Ceramics artist Matthew Foster studied Fine Art at Kent University and after winning the Seasalt Bursary in 2009, he became an apprentice at Leach Pottery in Cornwall. Alongside growing his individual practice, Matthew continues to work as the Studio Production Manager at Leach Pottery and draws much inspiration from his contemporaries there. In line with an on-going exploration of the Mingei Philosophy (focusing on the beauty of ordinary, everyday craft), he is currently exploring peasant stonewares of the Korean Yi dynasty, Gongxian pottery, Tang dynasty, and porcelain pots from the Chinese Sung period.
Ceramics artist Matthew Foster studied Fine Art at Kent University and after winning the Seasalt Bursary in 2016, he became an apprentice at Leach Pottery in Cornwall. Alongside growing his individual practice, Matthew continues to work as the Studio Production Manager at Leach Pottery and draws much inspiration from his contemporaries there. In line with an on-going exploration of the Mingei Philosophy (focusing on the beauty of ordinary, everyday craft), he is currently exploring peasant stonewares of the Korean Yi dynasty, Gongxian pottery, Tang dynasty, and porcelain pots from the Chinese Sung period.
Matthew has examined pottery from around the world to question, learn and inform his pieces and each finished product communicates these discoveries. Matthew’s pottery often includes unique patterns applied using a handcrafted porcelain roller, notched with a motif of his own design. Pieces are initially thrown on the wheel and left to dry until they are firm enough to apply detail. Once bisque fired, the pot’s exterior is covered with a glaze mixed using raw materials and selected to enhance particular features.
1. What motivates you to make?
Lots of things motivate me, from everyday objects I use around the house to manhole covers in the street. I also explore work that I don’t like. Examining the reasons why I don’t like a particular pot challenges me to make work which communicates my discoveries. I learn more and feel motivated to improve. Ultimately it is a love of making which motivates me – it’s hard to explain, but it’s like a mix between addiction and insanity.
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
Aside from my colleagues at the Leach Pottery, I’m inspired by potters like Shoji Hamada because of his use of form and spontaneous way with decorating. Warren Mackenzie produced pots with an ease that made it look like magic. It was through him that I was introduced to the Mingei philosophy, and the beauty of everyday things. I try to interpret this philosophy in my aesthetic, examining storage jars from around the world, to create great pots that get even better with age and hint at the maker’s personality through touch and use.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
I want to make unique pots that showcase the making process, rather than obscure it. I think it’s important to try and capture some personality in my work and enjoy myself whilst making too.
I try not to stick to one particular way of working and I like to facet (cut bits off) and do a lot of stamping and pattern-making so that each pot is uniquely different. Sometimes I work with hakame slip and iron oxide brushwork decoration, other times I’ll focus purely on form (shapes). Function and suitability to purpose are key to my approach and most of the pots I make are for practical use as tableware. Their function is what makes them beautiful objects.
4. What is your definition or proudest moment as a maker so far?
I was given a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust award for the third year of my apprenticeship at Leach Pottery, where I work today as Studio Production Manager. I’ve also travelled with my craft, leading a workshop in Uzbekistan and showing at the St Croix Valley Pottery Tour in Minnesota.
5. What is your dream project?
I like the idea of setting up a craft school along the lines of the Leach Apprenticeship, learning through working is a great way to support craftspeople and help them become fully functioning potters. I am interested in designing a bowl to be mass produced. This is because I would love to see the process involved in large scale production, and to see if the pots would retain personality or become diluted and flat like many mass produced or electric fired pottery.
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