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Sam Andrew, trace exhibition annnounceme

Sam Andrew

Each striation originates from hundreds of slabs meticulously layered. With thousands of lifts, pats and slaps the layers compress. A slice is taken from these layered loaves, which are then pressed into lined tableware. A technique known as Nerikomi. The waste of the process has been collected over years of production and now forms into Sam's most prominent pieces. The tan and brown clays are the homogenous blend of black and white waste. Off-cuts from various batches have been inlaid and intricately joined together to create bellied forms from waste.

Sam Andrew is a Manchester-based ceramicist whose work is influenced by his background in Clinical Neuropsychology and time living in the Netherlands, Hungary and Tokyo. He was taught by his mother, who has now been potting for over 50 years, since a young age. As a starting point Sam's interest in psychology has preoccupied him with the visual effect of depth in contrasting coloured lines, and what it teaches about the way in which we perceive, with circular material reuse, and excessive patterning, being central to this expression.

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Artist Q&A

Artist Q&A

Q&A from June 2023 for exhibition 'Trace' at OmVed Gardens:

Can you talk us through a usual day in your studio?

Each day I cycle to the studio, there's usually some clay recycling and kiln filling and unloading. However there's no other usual activity, as tasks differ from day to day. For example if a large order has come in I'll spend a day layering and blocking clay in preparation for making bowls and plates. A few days later I'll begin slicing and pressing the plates and bowls, and the following days honing the surface. It's quite physical and repetitive for the days, but may not be repeated for another 1 or 2 months. My making process from starting with layering clay to finishing with a bowl or sculptural pot takes at least 5 weeks.


When did you first begin working with clay?

I can't remember I was so young, my mum taught me. She studied ceramics for 5 years in London, with notable tutors Emmanuel Cooper and Mo Jupp. I remember making a mud hut with a straw roof and a working ocarina for different school projects, as well as making a monster, a fantasy house and a beetle in classes with my mum and my school mates. I threw a set of plates for myself to take to University.

What’s been the biggest pivotal moment in your practice so far?

Things have been quite gradual compared to the beginning of my practice, where I changed career from Neuropsychology research to potter, and had been living in the Netherlands and Tokyo among other places in the years prior.

 When did you first discover nerikomi? What is it that draws you to this technique?


I have an interest in lines, I used to doodle line patterns on worksheets at school at every opportunity (and still do). I began painting meticulous lines on pots on the wheel, and experimented further in an effort to use up different recycled clays and a blue clay in the studio. I tried many things, such as throwing with the clay together (neriage), marbling them and pinching or slabbing, and also layering the clay. I created a set of press-moulded bowls out of this experimentation which is now the foundation of my work.

I like the optical effect lines give and what it teaches us about how our perception works. They also enable you to trace the movement of the clay throughout the process, so with some study, the viewer is able to deduce the behaviour of clay and how the clay has be joined and reused to create further pieces.

Do you plan each piece in advance or do they develop intuitiviely?

I used to want to work intuitively, ultimately it can be less effort, and although there has been some success, I've learnt that this results in more failures than I'd like.

I remember my mother showing me her pieces of shrapnel. I didn't appreciate the significance of them until I'd accumulated all sorts of tiles of  my own, that now lay around my studio and home, thousands of them.


Through progressive experimentation on a small scale, I've accumulated knowledge of colour, pattern arrangements, and forms that work together better. I've also used production to develop off-cut arrangements, including making off-cut plates for Tate Modern, and off-cups for Hato Store. These inform my plans for future work, but it's always a good idea to have an open mind when opening the kiln.

 How does scale change your process or thinking about your work?

Scale is technically challenging with my techniques. The more joins increase the chance of cracking, and my pieces have hundreds if not
sometimes thousands of joins, which increase with scale. The recycled clays can tend to bloat more, and sometimes the different clays don't fit well together.

With my smaller pieces I like to use a single slab of clay, which bends right round into a plate, bowl or enclosing all the way into small hole at the top for a sculptural piece. However, this isn't currently possible with larger pieces. I instead use different and often combined techniques on the same piece including throwing, slabbing, press-moulding, pinching and coiling.

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