Meet The Maker: Wendy Calder

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Before we get underway with today’s interview, here’s a little pop quiz warm up… 

Q: What’s the connection between Mary Poppins, Snow White and today’s Meet the Maker interviewee? 

Is it:
a) They all whistle while they work? 
b) They all have films made about them by Disney? 
c) They all have a special connection with animals? 

Read on to find out more…

Wendy Calder’s earthenware ceramics with scraffito cow parsley. Jug £28, mug £18.

Hello! To begin with please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your practice…
I am Wendy Calder, a Bristol based ceramicist, happily potting in St.Anne’s. I make functional ceramics and jewellery with botanical themed surface decoration.
Inspired by nature: Wendy Calder's earthenware jug (£28).
What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline?
I love the motion of the potter’s wheel, the ball of clay becomes a vessel quite quickly. It’s therapeutic and mesmerising at the same time. I enjoy working with pottery tissue to create monoprints, each one slightly different in line and tone, making them unique.

Sketchbook to ceramics by Wendy Calder. Vase £32; mug £18; jug £28; espresso cup, sold as a pair, £28.

What is currently your most popular creation?
My most popular pieces of work are my white earthenware mugs with allium and dandelion seed head monoprints.

Wendy's dandelion monorint earrings are £18 per pair
What are some of your biggest creative influences or inspirations?
I’ve always loved simple forms, inspired by potters Jennifer Lee, Robin Welch, Kyra Cane, Carolyn Genders to name a few. For the surface decoration I take inspiration from nature, especially my little garden when it’s full of alliums agapanthus. I’m lucky enough to live five minutes away from St.Anne’s Woods and Nightingale Valley. I’m in my element when the wild garlic flowers and the cow parsley are out. I always take my sketchbook and paints out with me when I’m on holiday, looking back at the paintings for possibly the next image on my pots.

Wendy's ceramics begin in her sketchbook with watercolour paintings of nature scenes

Tell us about your studio…
My studio is ideally situated from my home...downstairs on the ground floor! On the plus side I can still be in my PJs when I have to turn the kiln up at midnight, but sometimes I find I don’t leave the house for days. I’m very lucky to have a big studio, using it for making, pottery classes, fundraising events, my girls’ art homework, children’s parties, playing pool & motorbike storage! My wheel is situated near the window and door to the garden. I get morning sunshine and our rabbits often sit at the door watching me, they’re good company.

The wheel of the potter goes round and round: Wendy in her studio

Can you describe your creative process? How do you go about designing a new piece?
I usually sketch out some new ideas when I’ve got a coffee to hand. If it’s a new mug shape I like to think about the form, weight and how the handle sits in your hand. I’ve been making some new planters recently, a couple of the forms were a lovely happy accident on the wheel, which can feel like a breath of fresh air after weighing out clay and throwing 20 of the same design. If I’m stuck in a rut it’s good to see where the wheel will take me. I also get to try new things when I do demos in my classes. I get lots of inspiration from my students’ work, so many different results from teaching the same technique.

From sketch to print to pots - a glimpse into Wendy's process

What are some of the biggest challenges in your work?
The biggest challenge I face with my work is patience! From making to drying out, to firing then glazing and finally a second firing & kiln cooling time, takes me at least two weeks. I can’t rush the process otherwise the work would crack if damp in the first firing, or crack if I open the kiln too quickly in the glaze firing. If I have both kilns cooling this is the time I have to leave the house as I can’t stand the waiting!

Wendy's tools of the trade by her potter's wheel

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Apart from all the creative works my daughters have made (and there are a lot as I’m not good at throwing things away) my most treasured possession is a gorgeous pot covered in beautiful scraffito Native American images, bought on my honeymoon and very carefully carried in hand luggage! It inspired me to try scraffito (scratching through the slip to the clay underneath) which I use on my red earthenware range.

Where would you like to be in ten years?
I’d like to still be fit enough to work the potter’s wheel, still be lucky enough to share my love of ceramics with my students, still go on adventures in our Bongo with my gorgeous family and probably wishing I wasn’t nearly 60! ☺️
Thank you Wendy! We look forward to seeing you on the 24 & 25 November and 1 December at our Made in Bristol Gift Fairs at Colston Hall.

You can also see Wendy's pieces featured in our first ever Made in Bristol Designer-Maker Gift Guide.

Photography thanks:
Products by Jo Hounsome Photography.
Other photos courtesy Wendy Calder.

In case you were still wondering, the answer to the pop quiz is as follows: 
- possibly a; 
- who knows about b (our questions were perhaps not probing enough on this occasion); 
- definitely c – although Wendy replaces singing to birds that willingly land on her finger (in both the cases of Mary Poppins and Snow White) with hanging out with rabbits while she’s making on her potter’s wheel. Either way, we have big respect that Wendy’s chilling with the bunnies…

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