The south coast and foreign travel inspire this award-winning Brighton-based ceramicist
CERAMIC artist Rowena Gilbert’s new range Coast Series #2 is imbued with the shorelines of south east Asia.
“My ceramic work is a celebration of the natural world informed by my travels and my coastal hometown of Brighton,” she says. “Following the trip [to Thailand] experiments with new colour palettes led to an unintentional spread of hundreds of turquoise blue swatches, spread out in my studio like an ocean of tiny tiles.”
Rowena, daughter of fine artist Terence Gilbert, was creating art with felt-tip pens from a young age. She developed a love of ceramics while studying at Christ’s Hospital in Horsham. “My art teacher was a huge collector of contemporary fine art ceramics,” she says. “To be taught by someone so passionate about ceramics was a massive influence on me. I guess my artistic talents come from living and breathing art since I was a child.”
In her shared Brighton studio – set up with a Prince’s Trust loan – Rowena, 36, creates unique bowls, vases and lamp stands which are sold at leading galleries throughout the country. Her work fuses simplicity of line with muted colours and a range of surface textures. “All the colours in my ceramics are my own creations,” she says. “I cast each piece with a colour clay body, then brush layers of coloured clay slips on the inside and outside.” This part of the process can take several weeks as the clay must dry slowly to prevent cracking. She uses metal tools to cut through the layers in a method following the principles of sgraffito ceramics before glazing and firing the final pieces. Despite 14 years working with clay professionally, she hasn’t lost her love of the medium: “It is magical and elemental, malleable and versatile, giving you freedom to express yourself in an endless variety of ways.”
Coast Series #2 launches at Cameron Contemporary Art Second, Hove, on Saturday 12 November.