Working in Devon in the south west of England, Isabel Merrick‘s sculptural ceramics are suffused with local, as well as Japanese influences. The textures, forms, and reflective qualities found in the landscapes and seascapes of Devon, provide a set of qualities that she collides with a corresponding set of Japanese inspired textural and formal qualities.
The Japanese tea bowl becomes the metaphor for exploring the cultures, and especially the tensions and similarities that exist between them.
Tea, and the associated ceremonies that accompany its drinking, are still important to both cultures. She observes how the humble the tea bowl has been transformed into the teacup in British culture, a transformation that informs a series of small sculptures where the artist wanted to create something essentially familiar, the tea bowl. The form of the bowl, and its technique of creation were then collided with “the slab”, a different process of working clay. The slab becomes representative of the handle of a teacup, and more generally the transformation of ideas between cultures.
This tension is also explored in the very clay with which the artist works. She mixes stoneware clay with additions of porcelain, and the clay mixture known as “crank”, clay mixed with “grog”, broken pieces of fired clay, which is rough on the hands to work with.
This combination of materials is difficult to work with and does not conform to known techniques easily. As a consequence, the results are not entirely predictable.
Much as the transformations that are being explored.