ever imagine a life without clay and am never short of ideas – there is still so much to discover in the botanical world from large tropical plants to tiny mosses and lichens.
Here, I demonstrate how to make one of my flower heads, which is a full day’s work, as once I start I don’t stop until it is finished.
For more details visit lornafraser.co.uk
All photography by Layton Thompson