Based in Argyll, Pauline Beautyman makes small batch handmade ceramics, thrown on the pottery wheel in stoneware clay and made to be used everyday. The pottery is created to be used and enjoyed every day around the home. I have known and worked with Pauline ever since taking over the Gallery. Pauline’s work never stays in the Gallery for very long, indeed I have bought much of it myself and I have to say that my tea tastes so much better when it is in one of her beautiful mugs. Pauline kindly took the time to answer some questions for me about her practise and I feel very privileged that she chose to respond to openly and honestly.
Tell me about your training and background.
I never went to art school despite my school encouraging me to do so. I just wasn't brave enough at that age to believe in my creative abilities.
I began pottery with evening classes at my local pottery, “The Meadows Pottery” in Edinburgh while my daughter was a baby. I had been given a Christmas gift of two lessons but I was hooked and couldn't stop. I had four years being taught by Paul Tebble in those classes and I went on to do a variety of community classes and SPA workshops to build on that knowledge. I am learning all the time from my own experience and from the experiences of those I am now teaching in my studio. 3
From where do you draw your inspiration and who are your artistic influences?
Function- At school I wrote a project on William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. The famous William Morris quote 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful' very much holds true for me to this day in how I approach what I will create.
Form- Paul Tebble's work at the Meadows Pottery was fully functional, beautifully formed shapes with simple glazes. He had thrown pots all his life and I now appreciate he taught me from a deep well of experience and knowledge. His pots are still what I refer to in my mind.
Surroundings– I absolutely love Argyll outdoors, the colours and light and weather all make a marked influence on my finished work.
In essence, I need to create work that will be used everyday. Simplicity of shape, well made with intention is important to me. My glazes must reflect my love of the outdoors and the layers of colour and texture I experience, so I try to reflect in my pottery.
Tellme about your artistic practise.
I'm not a big one for sketchbooks...or lists. I can get it all down on paper then I never refer back to it again, so it feels a waste of time. I feel real artists will draw, sketch out ideas or try out colours. I find this incredible stressful. And I feel very much as if I can't call myself an artist because of this! And it’s a shame because I love looking through sketchbooks!
It’s all in my head. My practice begins in my head, a formation of an idea usually while on holiday when I am relaxed and outdoors, then a quick scribble in my notebook of everything until I can get to some clay. At times it’s a new shape, or a way of layering some slips or different glazes. There is an impression I want to create to capture the place or season.
As an example – My Sea & Sky work began in my head, on Colonsay, on a holiday in the middle of a stress filled time and I experienced a place where I felt at peace in the beauty of the coastline, in all the different weathers that was thrown at us. I can look back on the development of this in physical bodies of work that has sold and is gone into homes now. How that looks now is incredibly different to how is started and it has developed over years to become what I am now very happy with. But I needed to try it all out for a while, see how it was received, how I felt about it being sold. I had two significant stages of that work which I still feel very unhappy with being sold and if I could recall it and replace it with what I make now I would! But I also see that it was my development, and if I hadn't built on each stage I would not be making the Sea & Sky range of work today.
Why do you do what you do?
Crumbs….creativity for my own sanity and teaching to pass it on
In my younger years I was very unhappy in the path I'd chosen after school. I had rejected creativity as childish and wanted to be a grown up. However, I soon realised my unhappiness came from this rejection. I grew up, was able to know myself better and began to explore creative avenues. Clay was my answer, I understood it, could see the vast possibilities, there is so much I don't know and want to know and I will be happily learning forever. I can't imagine now having a 'normal' job and not being surrounded each day with the possibility of creativity. I teach pottery to help others also tap into their creativity and it is increasingly a place where people come to relax and destress. It feels a privilege to be able to provide that on a weekly basis for those folk. I felt such a loss in the spring lockdown when classes were cancelled. It surprised me to realise that teaching pottery is such an important part of my creative life.
What would you like an audience to take from your work?
I just want them to use it in their everyday life. To love it and use it. It makes me so happy when people buy something and tell me the story of where it reminds them of. I try to make everything abstract so people can see their own special place in any particular item so when they tell me what they see, its amazing.
Describe your preliminary process.
I probably described a bit of that above in artistic practice. On most days I am thinking away in the background gathering thoughts and ideas on things. I think I am constantly assessing shapes, how to make it slightly better or different, how to adjust that glaze or what might happen if I water that slip down a bit for such and such an effect. While in reality I am organising orders of what needs to made for what shop or gallery.
In the studio I start with preparing clay. I have three types of clay, some need mixed to create a particular look, all need wedged, kneaded, measured out and balled in preparation for throwing. I will check my order book to see what is needing made, decide what order to make it in and then I sit and throw what is required with all those other thoughts above spinning round as I make them. I've had other potters say how bored they get when they make the same thing over and over. To me it is thinking space, I love the rhythm and striving to make them the same shape, height and thickness. It is a challenge, and I enjoy it.
Describe a typical day in your studio.
Everyday is different, which is part of what I enjoy.
Some days are full of people and classes and others its just me. There are so many stages in making pots that its hard to describe just a day. There's a cycle of about a month so it depends on which part of that cycle I'm in!