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MEET: Kath Bonson
Today we are pleased to meet Kath Bonson, whose sculptural ceramics are inspired by the landscape of West Yorkshire.
Please tell us about yourself and how you got started.
A general enquiry about part-time leisure art courses at Bradford College led to an unexpected unconditional offer of a place in 2007 on the full-time BA Fine Art degree. There I rediscovered my childhood love of pottery and specialised in ceramics.
Your pieces are very striking. How would you describe your work and what inspires it?
My main influence is the landscape of the West Yorkshire Pennines where I live. There is a German word, 'Heimat', which conveys a sense of home and affinity to a place and this is what I try to reflect in my work. Although we moved to Cullingworth when my daughter was 18 months old (she’s now about to start university), it’s only in the past few years that I have had time to really get to know the area and develop my sense of place.
How do you go about designing and making new pieces?
Each work reflects an aspect of my experience of my landscape. It might be the mosses and lichens that grow on the stone walls or it might be the signs and sights of a place, so to begin I walk and sketch ideas.
I have always been very interested in photography and so I take lots of pictures too. I wanted to be able to incorporate images in my work and at the same time to keep a sense of the textures of the landscape and the local stone. I found decals too ‘perfect’ for this, so I developed a technique of screen printing onto clay, where the image becomes an integral part of the body and the glazing. Often these images are deliberately slightly indistinct, as if they were a shadow or trace left behind on the stone.
The application of pigments and glazes can be technically quite complex so I do lots of experimenting to arrive at the right recipes and combinations. I use lots; even a simple clay slab, used on one of my cards, requires three different oxides and five or more glazes and no batch will be exactly the same.
Can you tell us a bit about where your creative space, can we take a sneaky peek at your studio?
My studio used to be summer house in my garden, which had become a dumping ground. Cleared out and partially rebuilt by a neighbour’s son, it now provides a workshop and separate room for my kilns. I have used conservatory roofing panes to create a large window: an easy way to let in light and insulate.
What piece of equipment would you not be without?
My kilns are my first essentials. After being gazumped several times, I was lucky to find an eight year old, unused, ‘buy now’ one on eBay. It had been owned by a school, which had never had staff with the knowledge to use it. I bought my second through eBay as well, so as to be able to make larger pieces and do bigger batches.
My second essential piece of equipment is my 18 inch rolling pin, as the majority of my work is slab built.
What do you do to relax?
I am very interested in local history, which informs my work, and happily spend hours browsing old maps and books about the area on the internet. I am also a keen photographer and currently president of the Bradford Photographic Society.
If you were not based in Yorkshire, where would you like to be?
I am totally spoilt with the place I live now; amazing scenery and inspiration five minutes walk away from home, but with the resources of the big cities only a short distance away.
If I had to choose, I have always loved the Cotswolds, drawn by the stone and different textures of the land, and also mountainous places. My dad retired to live on a boat off the west coast of Scotland, amongst the gorgeous colours of the highlands and islands and I suppose, like everyone, I have dreams of finding a little place there.
Where can we find out more about your work and where is it sold?
I try to share some of my images and inspiration on my website, where there are also details of forthcoming exhibitions and retail fairs I will be attending.
My work is available through several galleries, including the Mill Bridge Gallery, 3 Mill Bridge, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 1NJ