Katherine Cuthbert is a multidisciplinary London based artist whose work I have avidly collected for many years. Her combinations of tall smooth, graphic mixed in with organic, stalagmite like pots and vases are so sculptural and always look so striking mixed in together in a curated collection.
I love to use her work in entranceways, greeting people into the space, evoking a sense of home but also a point of interest to catch your eye. To me her work combines delicacy, yet always with a punchy graphic twist. Whether it’s a bold shock of gold around a delicately painted flower or a ‘cut here’ scissors symbol up a pot or around a bowl, she brings in the unexpected in a really clever way.
This week for our Meet The Maker series, we caught up with Katherine to delve into her world and discuss her process and the creative tools she can’t live without.
1. What does a day in the life of Katherine Cuthbert look like?
I am an early riser, I get at 5 am. I love the stillness of that time in the morning and I often start the day by going for a walk in the local park, taking my sketchbook. I found a pomegranate bush there a few weeks ago, the vermillion flowers, with their thin crumpled petals, glowing in the dawn sunrise, a lovely surprise, as it is one of my favourite flowers.
I go into my studio at about 7am and start preparing a board for fresco painting, and grind pigments. The colours of these natural pigments are so vibrant and beautiful that they are a real pleasure to work with. While I wait for the lime plaster to dry to the required dampness, I start making pots. I love working with clay, a material created from the breakdown of granite over millions of years, so soft and malleable, then transformed back into a rocklike hardness by the volcanic temperature of the kiln. My work is all done on a wheel. I throw on a slow turning wheel, with very soft clay, which allows my hands and the wheel to become one, working together in harmony.
In the afternoon, when the lime plaster is ready, I start painting using pigments and water. The colours combine chemically with the lime plaster ground, forming a permanent layer that is locked into the plaster. It is a wonderful technique to work with. For me, making pots and painting are intertwined. Each brings different and exciting challenges and I really enjoy the physicality of working with different materials.
2. When did your career as an artist begin?
I have always loved making things. As child I made collages, because the materials were easy to get hold of, just old magazines and glue. When I was 19, I started working with needlepoint, first making handbags and then pictures. I took some to the Portal Gallery in London, and was with them for many years after that. I never think of what I do as a career, making is just something I love doing, it is simply the way I live.
3. Where do you find inspiration?
Mainly in nature. Looking at things, this wonderful earth provides so much inspiration. I am also inspired by Italian 14th and 15th century artists, Giotto, Masaccio, Taddeo Gaddi, and especially Simone Martini, whose techniques in fresco painting show his constant explorations and experiments.
3. What do you hope people get from seeing you work?
I think that in my work, I look for that quiet moment of stillness and simplicity, but I also like to explore the quirkiness of contradictions and impossibilities, such as in my “cut here” pots. When I am making, I am completely absorbed in the process, that tranquil time becomes my world, and I hope that moment of calm absorption, that serenity, might resonate with people who see my work.
4. Your ceramics are some of our most coveted pieces in our hotels. When did you start making them and what sparked the inspiration?
I started making pots in my early 30’s. I saw some of Lucie Rie’s pots and was struck by their beauty and simplicity. I was so inspired that I immediately joined a pottery evening class. After a couple of weeks there, I wrote to her and she invited me to her mews house, and I spent a magical day with her. After that, I went to see her once a week to show her the pots I had made. It was a very precious time.
5. Where is your studio? What kind of space is it?
My studio is in my home. I love working at home. Years ago, I rented a studio space, but I could not work in it. I arrived in the morning and felt constrained, boxed in somehow, so after a year I gave it up and set up a studio at home. It is a big room, which overlooks gardens, filled with birds, squirrels and foxes. A wonderful room to work in, as it feels rather like a treehouse.
6. What has been keeping you busy and inspired during lock down?
My life has been much as usual during this time, spending the lockdown days potting and painting. My early morning walks through the almost empty park have been inspirational. The stillness and tranquillity make me somehow absorb more of nature and notice more details.
6. If you were on a desert island what one thing would you choose to have with you as your luxury item?
An endless supply of sketchbooks, pencils and drawing pens.
7. What advice would you give to any budding creatives out there?
Be adventurous, experiment and explore, and look at everything you can. Inspiration is everywhere. Listen to what people say about your work, but mainly trust in yourself, you are unique!