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30th November 2017

Crafts Council: Q&A with Lauren Nauman

Ceramicist Lauren Nauman is a boundary-pusher. Although no stranger to  plaster moulding and slip-casting, she reworks these traditional methods to produce highly experimental pieces. Of her own admission, much of her work relies on chance. 
Lauren is one of 10 artists exhibiting at Crafts Council and The New Craftsmen's British Craft: The Miami Edit, a five-day showcase of contemporary British craft and sculptural art taking place at FORM Miami this December. 
The series she will exhibit, Lines, comprises experiment-driven porcelain vessels, sculpted from warped strands of clay. The series was born out of an exploration into the ways in which clay moves in the kiln: the intricate vessels start out as cages of wet clay and “through the power of the kiln’s heat and the pyroplasticity of the clay, they move like fabric to evolve into a wire-like sculptures.” 
Although Lauren has been “playing” with clay since she was a child, she officially started working with the material during her BA in Art Education at Emmanuel College in Boston. In 2016, Lauren graduated from the Royal College of Art with a MA in Ceramics and Glass and has since exhibited at Collect, Ceramic Art London and multiple shows during London Design Festival. She also designed tableware for the Tate Modern’s Switch House. 
Here’s Lauren in her own words… 

You studied in Boston. How are attitudes towards craft different in the US?

Although I am American my career in craft did not truly start until I finished my MA in London, so my experience of the US craft world is limited. However, America is a very large place so you do find a wide range of skill and style throughout the country. 
Lauren Nauman 20 Lines
When did you first start making pots and what drew you to clay above other material?

I played with clay as a child, making little objects and figures at home. In school, I always wanted to be in the art room and I loved working with all kinds of materials. But it wasn't until my BA that I found my 3D courses to be the most interesting. It might have been that sculpting came easier to me or I simply enjoyed the mess of the 3D workshop. I enjoy clay specifically because of the attention it needs to get through the multi-stage process: the transformation from a bucket of muddy liquid to a strong yet delicate and beautiful object. 
A lot of your work is born out of experimental processes, how do you go about discovering non-traditional ways to use clay?

I like to try out every idea I have, realistic or not. As a maker, I think it's helpful to set aside some time to play. Especially if I am producing multiples of something, my mind often wanders to other projects that I'd rather be working on. I see it as taking a break from my job and spending time on my hobby even though it's technically the same thing.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you make the wire-like forms for Lines?

I use the traditional techniques of plaster moulds and casting-slip, but I make the pieces in lines, forming a cage, instead of making a solid form. The strands of clay start out straight and only in the kiln do they start to move to create their final form. 

Lauren Nauman 15 Lines
You designed the tableware for the Tate Modern’s new Switch House. Tell us a little bit about the brief and how you responded to it.

Tate came to the RCA and asked us to design bowls or cake stands for their new restaurant and shop. They were looking for a design that had a story behind it to help promote the new space and the makers. This was very open-ended, but my concept happened to come to me while they were pitching the brief. I made a small serving bowl with a pointed base. My tilting bowl design is based on the concept of sharing, where a bowl can spin around from person to person at a table.

How does your approach to sculptural work relate to your tableware and other design pieces?

My design and sculptural work directly relate the each other through the similar processes and materials that I use. However, with my design I tend to work against the clay to keep things clean and straight whereas in my current sculpture work I embrace the natural properties of the material and give up the control. 
What have you got coming up in 2018?

Lots of exhibitions! 
Ceramic Art London at Central Saint Martins, 23 – 25 March. 
Collect at Saatchi Gallery, 21 – 25 February. 
The Glorious Object, Patrick Parrish Gallery (New York), 14 December – 13 January. 

Lauren Nauman 16 Lines
Find the other 9 designers joining Lauren in Miami here.

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