James Fowler is a self-taught potter based in South London where he practices a mix of wheel throwing and hand-building. He is interested in the formality of stacked geometric shapes contrasted with the spontaneity of energetic slip decoration.
'Luca', hand-built wheel-thrown ceramic, h. 46 x dia. 9 cm (without shade)
What was your first artistic experience?
J: I grew up in the countryside and one summer, aged 5 or 6, a watercolour artist set up his easel outside our house to paint the landscape. I would go out to sit next to him and he would let me use some of his paints, and we would paint together every afternoon. He taught me the importance of looking.
How does the location of your home and studio come into your work?
J: The 15-minute walk through Peckham to and from my studio is full of creative inspirations. Whether it’s the colours of the posters in Copeland Park (which have inspired some tile designs I’m working on), or the Gormley bollards on Bellenden Road (which I’ve copied for a recent work with stacked spheres), or just the thinking time between home and the studio, it really feeds my creative urges!
Is functionality important to your work?
J: Although functionality is often looked down on as ‘craft’ - as opposed to ‘art’ - I like making lamps as they straddle the two; they’re part sculpture, part practical, everyday object.
How do you decide when a form works? What are you looking for in a final piece?
J: I judge a work finished when I’m happy with the proportions, and I spend a lot of time at the end refining angles and building up or trimming down curves so that a work feels balanced. I start off the process with a very clear set of measurements in my sketchbook, which don’t often work out, but then intuition takes over.