W: You come from a long line of Master Ceramicists – please tell us a bit about that and what brought you to Vancouver?
RH: My home town of Stoke-on-Trent, England has been in the business of making ceramics for nearly 300yrs and in the mid 1970's 50,000 people were employed directly or indirectly in the making of pottery, it's now more like 5000. My grandfather worked on what was called a Potbank (pottery factory) for most of his life and my father worked all of his in ceramics - modelling/mould making at various factories including Portmerion before teaching mouldmaking and then starting his own company, Brunswick Ceramic Services which has been operating for nearly 40yrs in Stoke. I entered the family business at 16 and have worked in ceramics ever since. I mainly modelled shapes and in particular embossment designs for all kinds of clients: large factories to small design firms and potters. In between I took 3yrs out for my fine arts degree. I moved to Canada for adventure and to expand my personal artistic freedom. I have very much come to appreciate the skills that I learned from my father.
W: What inspired you create your collection and where do you find inspiration for not only the designs, but the shapes/function?
RH: In my recent work I have been interested in ideas of fable and English folklore and I am interested in the marks and lines that I find in engraving and woodcut imagery - in particular people like Eric Ravilious. I will often begin a piece of work from a line of poetry or a narrative idea. I found that medieval stoneware water/cider jugs seemed a good inspiration for the vessels which carry the folklore imagery - the shape usually sets the direction the embossment will develop and I certainly look for a harmony between shape (in particular line and proportion) and embossment. The work for this show is a break for me and I have been interested in the marriage of a kind of 'random ornateness' in and around a formal infrastructure that seems tohave definite, formal rules and yet might be hard to read as a pattern.
W: Just to give people a sense of the design process – can you take us through your process from conception to end product?
RH: Briefly: from sketches I turn the basic plaster shape on a lathe and then through a series of models & moulds I reach a Ceramical (very hard, very white ) plaster model that has the basic area of the embossed design ready for modelling. After the
modelling I make a mastermould and then cast the pieces in porcelain.
W: What is your biggest challenge?
RH: Too many ideas; capturing emotion in three dimensions; lack of time!! ; holding back the impulsiveness to make...
W: What is your favourite thing about your craft?
RH: I find modelling deeply satisfying in and of itself - plaster is a material that I love to work in; its a pleasure workingwith my 'ancient tools' - some passed down from my grandfather to my father now to me, have been smoothed and fashioned over the years for very particular functions. I feel very connected to my work and my heritage through these humble old smooth pieces of metal. I think firing ceramics is still a nervous, magical experience...each time you open the kiln is a kind of small miracle!