The craft of making marks

 

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It is said that we are all mark makers. From an early age we seem to instinctively know how to make a mark, with a crudely held crayon or a pencil at school, we write our name, we make our marks. As we move through life we leave a paper trail of marks. Deliberate, unintentional, ambiguous, revealing. Life is documented by the marks we have made.

A gallery could be described as a gathering of mark makers. A place where chosen artists have their work showcased, their method or craft of mark making is offered to the viewer as a form of story telling, a documentary made with marks. A single mark, the result of influences made on the artist, in turn brings influence upon the viewer.

Emily-Kriste Wilcox and Helena Emmans, two artists working in different mediums, share below how making marks is a way of story telling, recording a process or moment in time. If you were to focus in on the work of either of these artists you would see detailed and deliberate marks, in the silver, the clay, the applied glaze. The craft of a painter, ceramicist or silversmith, the intentional mark made at arms length or under a glass that magnifies, is an expression of a process or story the artist is living. Very different mediums employed in an accomplished manner. Time has refined their methods and given us something beautiful to view, hold or wear. It’s the craft of making marks. Both of these artists prompt wonder in the viewer, and leave an indelible impression that they carry away with them.

In their own words…

Emily-Kriste Wilcox – inspired by ever-changing skies, clouds and seas

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The marks I make with the clay are part of an ongoing conversation; a continuous stream of investigation into the materials, and I’m constantly intrigued by the range of possibilities.

I am driven by this variation – the tones I see whilst painting/creating are markedly different to that found on the completed pieces.  These variations occur partly through my mixing and application, plus the effect of the kiln’s heat. In many ways this mirrors the variations that occur in the ever-changing skies, clouds, seas and waters.

Walking and painting both play a large part in my process – in particular I regularly return to walk areas of Cornwall, Devon as well as the Lake District. I carry a sketchbook with me which I can then refer to when back in the studio for the larger paintings and the ceramic developments.

Pieces are handbuilt and I work on the flat panels initially to echo that of a painting. Multiple layers of coloured decorating slips are applied creating a depth that holds similarities to misty skies, or walks across the hills, which in turn allows the pots to create a sense of place – sometimes this can be a memory of a walk or a view across the sea.

The process of making is deliberately thoughtful and reflective to enable me to have this conversation with the clay and be able to respond effectively.  The creation of these vessels needs to come from a place of calm in order for them to portray that for the viewer.

 

Helena Emmans – inspired by the beautiful Isle of Skye

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The marks in my silver spoons and jewellery are inspired by the subtle and gentle qualities in nature that surround me. The sun-bleached pebbles, the textures and indentations of the lichens on the ancient rocks, the dandelion spores in the wind, the sway of the grasses in the breeze all these things influence my mark making. 

I like the subtle marks and details to have a random almost hand-drawn quality so it’s not too perfect and has a spontaneous feel to the work which draws the eye around the organic shapes of the silver. The pieces are very time consuming but they really are a labour of love. My work stays fresh and develops quickly even though the process is slow and thoughtful. In fact the way the spoons are evolving at the moment feels to me as though they are becoming more poetic in shape. 

Creating things is a huge part of my identity. I couldn’t imagine not being creative and I think my work works best when I have used my hands, eyes, head and heart. 

 

The process of mark making is a complex one with beginnings that are hard to define and endings that are equally elusive. But one thing is clear from looking at the work of these two artists. Time spent in the making process, the thought given to each mark, seems to call out a response from the viewer. A call to take time to look closely. To slow down and be absorbed in the moment. To pause awhile…

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