Creating art from craft: Kate Wickham

Kate Wickham is a ceramicist who currently divides her time equally between London and Sussex. Working from her studios in Storrington and Camberwell she creates open vessels that are based on a range of themes, including seascapes, landscapes and interiors. Nicholas Toovey tells us more

'Landscape' by Kate Wickham
'Docking' by Kate Wickham
'Docking' by Kate Wickham
'Kite Flying' open vessel by Kate Wickham
'Kite Flying' by Kate Wickham
'Field Tracks' by Kate Wickham
'Field Tracks' by Kate Wickham

Born in Yorkshire, Kate spent her childhood growing up in Sheffield and Manchester, often visiting her grandmother in Steyning. Her father was a Suffragan Bishop who set up the revolutionary Sheffield Industrial Mission for the Church of England. Her mother was artistic to an amateur level but also a great collector, as a patron she knew many artists. Kate remembers a childhood home filled with paintings, ceramics and sculptures. Her parents understanding of the visual arts allowed her the freedom to move schools after her O-levels to the High School of Art in central Manchester. Here she studied her A-levels becoming fascinated with ceramics. She feels fortunate to have studied under some fabulous teachers throughout her education, during her foundation course at Rochdale, at the Camberwell School of Art where she obtained her first class degree and at the Royal College where she obtained her masters degree.

After higher education Kate settled in London, establishing herself in the art world and in 1987 obtained a position as tutor coordinator for the ceramic department at City Lit, a centre for adult education in London. Here she set up a Ceramic Diploma Course, allowing a new generation of ceramicists to enjoy informed tutelage by leading experts in the field of ceramics. It was not until the premature birth of her child after just 26 weeks of pregnancy that she considered dividing her time between London and Sussex. Her son was born with cerebral palsy and in the absence of a suitable school in London, Kate found a specialist school near Five Oaks. Ingfield Manor School has an approach towards conductive education and is overseen by the charity SCOPE. After living in a few locations in Sussex she settled in Storrington, moving to Sussex felt like coming home after her visits as a child. Her home is nestled at the foot of the South Downs with spectacular uninterrupted views of the rolling hills. Kate is still at City Lit where she now works as joint head of all visual arts and is proud of the recent Grade 1 Ofsted inspection, establishing the largest college for adult education as a centre for excellence in visual arts. Perhaps it was her own expert teachers throughout her schooling that has inspired her passion to establish herself as an excellent tutor. When other similar courses have closed in London, Kate is determined to preserve the course for the future to enable young people to benefit from it.

Kate has always found time to create. In addition to her studio in Storrington, she recently set up another studio in Vanguard Court, Camberwell, London. As a ceramicist Kate creates hand-built open vessels, the form is built from slabs of rolled white stoneware clay largely in an intuitive way. Kate always carries a sketchbook and after the open vessel has dried, she returns to these sketchbooks to seek inspiration for the decoration. This is carried out with various ceramic pigments, including oxides, underglaze colours and body stains. The vessels are hand painted using a gestural drawing technique, a very free approach that usually applies to capturing movement but which Kate has adapted to capturing the ‘feeling’ of a landscape, seascape or other subject in an abstracted way. Kate also paints on board and canvas and this often informs and echoes the work on her ‘three-dimensional’ canvas – the ceramic vessels. Does Sussex inspire her work? Very much so, she loves the freedom that walking on the South Downs provides and it is the almost aerial view of the landscape and patterns of the fields that translates onto the open vessels. Other areas of Great Britain also inspire her. She generally enjoys areas of wilderness such as the far west of Cornwall and the north-west of Scotland, particularly the Inner and Outer Hebrides. The feeling of ‘getting away from it all’ allows her to continue to be creative.

Once or twice a year Kate exhibits with Shirley Crowther Contemporary Art in Ditchling, but her work can be seen next at the ‘Ceramic Now’ exhibition with the Milton Gallery at St Pauls School, Barnes, from 17th November to 2nd December, followed by an open studio event in Camberwell in the beginning of December.

Kate Wickham

Kate has an instantly recognisable style, created by transferring the unique interpretation of her surroundings onto ceramics. She incorporates colours, textures, mark-making and uncomplicated abstraction with unrivalled success. Combining the sculptural qualities of the forms with her refined painterly decoration allows her open vessels to hold a strong, but not dominating, presence within an interior.

For more visit

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in October 2011.

Artistic Versatility: Sarah Young

'Pegasus' collagraph with gold leaf by Sarah Young

Sarah Young is a West Sussex based illustrator and printmaker who isn’t afraid to diversify to express her creative vision. Her prints are created by hand and are instantly recognisable and as an illustrator, she has worked for many leading publishers. Nicholas Toovey tells us more

04 'Brighton Rock' linocut by Sarah Young
'Brighton Rock' linocut by Sarah Young

Born in Surrey, Sarah’s mother was a fashion designer during the 1950s, her father was a sculptor and art teacher at the Reigate School of Art and Design. As a child she recalls that she was always very interested in the Illustration Diploma Shows at her father’s school. Her creative parents did not dictate her career path, but they did allow her the freedom to pursue an occupation of her choice. She chose to attend a two year foundation course at Reigate, after which she moved to Brighton and obtained a degree in illustration at the College of Art, under the tutorage of Raymond Briggs. Sarah cannot recall ever making a conscious decision to become an artist and illustrator; she purely followed a path that she felt was best suited to her own personal skills and interests. She can however remember writing and illustrating books as a child for her younger sister, perhaps this is when her decision was subconsciously made.

'Cock' linocut
'Cock' linocut by Sarah Young
 'Barbara Hepworth's Garden, St Ives' oil on board
'Barbara Hepworth's Garden, St Ives' oil on board by Sarah Young

Whilst studying in Brighton she fell in love with the town, particularly the ‘Old Brighton’. She decided to stay, in part due to convenience and in part because ‘it just felt like home’. Sarah did not work as an illustrator immediately, so to help pay the bills, she occasionally took to the streets busking by drawing on pavements. She enjoyed the freedom but felt there must be a more interesting and creative way of making a living whilst retaining some of that sense of liberty. She decided to make a travelling puppet theatre with Jon Tutton. They toured pub gardens, tea rooms, parks and museums with their theatre that was meant equally for children and adults. Sarah built up her portfolio of illustration work whilst also creating jewellery, toys and prints with the same techniques used making the puppet theatre. This creation of a spiralling miscellany of objects has remained with her throughout her career.

'Minotaur' Illustration from 'Greek Myths'
'Minotaur' Illustration by Sarah Young from 'Greek Myths'

Today, Sarah works from her home by the sea. As an illustrator she has worked for an array of famous publishers, including Harper Collins and Dorling Kindersley. She has illustrated ‘20 Sussex Gardeners’, ‘20 Sussex Gardens’ and ‘20 Sussex Churches’ for the Snake River Press and has contributed to the artistic journal ‘Nobrow’. In 2010, she illustrated ‘Greek Myths’ by Ann Turnbull published by Walker Books. A work perfectly suited to her subject matter which often incorporates folklore and mythology, the book is her tour de force as an illustrator to date. This year her book cover artwork for ‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath was shortlisted for the V & A Illustration Award.

As an artist, Sarah uses a variety of different techniques to create her prints which are hand-pulled at the Ink Spot Press, Brighton. She creates relief prints cut from vinyl, lino and wood, in addition to silkscreens, etchings and collagraphs (a print made from a collage), often incorporating many different methods in a single print. Four years ago she started painting original works in unison with her prints and illustrative work. She has also recently created mixed media dolls and a range of four tea-towels that can be turned into soft toys or doorstops. Sarah has always loved sculpture and is constantly drawn towards three-dimensional qualities, even within her two-dimensional work. Does Sussex inspire her? Without question, she would like to do more prints based around Sussex, both landscape and folklore inspired to add to her existing selection of Brighton. Sarah’s next project is a series of prints inspired by pub names for the Penfold Press. She also plans ‘one day very soon’ to wire in the kiln she bought several years ago and start making ceramic sculpture.

The artist, Sarah Young

Sarah’s work can often be found at Emma Mason Gallery, Eastbourne, Castor & Pollux, Brighton, and at the bookshop in Pallant House, Chichester. On Friday 23rd, Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September, Sarah will be joining over 100 other artists at the annual Brighton Art Fair in the Corn Exchange, Brighton. As the only major contemporary art fair in the South-East it offers a fantastic opportunity to meet and buy affordable original art direct from the artists.

Many people might think that she flits between projects, but for Sarah this is the stimulus for her creativity, with each different venture influencing another. It is this multifaceted approach that makes Sarah’s work interesting, allowing her the freedom to keep her mind and work fresh and exciting. The overall output is united by her personal expression, creating her familiar, signature style.

For more visit

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in September 2011.

All in the Detail: Susie Jenkins

'Aurora' (detail of reflected water on a boat hull) colour photograph © Susie Jenkins

Susie Jenkins is an Arundel-based photographer who views the world through a lens from a different perspective. Seeking out tiny details to capture on film, she transforms these into abstracted works of art. Nicholas Toovey tells us more

'Beachscape III' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins
'Starry Night' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins
'Red Sunset' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins
'Beach' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins
'Blue Horizon' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins

At the age of eight, Susie was given a second-hand box Brownie and after a trip to Bruges returned with numerous pictures of water, a subject that has never failed to inspire her. Her desire to go to art school was stymied by her parents, who felt a different path would be more beneficial. This spurred Susie on to attend evening classes in photography, increasing her desire to create beautiful photographs. She was given a Nikon F2 from a friend after a holiday in the South of France when he saw how often she was using her point and click and how much she enjoyed it. Whilst working at Sussex University she fondly remembers the marvellous dean who allowed her to use the quieter summer weeks to take photographs and develop them using the university’s dark rooms. She describes these as important moments in her journey to becoming a photographer.

‘Aurora’ is a typical example of Susie’s work. It asks the viewer to decide what they see emerging from the photograph. Different interpretations are always suggested, for some it is a car driving down a hill-side at night, for others the beam from a lighthouse beneath the northern lights. Most people however, are surprised when they are informed that it is in reality a detail of the bottom of a boat magnified to abstraction. Tiny close-ups become vast open landscapes, planets, lunascapes or nonrepresentational vistas. Boats have been the mainstay of Susie’s artistic output for the last 12 years, but are often interspersed with reflections in water, clouds, flowers and watery landscapes.

With an increasing number of people owning digital SLR cameras, many professional photographers hear ‘I could do that’ from onlookers, whilst many amateur photographers can capture a beautiful image, this is often down to luck rather than judgment, and increasingly with the help of computer image enhancement. As a photographer, Susie started in a pre-digital age with wet film. This background dictates the way she works, adopting a ‘get it right first time’ attitude. The only difference she has found since purchasing a digital camera three years ago is that her studio is now her kitchen table. Susie avoids the lures of computer editing, as she believes that you cannot take a photograph without composing it in the mind first, looking through the lens you have to see the picture, otherwise it becomes a snapshot. Susie says patience is also important; on a trip to Guatemala she recalls standing in front of a beautiful doorway for half an hour waiting for clouds to disperse and the light to catch the door in the right way before finally taking the photograph.

Susie is co-founder of the Art for Life project with her daughter-in-law Beatriz Huezo. The project intends to help small communities in El Salvador after the country was stricken by two devastating earthquakes in 2001. El Salvador has been haunted by natural disasters, war and by the injustice of social inequality. Art for Life’s first success was to build twenty-five new homes in one of the worst hit areas, without the project a small village would have received no aid. Art for Life has continued with securing the land for and the building of a new school. The mission is very much ongoing with attention currently investigating other needs in the country.

Susie Jenkins

Susie has always lived in Sussex. Despite ‘escaping’ the county on a number of occasions, she always returns to the place which she describes as the ‘hidden secret of the world’. Does Sussex inspire her? Of course, the streams, reflections and clouds all influence her work. In fact, Susie admits she started taking photographs because of her stimulating surroundings, working at the Arun Yacht Club, Littlehampton, inspired her to see boats in a totally different light. Having lived in Arundel for the last twenty-six years, Susie has always been involved with the Arundel Gallery Trail, both as an exhibitor and organiser. This year is no exception as Susie will be showing her works at 1 Tower House, London Road, with fellow artist Jan Irvine. The trail runs from the 20th to 29th August and showcases the work of over 150 artists at numerous venues across Arundel. All Susie’s work is produced in a maximum limited edition of 25, although many images are limited to just 10 copies.

With her inimitable vision Susie creates engaging and beautiful worlds from reflections and minutiae, reinforcing photography as a fine art. For more information visit

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in August 2011.

The Freedom of Creativity: Eve Shepherd

'Emotional Predator' cast bronze by Eve Shepherd

Eve Shepherd is a Hove-based sculptor who feels a responsibility to create work with a message, she admits her work portrays sadness as well as joy, but hopes either way, that this will strike a chord with the onlooker. Nicholas Toovey tells us more.

'Broken', cast bronze by Eve Shepherd
Detail of Henry Allingham maquette by Eve Shepherd
'Stephen Hawking' maquette by Eve Shepherd

Eve started her career in art with an informal voluntary apprenticeship with the Sheffield-based sculptor Anthony Bennett. This training led to a position with a commercial sculpting firm in York where she produced realistic life-size figures, working to short deadlines with a team of fellow sculptors. After several years Eve came to a crossroads in her career, she felt the commercial work had become a purely money-making occupation with her love of sculpting and her creativity sacrificed and stifled in the process. A two-year break from sculpting followed and with it relocation to Brighton with her partner, a decision she calls a ‘leap of faith’. The rejection of the commercial world meant Eve had to start her career from the beginning, looking to create work that was truly her own. One of the first sculptures after drawing this line in the sand was ‘Broken’, a cast bronze of a kneeling shackled minotaur with head bowed, perhaps a commentary on her emotions towards her former work.

Today she enjoys being by the sea in a city that is tolerant, fun and less restrictive than the other cities she has lived in. Eve also loves the contrast of liberal Brighton with the neighbouring ‘very British’ countryside. Does Sussex inspire her? Yes, mainly in the people with their ‘can do’ attitude and the ability to ‘think outside the box’. As part of her relocation Eve obtained space at the Red Herring Studios in Hove which remains the base for her output. This industrial building is softened by the community atmosphere created by all the different artists working within. The atrium of her studio has floor to ceiling shelves storing models, moulds and materials reminiscent of a film prop studio. A room off this is the artist’s work area, with creations in progress and numerous points of reference, books and music arranged around the room. On one surface is a maquette (a small-scale preliminary model) of Henry Allingham seated in a wheelchair holding a poppy wreath on his lap before an arrangement of four flags. Allingham was the last surviving British Serviceman, to have volunteered for active duty in the First World War. Eve felt he was a fitting symbol for those who fought in the war and survived, she wanted to create a memorial to the brave servicemen and servicewomen who continued to live with the torment of the Great War in their hearts and memories rather than for those who had fallen. Eve has actively sought a commission to make this maquette into its intended large-scale version, but interested parties always fall short when it comes to planning permission or funding. Eve jokes ‘I will probably be sculpting it when I’m his age’, although her original intention was for it to be a completed work and unveiled on 14th June 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the war. Another on-going project that is permanently in the background is the commission for a one and a half times life-size sculpture of Stephen Hawking for the grounds of Cambridge University. For her commission work she has to have an underlying personal interest to accept it, these sculptures are portrayed with accuracy in anatomy and scale and described by Eve as her technical and academic pieces. It is not surprising therefore that Eve is an Associate Member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and a Member of the Society of Portrait Sculptors.

Two years ago Eve obtained a kiln and has been exploring the capabilities of a new medium for her work by creating fired clay sculptures. This facet of her oeuvre is spontaneous and experimental. Often with Eve’s fingerprints still evident, these sculptures show a fluid, unshackled approach and highlight her influence from the Italian Renaissance, a period that the artist admires. Eve loves the psychology and story behind each sculpture, often giving the human form zoomorphic attributes or animals anthropomorphic characteristics. A recent series of work was specifically based around Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, however the majority of her works could easily illustrate the books of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis or Hans Christian Andersen.

'Condemned', from the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' series by Eve Shepherd
'The Old Loon', from the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' series by Eve Shepherd

Eve’s work always offers a subtext with deeper connotations and emotive honesty. She unusually embraces two different styles of production and finish and, by allowing both styles to inform one another, creates sincere and soulful works of art. Her refined academic work is often a commentary on social status and perception, running in unison with the more immediate fired clay sculptures. This work in fired clay arguably portrays the artist’s voice with greater impact, often with darker undertones that are challenging for the onlooker, but always showing incredible mastery. If you would like to meet the sculptor and see more of her work, Eve will be exhibiting at the Brighton Art Fair between the 22nd and 25th September. For more visit

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in July 2011.

Interpreting Inspiration: Carolyn Genders

'Cobalt Blues Trio' open vessels by Carolyn Genders

Carolyn Genders is an award-winning East Sussex artist. She embraces the ancient technique of coiling to create inimitable hand-built contemporary ceramics, reflective of the beautiful Sussex landscape. Nicholas Toovey tells us more.

'Cobalt Downlands Red Interior' open vessel by Carolyn Genders
'Downland' open vessel by Carolyn Genders
'Downlands Manganese' open vessel by Carolyn Genders
Pages from the artist's sketchbooks
'Stone' sculptural form by Carolyn Genders
'Wealden Garden 5' open vessel by Carolyn Genders
'Wealden Garden 11 & 12' open vessels by Carolyn Genders
Carolyn Genders in her studio

Carolyn believes she was born a ceramicist, aged four she made pots for her mother from clay she found in the garden. She obtained a BA honours degree at Brighton and after graduation set up her first studio. Later, Carolyn obtained a Postgraduate diploma in Ceramics at Goldsmiths College, London. She is a fellow of the Craft Potters Association and a published author of ‘Sources of Inspiration and ‘Pattern, Colour and Form’. Carolyn often teaches at West Dean College, but ensures that the majority of her time is spent creating her own work.

Arriving at her studio in Danehill, you are taken aback by the magnificent view of the High Weald and instantly recognise why it has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You are also greeted by Ludo, a sweet-natured dog who lives up to his name in wanting to play. Carolyn’s studio is light and well organised. Shelves are neatly arranged and brimming with containers of coloured slips, oxides and stains, interspersed with found objects such as shells, pebbles and pinecones. A few surfaces are adorned with trial pieces, many appear as finished vessels, others are fragmented references of firings and colours. These shelves surround the central work table where several works in progress are concealed by bags preserving the moisture in the clay, amassing mystery in what might be unveiled. A large window looks out across the Ashdown and Sheffield Forests towards the distant Downs. Hidden from view around a corner of the room are her three electric kilns. Up a small flight of stairs in the opposite corner is a small gallery space with an offering of finished pieces, all vying for attention and demanding to be touched.

Born in Singapore, Carolyn moved to Sussex with her parents as a child, since then she has grown up in the county and cannot understand why anyone would want to live anywhere else. Is she inspired by her Sussex surroundings? Yes definitely. Although it may not be instantly obvious when looking at her ceramics, the Sussex landscape has been a source of inspiration for the majority of Carolyn’s recent output. A small sketchbook contains vigorous drawings made of her impressions of her surrounding landscape, these are still abstracted but are certainly more identifiable. A larger sketchbook moves these drawings on to designs, selecting elements from the initial drawings and merging them with outlines of vessels and forms with occasional colour references. None of these will ever be made as Carolyn works in a spontaneous and free way. She aims to give the impression she feels when in the Downland landscape, rather than a literal translation of what a camera would record. Carolyn combines the rhythm, colours, light and balance of the view, with brushwork and textures seen in her paintings and prints, to create a reflection of a lifetime of inspiration. She works on a series of vessels all at the same time, each in a different stage of production. This approach keeps her mind fresh, it also allows for play, which Carolyn believes is very important for the progression and exploration of any artist. By making changes to the outlines of the forms, different sgraffito marks and colour variations, each piece will have a completely different identity, united by a subtle intrinsic theme.

The majority of Carolyn’s work is hand-built using the ancient technique of coiling, this involves methodically building up the shape using rolls of clay, pinching and pulling the form upward over a period of days to avoid collapse. Once built, the body is painted in coloured slips, either vitreous or burnished terra sigillata depending on the desired finish. A process of mark-making then begins to reveal the layers below. Carolyn loves the equilibrium of the old techniques and the contemporary surface treatment. Whilst intuitive, the form and balance is carefully considered, unlike a flat canvas, the three dimensions add exciting and challenging possibilities in how the exterior, interior and form will all work harmoniously. Whilst sculptural forms are always prevalent, the artist confesses open vessels are her primary love.

Carolyn has been actively exhibiting her work since 1981 and is now an established and highly-regarded ceramicist. She has exhibited in Continental Europe, Japan and throughout Britain. From 16th June to 2nd July, her ceramics will be featured in a group exhibition with Shirley Crowther Contemporary Art in the ‘Summer Exhibition’ at the Jointure Studios, Ditchling. The recently renovated workshop of the renowned modern British artist Sir Frank Brangwyn offers the perfect backdrop for her eye-catching works. The gallery is open from noon until 5pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Carolyn has a natural mastery of colours, patterns and textures, which infuse her sinuous silhouettes and promote her ceramics into tactile works of art. Her inspiration allows for a depth of perception, adding resonance and veracity to her output. For more visit

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in June 2011.