Meet the Artist: Astrid Walker
Interview with Multi-disciplinary artist Astrid Walker
I tend to start with an intense period of research, immersing myself in the visual, written and physical if I can, context of my project. That’s why I like to work site-specifically, the process of doing so lends itself to a richer focus on material. After the initial recognition of a certain set of materials that correspond to a site, and exploring them through making and research, the objects and tests produced sort of bounce back and forth between what’s been inspired and what inspires other work.
Drawing and collage also make up a large portion of my practice, they encourage me to process and reflect the thematic and visual language of a project. The different components, issues and symbols of a project can be recontextualised to develop the characters and atmosphere I wish to create.
As I have mentioned previously, lots and lots of drawing but what really aided my process was making sort of ‘editions’ of my ideas and making the same thing multiple times until I was happy with it. That’s the fantastic thing about clay, you can document and then reclaim unfired pieces in order to create more iterations, this is especially useful when you work with inclusions in the clay body that are finite to yourself.
When I want to create a specific atmosphere, which in my head is intangible, I will try multiple processes and mediums until I feel I am close to it. For example, the Tarmac Man started life as a figurative sculpture of an employee of Tarmac, a bit of a suit, administerial type. Along the way he became somewhat of a tomb, more featureless, giving less away. Because my aim was not to create figuratively accurate pieces, but to convey a sense of atmosphere and create a unique but not unfamiliar environment.
I did a Foundation at Leeds in 2018, a year of Archaeology at UCL, and I just graduated from the Ceramic Design BA at Central Saint Martins where I transferred. I started throwing on the wheel in the lower sixth, then digging, processing and pit-firing local clay a bit later with my mum. I’ve experimented with lots of other processes and mediums in between working with clay, so although ceramics is my primary focus, my practice is interdisciplinary. Ceramics is a funny one because it’s the sort of thing that can be taught but I’ve found that I’ve learnt more from making lots of mistakes than any formal education.
As I previously mentioned I have just graduated from the Ceramic Design BA at Central Saint Martins, where I had access to a range of clays and glaze material at no extra cost, unfortunately this is a rarity in this field. At the end of summer, I have a work exchange lined up in a Ceramics studio in Peckham, in return for working one day a week as a technician I have access to the studio full time and free of charge.
Depends on what I’m doing really, if its close work or anything repetitive like inlay for example, I find it very hard to leave my station. However, if I’m hand-building or throwing I definitely have to pace myself, both processes really benefit from leaving them and coming back, both practically and mentally!
Clay is also incredibly unforgiving when it comes to overworking, the heat and moisture from your fingers alone is enough to disrupt a clay body, ordinarily I consider myself slightly impatient, but as a ceramicist that isn’t true. As a discipline it has forced me to be patient with material and myself, both of which have clear limitations.
Some of my written work has been published in the Zine ‘Zgriptor’, as part of the launch event for the zine, my piece ‘How Do I Make You Feel This Place?’ will be exhibited in a group show from the 24th – 27th of August. The Address is; The Bomb Factory, Holborn 103 Kingsway, WC2B 6QX
I have also been selected to exhibit the same piece for the London Design Festival, in an exhibition in the Lethaby Gallery in Kings Cross between the 11th of September –15th of October. The address is; Lethaby Gallery, 1 Granary Square, London N1C 4AA.
This interview was produced as part of the 2023 Festival of Archaeology's Archaeology and Creativity Theme Day sponsored by Thames & Hudson.
Thames & Hudson are one of the world’s leading publishers of illustrated books. They publish high-quality titles across all areas of visual creativity. Their mission is to create a ‘museum without walls’ and to make accessible to a large reading public the world of art and the research of top scholars.