Q&A: Kerry Hastings
‘I have developed my current work as an emotional response to landscape, to the shifting seasons and weather and to the moods and emotions that are a causal effect of these.’
Kerry Hastings has worked with clay for over 20 years, formally trained at the renowned Harrow Ceramics at University of Westminster. Her work incorporates both wheel-throwing and hand-building to create sculptural vessels on which layer upon layer of coloured slip is brushed - all with influences of nature in mind.
Her new collection for our exhibition 'On The Edge Of The Light' comes after some time in which Kerry allowed herself to step back and reassess the direction of her work, resulting in a collection where each piece stands apart in its own thought process. To me, they feel like daydreams - a moment to lose yourself in sky, rock or water.
We put together 5 questions for Kerry to discover more about the ideas that suspend within her captivating work:
Your mother was a painter and your father was an architect which was a big influence in becoming an artist. Did they ever work with clay? When did you discover this medium?
K: Yes, my parents actually met in a Life Drawing class whilst doing their degrees at Edinburgh Art College back in the ‘60’s and our house in Scotland was full of art, both paintings and sculpture by my mother and by friends they had met whilst at Edinburgh. So art wasn’t precious, it was just there and accepted. I’m not sure if they ever worked with clay though and I didn’t discover this medium until I embarked on a Foundation in Art and Design at Kensington and College back in 1993. The tutor that took me for the ceramics part of the course, Maria Donata, encouraged me to then do the ceramics degree at Harrow (University of Westminster).
You also cite growing up in Scotland as one of your biggest influence and I can definitely feel the landscape and sky there within your work. Do you ever find the influences of living in London coming into your work? Do you escape the city often to find more inspiration?
K: Every day I walk my dog and even in London there is beauty to be found. I am fortunate to live in an area of London that has easy access to woods and heathland. However, I do escape the city often. I return to Scotland at least twice a year and since my three children were tiny we have been taking long walks and hikes in the hills there. As many weekends as I can I go to places that are closer such as Wales, Suffolk or the Cotswolds.
You recently took some time to step back and consider the direction you wanted to go in resulting in this new body of work, what were the main steps that you took to ‘reset’ your thinking?
K: Yes, I had begun to feel that my previous work had become formulaic and I was bored with what I had been making. Although this work was popular and I was selling it well and it was stocked in over 20 galleries it became increasingly necessary to me to leave that and go in a different direction.
It took about three years to develop my new work with many mistakes and wrong turns along the way. I left Cockpit Arts in Holborn in 2016 to set up my new studio which is quieter and closer to home so I can take my dog. During this time my triplets were also starting at their respective universities so this freed me up in time and energy. Last summer I did a course with Sandy Brown, a ceramic artist whom I have greatly admired since I was a student at Harrow. Sandy’s course, “Creativity is Play”, is aimed at ceramicists who like me, have reached an impasse in their work and it reminded me of the reasons I had fallen in love with clay 25 years ago. We were encouraged to completely let go, not be inhibited or constricted by making a perfect finished form and as Sandy would often repeat, to trust our hands because they know what to do. One of the best exercises was to make thirty pieces in thirty minutes with our eyes shut! So liberating.
Do you listen to anything as you work?
K: Generally Radio 4 which I find I can mentally tune in and out of according to what’s on. I love Penguin Cafe Orchestra too, so you’ll often find that on in my studio.
In your new work, I can almost feel the clouds moving and the sky darkening, do you have a favourite place to view the sky?
K: In London it’s Hampstead Heath on top of Parliament Hill but you can’t beat Argyll and Bute, Scotland’s secret coast, an area of Scotland which is close to Milngavie, where I lived as a child and which I went to with my parents most weekends. I return there often to feed my soul and drink in the drama of the expansive landscapes. As my father says to me “you can take the lassie out of Scotland but you canny take Scotland out of the lassie”.