Q&A with Anna Thomson
Location: Battle, East Sussex
I graduated from Brighton University with a 1st class honours degree in Wood, Metal Ceramics and Plastics in 1997. Early in my career I co-founded the design house Hub together with Andrew Tanner. A ceramics homewares business at the forefront of bringing sculptural ideas into functional design in the early 2000s. Hub worked with UK based ceramics manufacturers in Staffordshire to produce a collection that boasted some of the big names in design retailers internationally and received much acclaim in the press. Those manufacturers sadly did not make it through the financial crash of 2008 and us each into independent new ventures. Keen to explore the freedom of experimentation in the making as well as the designing I set up a making studio at my home. Exploring the techniques and principles of manufacturing processes and the role of new technologies in a craft environment where everything is possible!
I create lighting and vessels for interiors. Balancing design, craft and materials to create award-winning pieces* that explore the intrinsic qualities of vitreous clay bodies together with the possibilities of new technologies and industrial techniques within a craft context. Intrigued by both the new and the worn, these themes are expressed with crisp sharp geometries and the soft surfaces, forms and reveal of erosion.
Working from my home studio in Sussex I design and make my collections of lighting and vessels, enjoying working closely with clients on commissions for interiors as well as selling through galleries. Lighting installations showcase the gentle translucencies of porcelain, parian and bone china, the forms accentuated by harnessing the natural differences in material thickness through process. Installations celebrate variations in form and the characteristics of the different clays, from the warm translucent hues of porcelain to the cleaner white of bone china.
Vessels are approached experimentally, pushing the possibilities of slip-casting to an extreme through complex and innovative mould-making with skilful casting techniques using hand-dyed clays in a signature monochrome palette. Anna’s vessel collections explore crisp geometries on multi-profiled vessels with an architectural feel, emerging patterns on simple cylindrical vessels and soft felt-like surface qualities of a unique erosion technique on round-based balance vessels.
*Design Nation award winner 2020 from Made London/ Made Makers (online COVID version)
What are your influences and motivations?
I think I can best express my thoughts with some of the many questions that are always present in my mind: What is possible? How can I push material and process? Is this the finest example of my skills? How does a piece make you feel? – To see, to touch, to own? Is this a piece about form, pattern or colour? Does it confuse or overwhelm the senses? Is there balance? Does the work instigate conversation?
Does your work have a particular colour palate, or link to a particular styling?
My work has always been greyscale monochrome. Initially in the early 2000s my work was white or black so that the focus was on form, then the form became simple cylinders and pattern took centre stage. (Greyscale of course so as not to add a colour distraction). Now, with the Multiplicity collection it’s about form again, enhanced with a greyscale monochrome pallet. But…..I’m about to launch my first piece in my entire 26 years of ceramics in colour. Just the one piece, set against a backdrop of greyscale pieces. Launching at MADE London. Will it be too much for the senses? I’m really interested to observe people’s reactions!