Charlotte Burke

Charlotte Burke is a ceramicist that explores the ways everyday objects are perceived. Focusing on the relationship of 2D and 3D, she uses form, colour, pattern, surface and texture to re-construct and deconstruct the object to reveal something new.

Her latest work 'Vase Abstraction' (2016), explores our expectation as one that's not always correct and when questioned it provokes new ways of thinking and consideration of the world around us. Each play a role in how we experience the everyday object through a familiarity not registering the implicit constructs of form, colour, texture and ornamentation that act as conduits to engage us with of the object.

However if these layers of content, context and meaning are interrogated through a deconstruction in their reordering and in the process of reconstruction a new potential of the object can be revealed. The creative process is engaged and gives structure to a seemingly intuitive random response in arriving at new hybrids explored with the interplay of 2 and 3 dimension.

We caught up with Charlotte to discuss all things ceramics, history and wales. Read the full interview below. 

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Your view on ceramics is certainly different from what we expect to be the norm, when did you start experimenting with new shapes?

When I finished my BA and started my MA in Ceramics, I decided to let go and just play. The making process has always been the most important part of my practice, which forms the basis of my experimentation. By taking a step back and going back to the generic cylinder associated with ceramics, I was able to de-construct its 3D form into its 2D identity. Working mathematically through paper, making nets meant I could play with the perception considering both the inside and outside, and the different shapes involved in creating 3D objects. 

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Ceramics have been around for thousands of years, often giving us valuable information about civilisations long gone. Would you say they are time capsules?

Part of my context within my practice is the idea that the object itself has its own identity beyond its owners, called Object Oriented Ontology. It is a recent principle that in fact does embrace, especially in ceramics that the object lives within its own space in time. The very nature of ceramics holding such a history due to its materiality makes it the perfect type of time capsule you could have. One of the key points within my work is the juxtaposition of the past, present and future sitting within that one space and how that object currently reflects style and trends of this day.

What has the response to your work been so far?

My work has recently been highlighted by Ceramic Review, and I believe it is that insight between the transferring of 2D ideas into 3D outcomes that have invited people to know more about my practice. Due to the nature of my work with playing with perception, its response has been one of great interest into the potential of the countless configurations you can make with one object. 

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Are there any civilisations that inspire you from a ceramicist point of view?

No, my inspiration stems from the idea of still life and the ways that objects sit within a space. From a ceramicist’s perspective, I understand the breath of ceramics that are inspired from past civilisations, in particular skills within making pottery. It because of that notion I try to make something different and play with what people expect ceramics to be.

What is the favourite part of your job?

Everything. From collaging in my sketch to the last firing each minute, I try to challenge myself and look back at the last object to move forward with the next, pushing the potential of the object each time. I specifically enjoy playing with form and colour, suggesting different viewpoints within one object and watching people engage with each angle. 

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There is a distinct interaction between 2D and 3D in your work, talk us through that?

Each object, for example, my vases, start as a 2D drawn study from 3D. I then take a tracing from that drawing and begin to make a series of scenarios, de-constructing and then re-constructing through collaging in block colours. Through paper I dissect, overlap, re-arrange each thought, creating my initial ideas. Once I feel I have reached a point to start exploring in clay, I cast the object then apply the same process from paper into ceramics, using the slip to recreate the 2D shapes and merge it back into the final outcome. The decoration is applied using decal paper finalising the thought process from beginning to end of our perception of 2D and 3D. 

You are based in Wales, does it have its own rich heritage of ceramics?

The heritage of the ceramics course in Cardiff School of Art & Design itself is very rich and has made and continues to have a massive impact in contemporary ceramics. Wales especially Cardiff, is a very diverse and creative place to be stationed and makes you proud to be a ceramicist. Its own history of ceramics is featured within National Museum of Cardiff which serves as great inspiration and insight into ceramic history and industry including Cambrian pottery (Swansea). Very recently the museum curated the biggest contemporary ceramics exhibition ever held in Wales, including welsh ceramicists, Fragile? Brought home the very best, leaving behind a new and fresh way of thinking towards ceramics as being more than just a craft. 

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What attracted you into the world of ceramics? 

I have always been attracted to art and design, and ceramics was something that came along once I started my GCSES, inspired by my art teacher’s own journey in ceramics, I decided that ceramics was the only thing I hadn’t done before and the desire to learn more took me by surprise. Now looking back, it seems like a natural progression from 2D into 3D, with ceramics providing the best kind of flexibility towards ideas and making. I enjoy the underdog approach ceramics has in being associated heavily with pottery and craft, and I take that thought within my work and strive to show people how it can be art too. 

What according to you is the recipe for success?

I was extremely lucky to have known Potter, Morgan Hall, who advice underlines each day of my making, “you need first and foremost to be making work that you want to make else you will never be happy”. Success for me would just be a bonus, of course, you have to be realistic and try and make some money, but that isn’t everything. Throw yourself into everything and anything and enjoy where ever the journey might take you.