The first time we came across the work of Beccy Ridsdel, we took a seriously long pause. Dainty vintage details with an eclectic and thought provoking edge. It is work unlike anything we’ve seen and it is as functional on your table as it is gorgeous ti be displayed as a prized piece.
Wanting to know more behind the inspiration of these layered and peeled porcelain pieces, we’ve transported ourselves to England to learn about Beccy’s process, what she listens to in her studio and where she takes a creative break to recharge on projects.
Name: Beccy Ridsdel
Location: York, England
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you found ceramics as a way to express your creative vision.
I’ve always been a creative sort of person. My mum and gran taught me to sew, knit and crochet when I was very tiny – I was always making a new outfit for Barbie. My mum is a ceramicist, and when she started teaching at College, I became interested in that too. I began to study applied arts in 1996, developing a love of kiln-formed glass, but it wasn’t until I got a job as a technician in a ceramics department that I seriously started working with clay. If you really want to learn ceramics, I recommend doing that job, so many questions – and I was expected to have all the answers. It’s a steep learning curve believe me!
I began studying for my degree at York University in 2006 and during that time I developed a love of bone china and porcelain – not necessarily for its translucency, but for its fine whiteness. It’s like a blank canvas to work on. I also love to use mixed media in my work and will usually add at least one other material. When I completed my degree at the end of last year with first class honours, I decided it was time I set up my own workshop, because you really can’t do this from your kitchen at home.
Your “Stripped To The Bone” series is stunning. Where did the idea come from and what is your creative process to achieve this layered dimensional look?
This work was originally an installation set up as an interrupted laboratory experiment. Traditional ceramic domestic ware was laid out on a table. To the left were stacks of intact plates, mugs and jugs, in the centre a surgical experiment was taking place – the ceramics were being dissected, like an autopsy, to find out what they are beneath the surface. To the right was a huge pile of discarded dissections. It is evident by looking at the cut surfaces that the ceramics is craft through and through – but the scientist has kept on trying.
It forms part of an exploration of the differences between art and craft, and ceramics’ relationship to them. After a lot of research I realized that despite the best efforts of many ceramicists, in most people’s minds working with mud is pretty much always seen as craft, and therefore somehow lower than art. This work is a wry look at this attitude.
Deconstructed china seems to be a running theme in your work, the specimen boxes are also a very unique perspective into traditional tableware. What was your thought behind this study? Similarly we’d love to know more about the Chimney Jugs…are they functional or decorative? Either way we’re transfixed!
Thanks! The specimen boxes are an extension of the dissected domestic-ware project – after the experiment has taken place, the pieces have been catalogued and stored, like objects in a museum collection.
My jugs are based on the monumental power station cooling towers that dot the landscape surrounding York. I love them for their unlovedness. People usually find them stark and imposing but I wanted to turn them into something people would love. The storms that wrap around the jugs represent the turbulent relationship we have with power stations, while the bright, shiny, floral rainclouds are the beauty I see in them.
They are all functional as jugs but people tend to use them as vases to this end the handles are all hollow cylinders closed at the bottom to enable them to be used as stem vases – I like that the cooling towers themselves then become a container for beauty.
How do you stay inspired and keep the work coming out of your studio fresh? Is there a particular soundtrack or type of caffeinated bevvy that keeps you on track while getting down to business?
I listen to the radio constantly while working, usually Radio 2 in the morning then Radio 6 later. Lately I’ve been listening to Paul Simon, ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright’ by Bob Dylan. Some people work better in silence but I find that something to sing along to (or even dance!) keeps me happy and motivated.
Speaking of eating, Where’s your favorite spot in town to take a creative break? What should we order?
I love VJ’s Artbar in York. It’s a pretty chilled place that has great music, art on the walls and wholesome food. The other day I had a mozarella, pesto and tomato panini. Not fancy, just super tasty.
Whats next!? Any dream projects or collaborations on your wish list?
I’ll be sending some work to the Houston Centre for Contemporary Craft later in the year for an exhibition entitled ‘At Your Service‘, curated by Niki Johnson and Amelia Toelke. The exhibition will be looking ‘beyond the food and examine the broader social and cultural significance of the plate underneath’. That’s quite exciting!
We are in love with this fresh look and layers of porcelain, suddenly craigslist searching for china cabinets is reaching an all time high! Check out more of Beccy’s work on her website and online store and keep up to date on the latest studio happenings over on Facebook.
We don’t know about you, but we think her little garden green studio is pretty darn dreamy! May we pop over for some tea again soon!?
All photos courtesy of Beccy Ridsdel