Zoe Preece – Reflections on materials, process and space

A group of words or a visual detail is often my way in to a creative project. I won’t fully understand why my mind has made a particular association, but still the words or the detail will lodge in my head and my mind will short-circuit back to it in a tight loop. It’s an uncomfortable process, like trying to see something that won’t quite be seen.

It’s the same with a visual image, there is this repetition, a return to a detail I have seen – the meniscus on a spoon filled to the point of tipping. As I return and return to that detail I have the sensation of a world opening up from within it. I draw and re-draw it. With each repeated drawing some progress is made.

Drawing leads me into material.   The beginnings of my interactions with material always take the form of empirical enquiry.   I relax then . . . I can get involved in trying to figure out how to make something happen, figure out a process.

I collect objects, arrange them rearrange them, move them around my space, place them next to this image, on that window ledge, next to that object and in so doing thoughts and ideas are triggered.

The space can seem uncomfortable, almost threatening, at the beginning of a project. There is a shifting and ordering, a placing and replacing of things. Then every so often I want to get rid of the lot, clear the whole thing and start again.

I don’t work with an end plan or design; my process often feels a little like working blind right up to the very end point. It’s through the testing out of materials I find something.   The creative process only comes fully alive for me as the process of investigating material and the varying effects of heat from the kiln unfolds. Until this point I feel ill at ease with my space, my process, the material – like I’m working against the grain.

I find myself staring into particular material qualities that emerge from the kiln, trying to read what they’re saying. For me, these visual details are far more lucid than words at expressing a concept or idea – by not nailing it down in words, there seems to be space for an idea to take on a more expansive character.  The edges can be blurred – it can be this but it can also be that.

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