Artist Q&A: Jenni Hicks
Updated: Feb 18
'Watching the fleck and foam of breaking waves suspended against the sky. From that initial spark of inspiration, I found that my pots started to develop a life and character of their own.'
Jenni Hick's work is often sparked by elements of nature. Her vessels and sculptures evolve intuitively from these natural starting points, sometimes figuratively, sometimes abstract, seeking out the abilities in clay to explore their forms, energies, colours and textures further.
Her work is mostly made by coiling and hand-building and touch is held in high importance throughout her entire process. This connection to tactility feeds naturally into a love for contrasts of texture and finish such as the jewel-like sheen of a celadon glaze against a black matt body or the mix of glazes to produce unexpected and painterly effects.
Jenni's 'Sea Mist' series, inspired by cliff walks in Somerset, immediately grabbed attention when we released the first pieces just last year. It's always a pleasure to hear people's responses to these pieces, seeming to resonate with everyone in their way, strong catalysts for memories of place, and so we couldn't resist putting a few questions to Jenni to dive even further into her own personal story:
How and when did you begin working with clay? What was your initial work like?
Jenni: Quite out of the blue, about 15 years ago, I felt a yen for the clay. I was drawn to hand-building straight away. My early work was quite childlike, but a lot of my preoccupations with sculptural forms and exploring textures were there from the start.
Image: Jenni Hicks with vessels from her 'Sea Mist' series
Can you tell us more about the inspiration and development behind your recent Sea Mist Series?
J: My starting point was a response to cliff walks in Somerset, watching the fleck and foam of breaking waves suspended against the sky. From that initial spark of inspiration, I found that my pots started to develop a life and character of their own.
Nature is the driving force behind all of your work however can you send you in many different directions, how do you decide which ideas to explore?
J: Most of the time I don’t decide in advance. My ideas evolve during the making process.
Due to every project being so different, does it take a long time to hone the new skills required for each?
J: Yes it does take time. My technical skill usually develops in tandem with my ideas. My Vertebrae
sculptures had a particularly long gestation as there were so many technical aspects to work out and master.
Images (left to right): a 'Vertebrae' sculpture, a 'Sea Mist' vessel
and a photo by the artist from a walk in Somerset
There is an enticing tactility throughout all of your work, is this something you visualise in the work or does it come with the process?
J: I like the way glazes cling to rough nodules or crevices. I think it goes back to the sand pit at nursery: for me, texture of clay is about play.
Do you have a favourite place to go to experience nature? How does the time of year affect this?
J: I walk on Hampstead Heath every day with my dog, Michou, and I have spent much time on the Quantocks in Somerset; both definitely inflect my work. I love the sudden bloom of fungi in the autumn drizzle and the way the bare forms of trees are revealed when the leaves fall.
Image: Hampstead Heath, photo by the artist
What is your favourite work you've produced? Which collection do you think best represents you so far?
J: I am very preoccupied with my Sea Mist pots at the moment as they represent a clear development in my work over the last few years. I am continually amazed and excited by the way they evolve and develop. I also have a very soft spot for my Vertebrae sculptures.
Image: 'Sea Fever' Pots
What can we expect to see next from your work? Are you currently working on any new collections or projects?
J: I’m immersed in exploring a new body of work which was sparked very specifically by hearing a song on Radio Three. Bryn Terfel was singing Sea Fever, a poem full of yearning by John Masefield that my mother used to recite when I was small. So the new collection will be called Sea Fever, I guess: an inspirational blend of music, poetry, nature and memory.
To correspond with this Q&A, two brand new pieces from Jenni's 'Sea Fever' collection have just been added to our website: