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Johanne Coker

“My ceramics practice is all about the material I am using. Porcelain has qualities of strength and hardness combined with whiteness and translucency and creates a beautiful surface. I explore its limits, stretching and pushing the clay on the wheel until it forms soft, organic folds, almost at the point of collapse.”

 

“Each piece is unique, the shapes created by the movement of my fingers at varying speeds and pressure, with no tools being used. The strength of the material is demonstrated by the size of the vessels I can achieve, although many are lost in the process. Latterly, I have been investigating the contrast between smooth and curved surfaces, and my large bowls are the result of this.”

 

"Although I glaze the inside of the pieces, I leave the outside surface bare, polishing it by hand so that the beauty of the porcelain is able to shine.”

Johanne Coker initially trained in ceramics in Singapore with Lim Meng Khuang. Following a course at City Lit, London, she went on to part-time training in throwing with Lisa Hammond at Maze Hill Pottery. Johanne completed  a HNC in 3D Design (Ceramics) and Advanced Practice course at RHACC and now works from her studio in London. Notable achievements include a 70 piece commission for Kew Gardens in support of their David Nash exhibition.

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Vessel, wheel-thrown porcelain with glazed interior, h. 51 cm

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You have said “Some 14 years ago after my first attempts to throw with porcelain, I have finally come up with a range of pieces that please me”, what lead to these pieces and when did you realise you’d made something special?

J: For me, throwing was all about learning a craft, a process that could be perfected through lots of practice. It was only after I felt I had properly mastered being able to throw pretty much any shape that I wanted, that I felt able to experiment with a more loose style - and that’s what led to the beginning of this series. Once I let the absolute control of the material go and allowed the clay to form its own shapes I started to realise that mixing looseness and control was giving something new and something which excited me.

Your cylinders come from a sculptural point of view, rather than as functional vases, has this always been the way you’ve looked at your work or is this part of finding something new?

J: I want these pieces to be able to speak for themselves, to have sufficient power that the eye is drawn to the folds in the clay and the shadows they create rather than something placed in them, no matter how beautiful the flowers. People have a tendency to look for a function in ceramics that would never be applied to other artworks and I want to get away from that. 

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How important is porcelain to your work?

J: I started working in porcelain really to challenge myself. It is acknowledged to be by far the most difficult clay to throw with because it is very unforgiving and I wanted to feel I had mastered it. Now, though, the qualities that make it difficult to use have become vital to my process - as I stretch the clay, it creates folds and spirals where other bodies would remain true, but its strength means I can bring it back under control and continue to build up. Once fired, the quality of the surface without glaze is quite beautiful and does not need addition of colour or gloss to make it glow.

Gallery Collection

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