Cavaliero Finn has worked with ceramicist Annie Turner for a number of years now after first encountering her incredibly beautiful ceramic sculptures at her open studio when she was based in Vanguard Court in Peckham. Working with Annie is quite special. Like her work, she is warm, earnest and sincere and wholly dedicated to her craft. Our appreciation of her and understanding of her work is enriched every time we talk to her. What astounds us the most is the sheer level of technical skill which she has acquired since her graduation in 1983 from the Royal College. As you’ll find out as you read this interview, creating the kind of work that Annie does work is no mean feat. She is a master craftswoman. So it was no surprise to Juliana and I that she was shortlisted in 2019 for the prestigious Loewe Craft Prize. Annie’s work along with 28 other international artists (including that of Akiko Hirai whose work Cavaliero Finn also exhibits regularly) was chosen by a panel of experts from over 2500 submissions and was part of a finalists exhibition in Tokyo.
We hope after reading this short interview with the artist that you too begin to share our passion for Annie’s work.
How did you become an artist Annie?
From the age of about 8, perhaps a bit younger, I drew constantly, either
When I finished school I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Foundation course at Ipswich, it was a wonderful course, in particular, Life Drawing taught by Colin Moss, he was a brilliant teacher. Each subject of the Arts was covered and I remember vividly my time spent in the pottery department. I didn’t choose Ceramics it chose me. There is no material quite like clay. This amorphous ‘wobbly’ stuff through mind and hand can be transformed into a multitude of forms,
I went on to study Ceramics at The Royal College of Art. My personal Tutor was Eduardo Paolozzi, wow! He was an extraordinary man, a great artist, and a very generous teacher.
Your work has an intrinsic link to the River Deben and its surrounding landscape in Suffolk. Why does this region have such an impact on your work? Can you tell us a little more about this?
I grew up in a small village called Waldringfield, which is on the banks of the River Deben in Suffolk. As a child, I remember long hot summers swimming, sailing, fishing, and hunting for fossils. In particular, sharks teeth and coprolite (fossilised dung) which always held a great fascination for me, as you can imagine. My cousins and I had complete freedom playing in and around the river; there was only one rule, life jackets had to be worn at all times. I spent a lot of time with my Father, I think perhaps I was the son he never had. We sailed and fished for herring using drift nets, usually late into the evening on a full moon. The sounds of the birds feeding and the phosphorescence in the water as the nets were picked up and hauled aboard was sheer magic, we both shared a real passion for the river, the acres of silent mudflats and meandering creeks. I have always wanted to make work about this landscape and my relationship to it. I started making simple objects, but it wasn’t until I read an article by Philip Rawson titled “Pot” “Body” and “Image” and in it he discussed the belief that ‘clay itself has a profound symbolic value’ and that ‘for anything to be symbolic implies that it is far more than what it objectively is’. This really connected with my thoughts and I began making spoons and ladles, a vehicle in which to encapsulate and instil the essence of the river as something nurturing and life-giving. The bowl of the spoon contained feathers, sharks teeth, and fragments collected on the foreshore, but also the containment of memories, places and my family too. The handles of the spoons referred to the Jetties which run along the marshes. From this point my work developed quickly, it was a very exciting time for me.
The work, particularly your grid like Drift Net sculptures, has an architectural feel? Is this intentional?
Yes, there are architectural elements to the Drift Net sculptures, however, each piece holds several themes, they also suggest ladders that
Walk us through making one of your sculptures… what materials and techniques do you use?
I start by drawing the base on canvas. I hand roll coils of clay,
Unlike the work of many of our other artists, you use the kiln to encourage the bending and collapse of the forms you create. How do you engineer this and how much control is used by you as the artist operating the kiln and how much, if anything, is left to chance?
Your work is much sought after and collected worldwide. It can be seen in permanent museum collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and you have recently been shortlisted for the Loewe Craft Prize 2019. How does this make you feel as an artist?
Of course, I am delighted. I have many colleagues and friends who
Which artists particularly inspire you and why?
We love it when we are approached by past ceramic students of yours at our exhibitions. They are extremely passionate about your work and it is evident from speaking to them that you have a huge impact on everyone you have taught at City Lit. Do you feel this enriches your work and if so in what way?
That’s very nice to hear. Teaching is always an enriching experience, it’s a privilege. I meet people from all walks of life and different parts of the world. When talking to students I often hear myself talking back to myself! A reminder of ‘things’ forgotten. Ceramics is such an expansive, complex subject. I often hear myself saying to students I DARE YOU! It gives them permission to fail, which of course they don’t.
Tell us one piece of advice you give aspiring ceramicists?
Before we end this interview can we ask, what’s next for you?
I’m working on some new work for Cavaliero Finn at Collect and then I’m preparing for a one-person show at the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales in 2021. I have always wanted to show there, its a wonderful