Already looking towards the future, MaterialDriven is busy working on an exciting exhibition for March 2021, at Oxo Tower, on the creative London Southbank. With a clear focus on materials, the protagonists of this show will be the art collective Transition–a talented group of graduates from the University of Creative Arts, that works with a range of materials from textiles, to glass to metal and ceramics. Over the past few months MaterialDriven has been nurturing a relationship between Transition and the technical material company Goodfellow, who has been supporting the collective in their exploration of materials and processes and will be sponsoring the event.
Leading up to the opening of the exhibition, MaterialDriven will be sharing insights on each of the artists that are a part of the Transition collective, giving you a glimpse of the wonderful display to come. Steven Edwards, a ceramicist, is one of these artists and the first one we will introduce.
Although Steven’s professional career started off down a different creative path, he has always been drawn to clay, intrigued by the immediate mark-making qualities of this material. This interest led Steven to study ceramics at college and university, where he completed a BA (Hons) degree in Applied Arts. Upon graduating though, he began working in graphic design. However over the next 15 years, Steven continued to produce ceramic work and eventually he went back to school to complete an MA in Ceramics from the University of the Creative Arts.
During his MA studies, Steven began looking at clay in a new way. Pulling from his knowledge and experience as a graphic designer, he brought into his work a different way of understanding aesthetics, processes, shapes and language. This cross-over between craft and design is evidenced across all of his pieces that have a delicate rawness that is quite unique.
Whether by throwing or hand building, his interest is focused on working with clay´s raw unfired state. Throughout the MA, Steven had the opportunity to dig deeper into this connection with the material. It is precisely the material / maker relationship that he strives to reflect in his work and share with the viewer, by emphasising implied movement. Fascinated by process-led making, Steven uses traditional techniques that provoke unanticipated outcomes, using the clay as a medium that sustains the narrative of the making process. The resulting forms he presents embody his interaction and manipulation of the clay using bespoke tools to explore the intrinsic properties of the material.
Steven’s creative practice starts by purposely placing clay under stress to reveal the natural tension and movement in its surface and form. Throughout the whole making process he pushes, pulls, compresses and slices the material to provoke a reaction. The final fired forms are a combination of these making scenarios–each one of these vessel-like objects holding their own different characteristics and energy.
His unique making process involves a cycle of hand skilled techniques through touch, followed by destructive actions that he performs using specific tools. As he deliberately builds tension in the clay forms, he also adds a level of uncertainty about the outcome, that allows new objects to evolve. At the same time it enables the material to decide the output and form its own expression. Steven sees the way he works with clay as a two-way collaboration, in which he aim to reveal its characteristics, whilst it, in return, clay teaches him about its natural properties.
Inspiration and Experimentation
Steve finds his inspiration comes from primary experiences, away from a screen, as he engages with every aspect of his day-to-day life. Materials, whether natural or man-made, capture his attention and imagination, as he observes his natural surroundings.
Working towards the exhibition next year, he is producing a range of objects that explore making, through distorting and combining elements. With a particular focus on waste, all the cut away clay will be put back into the process to produce new objects until all the clay is used up. Another focus area for Steven is developing the initial surface decoration before their distortion as well as introducing subtle metal foil details that explore the use of reflection in the material finish.
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