Tucked away in a small rural village in North Cornwall, behind an unassuming wall shrouded in greenery, there is a cottage. On a rainy day, just touching the edge of Autumn, the garden is a mass of shimmering vegetation, flanked on either side by studio spaces that are filled with clay and wood and fire. The cottage’s low roof holds the room, dim and warm, as we sit around a farmhouse kitchen table. It is here that Rebecca Proctor, a potter by trade, tells me of her passion for form, functionality and beauty - all of which can be found in her hand thrown and home-fired tableware.
Proctor is a flourishing branch on a large family tree of potters, not related by blood but by love of form and heritage. The roots grow deep here and those that touch the South West of England and the islands of Japan are deeply entangled, having fed one another for many a generation. The Mingei Philosophy holds the crafts of everyday people in high esteem - where beauty can be found in ordinary, usable objects. Utsuwa is the all encompassing word for vessel, which pertains to any essential element of everyday life. Proctor’s work is inspired by this concept and the thought that environment should inform art, and art should shape environment. This is where utsuwa sits - somewhere in the space between use and beauty.
Pottery is tradition and folklore. Like oral storytelling, potters find burgeoning talent and fire it up, cultivating new members of an international community and passing on knowledge to those diligent enough to commit to a lifetime’s work. Proctor morphed her career from writing about others’ creative design, to creating works of her own now treasured by many. Her apprenticeship with the Kigbeare Kiln Project - which builds and uses huge, anagama-style wood fired kilns over several days and nights - has enabled her to work and learn with others, giving and receiving knowledge and craft.
Pottery is patience - the passing of time is marked out in stages of craft. Nature dictates the pace. The careful collection of materials taken from the earth, slowly worked and shaped into what will always be needed - plates, bowls, cups - containers of life. Proctor sits at the potter’s wheel, as though at the helm of some great ship. The fires are stoked and the walls lined with goods bound for market. Rows upon rows of identical works wait quietly for their moment, to be made unique by the flames of the kiln.
*Rebecca Proctor is holding pottery throwing classes at the Kigbeare Studios & Gallery, starting September 2021. Visit www.kigbeare.co.uk to find out more.