Candace ArroyoComment

MEET FRANCES PRIEST

Candace ArroyoComment
MEET FRANCES PRIEST

FRANCES PRIEST

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As Frances is preparing for her exhibition in Edinburgh, Scotland beginning on the 18th November, this seems like the perfect time to reflect on her works, and see where she sees her work going next.

 

  1. What was your first interaction with art / design, that you remember?

I always loved to draw. I remember very vividly new packs of colouring pencils and felt tip pens, the rainbow of colour and the perfect new nibs. I had a particular love of colouring in the squares of one millimetre graph paper, building up very detailed multi-coloured patterns and designs. I realise that there are similarities in this to the process’s I use today!

 

2. How do you think that helped shape who you are as an artist/designer/human being?

I think that my love of pattern, colour, detail and process could well come from these early experiences. I also think my parents were a big influence on my love of design and craft. They were, and still are, very interested in interior design, albeit they would not give this interest such a grand title. They are also both makers, with my Dad regularly taking on DIY projects which are completed perfectly and my Mum loving to embroider, crochet, bake and decorate extraordinary cakes for weddings & birthdays, she has very busy hands! 

 

3. I was looking over your CV; you’ve been featured in over twenty exhibitions, across the world. Of them all which one is the one you remember the most, and why?

That is a difficult question to answer…. I have good memories from many of them but I think a more recent project, a commission for Atlas Arts on the isle of Raasay, has been a real career highlight. 

For the commission, Patterns of Flora | Mapping Seven Raasay Habitats, I worked in collaboration with Atlas Arts, botanist Stephen Bungard and Raasay House to develop a piece of work that responds to the botanical habitats of the island of Raasay. I found this collaborative approach to be a hugely fulfilling experience and I feel very proud of what was achieved. The project exists on a number of levels, as a permanent artwork, as a collectable editioned design object, as a map of walks and as an idea that connects to a specific location and reveals a particular way of understanding the local landscape, through botanical habits and plants. 

 

4. How do you think you work has changed since the year 2000 until now?

My work has changed a vast amount but I think drawing and mark making is the thread through it all. I gained early recognition for large scale slabbed ceramic forms, often in pairs, exploring spatial relationships and surface mark making.  

I took a year out from making in 2005 at point where ceramics in the UK, particularly in education, was at a crisis point. I was teaching in a department that was on the brink of closure and there was a strong sense that ceramics was no longer relevant area of practice.  It is amazing to look back at that moment in time when, over 10 years on, the field is so vibrant and vital.

My time out took my to Japan, exhibiting with the Crafts Council UK and to South East Asia, taking up an artist in residence post at a school in Thailand. These experiences ignited, or maybe even re-ignited, a passion for ornament, pattern and colour. From beautiful textiles to extraordinary architecture, I found hand crafted decorative details in abundance throughout the countries and places I visited. These experience have had a strong influence in my work and have directed my interests ever since. 

All of this was consolidated through a residency with Cove Park in 2008 and a solo exhibition with The Scottish Gallery in 2009. This time away also marked a shift in emphasis toward  working on socially engage projects and commissions that explored different ways of connecting with audiences and creating work-out with a gallery environment. 

 

5. How do you get “unstuck” creatively?

Looking at things. A museum collection, a gallery exhibition, an art or design festival, I find it very important to get out of the studio, feed my mind and connect to the work of others.  

 

6. “Objects of touch and travel” In the essay by Ellie Herring that accompanies this exhibition  there is this saying “Objects can be used to think with.” Do you think that since everything we touch is technology based, hinders our ability to think?

I certainly feel it shapes the way that we think - I often feel at the mercy of technology as emails and messages whizz in and social media demands constant attention. But new technologies undoubtably also open up access and opportunity. There is some really incredible work being made by artists and designers using digital technologies and I don’t think these pieces are any less potent as ‘objects to think with’. The thing that I do have concerns around is the de-skilling of people at a hands on level. To be able to build something is empowering, to touch, to bend to break to construct is an essential means of understanding the world and making a place within it.  I place a very high value on the importance of hand skills, the sharing and passing on of knowledge, the tangible product of an hours labour, the mental flow that can be achieved through making processes, all of this is very human and humane. 

 

9. With your latest exhibition, what feeling or thought do you want people to walk away with?

A Fine Line is a group exhibition featuring work by Lizzy Farey, Angie Lewin, Bronwen Sleigh and myself. We each work in a variety of different media: printmaking, constructed willow, assembled sculpture and ceramics, and our work is connected by a shared fascination with drawing and mark making in its widest sense. We each produce work that is in some way represents our own memories and interpretations of places and spaces. 

The work I have made responds to a Victorian pattern book The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones. I have looked specifically at the India section of the book, responding to specific motifs and patterns in relation to a recent first visit to South West India. 

My hope is that the works will connect the viewer to the Grammar of Ornament, capturing some of the richness, detail and beauty that I find within the pages of a book that has been a treasured place to visit over many years.  As I have used the Grammar of Ornament as a jumping off point to create new work I hope, in turn, my ceramic pieces will spark connections and new directions for the viewer.   

 

 

10. If you could go back in time to tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

The work is it’s own reward. 

 

11. What is something that you want people to know about you, that they otherwise wouldn’t know?

I am just about to start work on a tile commission for a hospital here in Edinburgh. It is a wonderful opportunity to scale up and create some really striking ceramic surfaces and I will be working with a brilliant tile manufacturer to achieve this. I would really love the opportunity to apply my designs to other materials and recently I have been looking at work in marble inlay and vitreous enamel. It would be great to find an opportunity to work with a manufacturer to develop some surface designs in these materials.