Meet Cranbrook-based ceramic artist Marie Prett
PUBLISHED: 13:32 18 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:16 20 February 2013
Marie specialises in figurative sculptures of cats, dogs, zebras and showgirls – each with a story to tell behind the smiling faces
Circus of life
Cranbrook-based ceramic artist Marie Prett specialises in figurative sculptures of cats, dogs, zebras and showgirls each with a story to tell behind the smiling faces
Marie Pretts studio is in the middle room of her new gallery and workplace in Cranbrook, Singing Soul. Theres a tiled floor, white walls adorned with paintings and four sturdy wooden workbenches.
The back room has storage space as well as an electric top-loading round kiln that is as big as you can get while still using a domestic power supply. And it is the size of the kiln that more or less constrains and dictates the size of Maries superb sculptures.
With her brightly coloured animals and circus characters, you will never forget the work of this artist. It is almost pure whimsy, but within a contemporary aesthetic of the carnivalesque.
Marie tells me the circus came to town while she was at college she studied at Medway Institute of Art and Design and later joined the degree course at De Montfort University, Leicester.
I have never looked back. The circus incorporates colour, movement, romance, animals and storytelling, she says. I have made a book called Le Cirque Imaginaire (available from the gallery). It explains how my love of the circus is really the circus in my imagination, taken from paintings by Picasso, Dame Laura Knight and Degas. Giffords Circus is the only one so far that brings my imagined circus to life.
The circus incorporates colour, movement, romance, animals and storytelling
These artists, together with everything I see and hear are Maries inspirations. And you can add Chagall to her list of artistic heroes.
The process of producing the work is quite complex, but she can complete a piece of work in two to six days. However, as Marie says, the process of creation includes her six years in college and 20 years experience.
The sculptures range from 20 to 55 centimetres high, the only criterion being that they fit the kiln. The process begins with an awful lot of thinking. Some may call it procrastinating, but it is all part of the artistic process. With small pieces, like the bull terriers, its possible to make five or six in a week, she says.
Each piece is individually hand made and Marie works on two to six pieces at a time. When painting its the same three or four pieces at a time. I work very quickly in both mediums and this allows for drying time, she adds.
Her mediums are clay, which comes from Pearsons Green near Brenchley or from Hesketh Potters Supplies in Lewes.
The animals start with a pinchpot, which is one of the first processes you learn as a potter. The body of the animals is two pinchpots, the neck another and the head a fourth. They are left overnight to get leather-hard, and then made up the next day. They should be dry enough to stand immediately and then the figures are added, Marie explains.
The paint is called slips, a liquid clay with pigment added, also from Heskeths. The colours are bright and vivacious, delightful.
I asked Marie what was the most exciting piece she had created. Its usually the piece I am currently working on, but I did really enjoy making Europa on Zeus for the World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, she says.
Most of the decisions about what to make come during the actual process of creating. I hate having to design a piece on paper first and rarely do, she admits. However, Marie will work to commissions.
Art is terribly important and necessary to our wellbeing, she insists. A young student should follow their heart, stick with it and work very, very hard. Take the opportunities that come your way and remain focused.
Maries future projects include running some week-long pottery courses, specialising in making animals and people out of clay. She also plans another book and wants to spend more time painting.
GET IN TOUCH
Marie Prett is at the Singing Soul Gallery, 19 Stone Street, Cranbrook TN17 3HF, 01580 714551
The Pilgrims Way Summer Art exhibition takes place this year 18-27 May at the Tithe Barn in Lenham, on the A20 half way between Ashford and Maidstone.
The dates of the potters weeks are: 16-20 July and 24-28 September.