An Interview with Internationally Acclaimed Potter, Amanda Popham

Back for another eagerly awaited solo show, internationally acclaimed British earthenware sculptor, Amanda Popham will be showcasing a range of new works at Steam Gallery from 7 – 20 November 2020.

Amanda Popham’s extensive reputation has been established since being exhibited at Liberty’s in the 80s and 90s. Since then she has been a winner of the Japanese design INAX prize and a longstanding member of The Devon Guild of Craftsmen. Celebrating Steam Gallery’s 17th year of exhibiting Amanda’s work, the 2020 Collection will explore the unending innovation and creativity that underpins Amanda’s international reputation as a highly collectable figurative potter.

What was it that got you into your craft-making career?

I studied ceramics in a fine art department and after a year feeling a bit lost, I made my first figure, a self-portrait, and I was off. It was the combination of modelling and then painting on the surface which completely entranced me and still does.

How has your artistic style progressed over the years and what would you say is the biggest catalyst to these changes?

Over the years I hope my hands have got cleverer and my imagination has become freer and braver. 

Talk us through your artistic journey when it comes to creating a new piece – what are your inspirations and the techniques used?

The basic technique is so simple, especially the vessels. All hand-built, very little equipment apart from the kilns and compressor and spray gun for glazing. The technique can be easily taught, but it’s the ideas about forms and the sense of a back story that is very much my own and I find it difficult to explain.

It must have been a thrill to have your artwork selected by Liberty’s – how did they come across your work and what was it like working with them?

When I was a student at the RCA, Liberty’s were re-launching the One-Off department and looking for new makers. The buyer came to look round the ceramics department and asked me to make some work for them. That was 1979 and I carried on selling through Liberty’s until the department, which had changed its name from One Off to British Crafts and moved from the basement to the ground floor, finally closed in about 2001. It was better training than college. I learned to work with the buyer, work to a brief and to a deadline. It was very good and carried on while I brought up my children and built the house where I still live.

Do you have a favourite piece of work in your exhibition, or perhaps a preference of subject matter?

So hard to choose a favourite. I like Memento Mori Jug, and Trying To See Round Corners has a very nice face. I do like the puppets, especially the crocodile and Out With The Dogs have a nice presence. 

How do you get people more involved in craft?

It seems to me that an awful lot of people are busy making all sorts of things. Or maybe that’s just people who phone into Radio 4! I don’t know how you get people more involved it seems to be happening anyway.

How can we best support craft in the UK?

I do adult teaching, residencies in schools through the Devon Guild although that’s gone a bit quiet recently. I think schools are very stretched. And I give talks and demonstrations to local art groups. And by trying to make strange, funny, interesting work I hope people will see another aspect of what’s possible with ceramics.

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