“My work is largely process driven allowing the clay to determine the final form. My focus is on simple and clean forms but may combine two contrasting materials within a single piece or use a grouping of vessels with varying finishes to reflect ambivalence and the conflicting emotions or beliefs we may feel as a reaction to a single event or situation.”
“I work largely in porcelain, adding stains and oxides to the clay body for colour and leaving the final pieces mostly unglazed with a polished, smooth and tactile surface. Whilst some pieces are thrown and finished on the potters wheel, others will be cut and altered with unique results."
Barbara Sulzberger is a London-based ceramicist. Born in Germany in 1969, she has lived in Britain for over 30 years. She came to ceramics later in life after being gifted a 2 day ceramic workshop 4 years ago. She has recently completed a HND in Ceramics at Morley College.
'Black Stoneware Glacier II', wheel-thrown stoneware, h. 18 x dia. 13 cm
Do you listen to anything while you work?
"I typically listen to classical music when I work. It is good to have some musical distraction when I am throwing pieces on the wheel. It helps me to loosen up and provides a calm atmosphere."
Do you plan each piece in advance?
"I broadly plan the shape that I want to make, but when I throw larger pieces, especially in porcelain, I may adapt the shape as I go along if the clay is proving challenging. I scrape away a large amount of the clay once it is closer to leather hard. If I can get my hand in, I will also scrape away at the inside first, but most of the scraping is done on the outside. Therefore, during throwing, I really have to pay attention to the shape of the inside of the vessel as that will determine the end shape. I like to have a variety of shapes that complement each other when placed in a grouping."
Tell us more about your recent series.
"This current series, Glacier series, started from a project during my HND course at Morley where I used a journey as an inspiration to the work. The starting point was to use a full back of crank clay which we roughly pounded into any shape and then carved into. The process of reduction and carving was a new one to me in working with clay as I had always either hand built from coils or thrown on the wheel. The method of reduction created new technical and aesthetic considerations and challenges. I found that I really enjoyed the process of pushing the clay to its limits through scraping away at it."
"The journey I chose as inspiration was one I had made many times as a child up - a winding path up a steep mountain side in the alps. As the road climbed higher the glacier covered mountains on the opposite side of the valley came into view. These mountains always held a fascination for me - we were able to observe them as the snow coverage grew and receded with the seasons. Particularly warm summer seasons left the permanent snow patches looking meagre and the impact of climate change has been starkly evident with glaciers receding ever more and winter snow coverage being much less reliable on lower elevations."
"The scraping away of the clay reminds me of the erosion of the landscape by the glaciers, but is also a reminder of how the warming climate is eating away at the glaciers themselves. They are melting at an accelerated rate and many small glaciers in the Alps have already disappeared."