Interview with Joanna Mires – Camberwell College of Arts BA Ceramics alumna
When did you first become interested in slip casting and creating the kind of work you do now?
In the first year of my degree at Camberwell we were given a variety of workshops in the different processes you can use to make things from clay. During the mould-making workshop, I fell in love with the way you could reproduce an object many times over as an exact replica of the original.
Could you describe your creative process, from when an idea first pops into your head through the finished product?
The Avon Series started with the desire to make ceramic versions of a variety of secondhand domestic objects, which included a 1970s Avon bottle. I became fascinated by how curious they were as functional scent bottles and how a certain type of person may have collected them. After selecting an object I create the mould. After making casts of several bottles, I start to see how they fit together in arrangements and how the arrangements balance in regards to the piece of furniture they are placed on or the space they are arranged to fill.
You’ve mentioned that your art explores ideas of ownership, nostalgia and collection. Are you drawing from a personal narrative here, are these past-times that you have indulged in and are now examining?
I have no memory of anyone in my past collecting very much at all. I think that it’s quite important not to use a personal narrative when looking at nostalgia. There are no ‘in jokes’ or personal details needed to understand or relate to the work I make.
You cite 1970s Avon perfume bottles as the inspiration for your previous series of work. How do you select the animals, characters and objects which take this form?
I have tried very hard not to make a project that explores any personal nostalgia, and so have selected objects from beyond my own lifetime and beyond my own familiarity. There is an owl shaped bottle that I absolutely adore, but its stature would be too heavy in comparison to the bottles I am already using, and my affection for it may lead me to make arrangements around it rather than those inclusive of it.
Do these bottles inform your work for Sum of Substance and The Editions Space? What else can we expect to see?
Both Sum of Substance and The Editions Space show pieces from the Avon Collection. The latter is an individual piece, away from an arrangement. Two existing pieces of work will be on show at Sum of Substance: Charisma, an arrangement of 23 ceramic pieces on a second hand set of drawers, and Sweet Honesty, 56 glazed pieces arranged on a two-tiered fire surround.
What draws you to creating a collection of smaller pieces, rather than just a singular piece?
When I make a single cast of one of the scent bottles I make a functionless, opaque and white version of the original, which represents the memory of a specific object – something the viewer would have to be familiar with to understand directly. When grouped and arranged, these individuals come together as collections. Because of the repetition of individual pieces and their symmetrical arrangements, their placement mirrors the way in which ornaments are seen in houses all over England and beyond.
Tell us a little bit about creating 250 pieces for the Zabludowicz Collection. What were the challenges in creating such an intricate installation?
The main issue with making an intricate arrangement on that scale was not being able to see what the work looked like in the space until only a few days before the show opened. Luckily, I had cast far more pieces than was necessary to fill the space – only 181 went into the show. Once all the work was installed I couldn’t quite believe that I had been able to do it all in the short amount of time given.
What’s coming up next for you?
February has been incredibly busy. I will have some work made for a new gallery, Block336, opening in Brixton on 23 March. I’m working on finishing an arrangement for the University of the Arts London’s Arts Gallery. I may also be working on a new arrangement for Construction Gallery’s group sculpture show at the end of March.
It would be lovely to one day invest in my own kiln and have a solo show. Although it’s cheesy to say, I’ve come to think that anything is possible – it might just take quite a lot of hard work and determination to get there.
Originally published on Jotta. Interview by Rebecca Santiago.
Sum of Substance exhibition at the Affordable Art Fair, 15 – 18 March 2012.
Editions Space launches at Jotta Live, 23 March 2012.
Images: Joanna Mires.