We hope you are keeping well despite these long hours at home and that you are continuing finding inspiration and entertainment in our artists chats. These now include a mid week issue as well as the Saturday’s issue so that we can now also introduce you to some of our artisans.
This week, we thought we would take you to the Island of Harris for a bit of fresh sea air! So, do join us and listen to BELINDA GLENNON talk about
The Lure of the Outer Hebrides
Belinda, Hi, I’m starting to really missing seeing you and all of our artists, but hope you are well and keeping safe. Just to inform our friends out there, could you say a few words about yourself?
Hello! I grew up in a village in Cambridgeshire. My mother’s parents lived in Harris. Most school holidays, and all summer, we would go to Harris to stay with my grandparents and then in the house when they were no longer with us. That time in Harris, growing up during those times, the amazing characters, experiences, the beauty of the island is deeply ingrained in who I am and the ceramics I make.
I am now based in the Scottish Borders. I took evening classes in 1999 (during my final year training as a nurse in Edinburgh) for around a year. I set a up a tiny workshop when we moved to the Borders, then I went on to do many throwing courses, had 3 children, started selling my pottery locally and decided in 2010 to commit to ceramics as a career. I began a foundation degree in Contemporary Ceramics in Practice at Newcastle College driving to Newcastle once a week for 3 years which I absolutely loved and started my business in 2013 when I had graduated
Apart from the time you spend as a professional artist, do you also have other occupations, such as part time lecturer/tutor? I am a full time potter. I recently bought a second wheel so I could teach two at a time in weekly classes and weekend workshops.
Where do you work? Do you have a studio/workshop? Tell us a little about this special place. I’m very lucky to have a studio in the garden. My husband built it about 3 years ago. Before this lovely, light space was built I worked in the old washhouse for about 10yrs. In contrast, this was a small, dark, cold and damp space to work in. It is now used for the kiln and storage. I am still overjoyed to go into my studio everyday.
How has the lockdown affected your time in the studio/workshop? My working time during lockdown has changed pace. With the galleries closed, exhibitions on hold, shows cancelled, all the approaching deadlines have gone. I have my 3 children at home so I’m spending time with them, however they need me! I am finding I’m starting work later and generally working more slowly, but feeling like this is ok, given the current crisis. Creatively this is a good time to explore ideas which have been simmering away.
Describe a “typical” approach to your work practice I usually have ideas, colours, textures and forms in my head that I want to express. Sometimes I will use a sketchbook to try and formulate a plan. Sometimes, even at this stage, I can see it will not work or something different emerges. Then I will make some test pieces to see how the form/glazing works. The development of these ideas is ongoing, even with pieces I have been making for a long time. I look at what has worked best in each firing and work towards improving each time.
Are you a “must have total silence” kind of creative person, or do you listen to music whilst working? Oh no! I always have music playing. I like the radio as it feels like company. I can feel quite isolated in usual times, so I am loving having my family around for company at the moment… not great for production!
What is your fave music you like to work to? I like to listen to the radio in the pottery. Radio 6 Music plays a great variety of music old and new which I love
What did you listen to, last? Recently I have been revisiting some bands I used to listen to in my youth after chatting with an old friend I used to go to gigs with in my teens. Last week I was listening to Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash and Bob Marley! I love everything from Foals, Fontaines D.C. to Christine and the Queens, Frightened Rabbit, Michael Kiwanuka …. all sorts!
What is the main subject of your inspiration? My inspiration all comes from my love of the Isle of Harris. I was so lucky to have spent so many holidays up in Harris as a child, thinking about it now it feels like another life. The colours of the wild, majestic landscape and coastline, ever changing with the light are my constant inspiration.
What medium and techniques do you use to translate your creative ideas? Tell us a little about your creative process. I mostly use white stoneware clay to throw my pieces on the wheel. I make a variety of ceramics from functional tableware to more sculptural pieces using layers of glazes to achieve the colours and depth I am hoping to achieve. Each piece I see as unique so I weigh the clay but tend not to measure the dimensions to allow natural individuality. When glazing I use around 4 to 8 glazes on each piece, poured, brushed and dipped. In and around my studio I have shells, pebbles, drift wood and other little pieces of Harris which all feed my inspiration when I am away from the island. I am missing it a lot at the moment.
Some people have ‘studio pets’. Do you have one? What’s their ‘contribution’ to your creativity? My lovely dog Abbie is my studio companion. My walks with her are a great start to the day. She is reactive to other dogs so for peaceful walks I have to go a little way out of the village. This has led me to discover places I never normally would walk. I love watching the seasons pass on my walks throughout the year. The beautiful countryside in the Borders enriches my inspiration and creativity and Abbie facilitates this for me!
What did you do at first to try and adjust to this new ‘lockdown’ situation? I think I tried to be easy on myself allowing feelings to come and go as this was such an unusual, frightening, strange experience. Taking everyday as it came, not listening to the news too much and trying to be supportive to my children in their new situations which was as hard and confusing for them as us.
What is your favourite pastime? Has the pandemic impacted on your ability to enjoy this? I love mountain biking and meet a brilliant group of friends on a Thursday to ride and chat. Working on my own this is my favourite day of the week! This has stopped although we now are meeting up on line to catch up. I have not been cycling at all, all motivation to go out anywhere has gone. It will return!
Can you while away the hours with a “good book”? or do you need to do something more active. Any particular title you would recommend as a “must read once in a lifetime”? I love reading but don’t seem to have much time for it so it takes me forever to get through books, unless I’m on holiday! I love to be outside, especially if the sun is out. We are lucky to have a garden to spend time and grow vegetables and flowers.
What about films? What is your favourite film of all? Black Cat White Cat one of my favourite films!
Tell us of one of the most beautiful or happy moments in your life? I must say there have been moments of intense joy and gratitude amongst the chaos and horror of our current situation. Happiness that we are all safe and together in our house, that it is Springtime and plants are growing and the birds and animals are not affected by the virus.
What inspires you in life and in art? The sea is probably my biggest inspiration in life and art. I love to be close to the sea, the sound, the smell, I love beachcombing collecting shells and pebbles … yes, the sea!
Who is up there in your esteem in terms of artistic excellence? What is/are your favourite artist(s)? Some of my favourite of many wonderful ceramicists is Jack Doherty who makes the most sublime soda fired porcelain.
Any pet hate? – we all have one, it’s OK to say it. I am generally fairly tolerant but at home when someone doesn’t shut the freeze door properly and it all frosts up…that really gets on my nerves!! Or opens a jar/packet of something when there is already one open… grrrr!!
As a 3D artist/artisan, do you have a favourite shape? I like curves, rounded shapes.
It has been said that creatives are often great cooks as they know how to balance food colours, flavours, texture to create that perfect taste buds experience, do you like cooking? What is your signature dish? Swooning Imam, a Middle Eastern baked aubergine dish…. so delicious!
What are you exploring at the moment, artistically speaking? I’m working on a new series ‘Lines’ inspired by the beautiful organic lines seen in the Harris landscape. Skylines, cloudlines, tidelines, patterns in the sand, lines from the lazy beds so many lines!!
A few examples from Belinda’s new Lines series, from top to bottom and left to right: Lidded containers – small 7cm tall, 6cm wide; large 10cm tall, 8cm wide; Vases – bud vase: 7cm tall, 5cm wide; large vase: 10cm tall, 8cm wide; Vessel – 12cm tall, 13cm wide.
What makes you laugh/cry? My best friend Megan
What is your favourite tipple? Gin and Tonic – Harris Gin is my absolute favourite, with Feverfew tonic and pink grapefruit … heaven!
What is your “naughty but nice” comfort? Molly, my daughter’s chocolate brownies and vanilla ice cream! Yum!
If you could travel, where would you go? I have a dream of riding a horse across Mongolia with my friend Megan. We used to work at a stables together. One day we will do this! Finally, going forward, what would you hope we could learn as society/humans from this pandemic. What is your message to the world? I hope we have learnt something about community, made some new connections. Maybe some will have discovered what is really important in our lives and live with more compassion and gratitude. It would be wonderful if there could be some widespread changes to society and how we live regarding the environment. I hope we have realised the value of those doing jobs which are so essential at this time and we remember and continue to appreciate them.
THANK YOU so much BELINDA for sharing these thoughts with us.
I hope our readers would have enjoyed listening to you. It has been a great pleasure for me to hear more of your love for Harris and how it has been sustaining your creativity as a potter and ceramic sculptor over the last few years. Thank you.
If you want to know more about BELINDA’s new ‘Lines’ series shown in this email, or to simply view more of the work we have of hers at the gallery, please CLICK HERE
And of course, feel free to send us any comments/questions at CONTACT US Thank you for reading and please do stay safe!
ps.: Our next episode of THE FULL PICTURE will be published on 16th May 2020