Rodgers at the NWP ZOO
Scott Saunders reviews the demonstration day
According to Kurt Vonnegut the second best way to really annoy your parents is to pursue a career in the arts. This does not apply to Emma Rodgers who was given every support by her family in her calling to ceramics.
From the age of thirteen when she discovered clay in school art class, Emma has been following her interest in modelling animal forms, helped again by parents who indulged her desire for a wide variety of pets in her formative years. After school Emma went to college passing through foundation and degree courses at Wolverhampton. During her first degree year she made a determined attempt to stop making figures, but found that whatever she made took on a figurative appearance. So she yielded to the inevitable and has progressed in the few years since graduating to a position where she is kept very busy preparing exhibitions of her work, and as artist in residence at her local college, teaching students from GNVQ to degree level.Fortunately Emma found a free Sunday to nip down the A55 from her Wirral home to Coleg Menai.
Emma began by talking us through a portfolio. She starts from worksheets covered with sketches of animals in various poses, and is interested in capturing dynamic lines from the sketches in the finished work. Her subjects include cats, hares and humans and currently, monkeys. Humour plays a significant role in her work; she has a keen eye for contortions in bodies; unusual poses; the folds in skin; the toy-like possibilities of monkeys.
Her work is soft-slabbed, built up in sections and made from white and off-white bodies, T-material, stoneware and porcelain. She uses other materials - perspex and metal - as framing, support and sometimes included in the forms: old nails provide her with bone like qualities in work which suggests the dissolving of flesh and the revealing of the skeleton; springs joining parts of bodies helps her develop toy themes. Emma bisque fires to 1000. After applying various slips and glazes she re-fires to 1100-1140, and also smoke fires. Colouring and glaze is minimal on the whole, with the exception of bright red and blue flashes on her recent mandrill monkeys.Emma's next work may well be clay pieces suspended in perspex and inspired by biological specimens which she's researching in the science faculty of her college.
Emma next demonstrated her making methods. Working from a sketch sheet of cats she rolled a slab. folded it into a tube, supported by stuffing it with scrunched up newspaper and manipulated it into a body. Again using folded slabs she made and added legs, using a few fluent movements to tease out the feet and joining them with a little slip. The head was built up using small sections of slab. Emma would normally spend a lot more time creating a piece, but the result was nevertheless impressive, expressive and had and effortless look to it.
She followed with a similarly elegant human figure using the same basic approach, manipulating the initial tube from inside to create bulges in all the right places, and shaping fingers from thin coils with a rapid sequence of pinches. When the need arises, Emma uses clay coils to prop up limbs during the making, and usually works directly on a kiln shelf so the form does not have to be moved unsupported.
After an excellent lunch we set to in an attempt to emulate what we had seen in the morning. Humour was the order of the afternoon as we gallant few struggled gamely to create something with even a hint of the life Emma instils in her work. Emma was helpful and encouraging throughout and at the end of the day everyone had completed at least one creature. Some were rapidly recycled but others went off with their owners and It will be interesting to see them at a later date in a completed state.