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INTERVIEW: Playing with fire, clay, and nylon

August 2, 2017

Nina Gerada is a multi-disciplinary artist whose body of work is so diverse it could easily satisfy up to five creative professionals and still leave inspiration to spare. Her formal education is in architecture – she completed a Bsc Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London and a Diploma in Architecture at the CASS, London Metropolitan University. But aside from architecture, her portfolio includes work in urban design, production design for films, set design for theatre, as well as her own art and mapping practice.

 

Despite her seriously wide-reaching range, Nina's work has always been anchored by two overarching themes – the humanist experience, and the haptic one. Her latest creative endeavour continues to explore both of these, tugging on her ongoing theoretical quest and distilling it into tiny, tiny objects. She spoke to think about Cut Outs– her pinch pots inspired by prehistory and Japanese ceramics.

 

Cover image: Cut Outs, ceramic pinch pots, Nina Gerada

Little Blue Cut Out, ceramic pinch pots, Nina Gerada

 

"I'm interested in textures, materiality and the innate stories and processes that materials are embedded with," Nina said, describing the starting point from which she approaches all her work. "This is most obviously manifest in my ceramic series, the Cut Outs, but exists in all I do. It's where process and output become interconnected – I believe that through our hands and bodies we can think on a more intuitive level".

 

Nina started experimenting with pinching and cutting clay in 2013. At the time she was working as a production designer on a film, so ceramics was more of a hobby – a way for her to occupy her hands. "I've returned to the Cut Outs recently after taking some time out on maternity leave," Nina says, "I felt the need to work in a more direct way, to create something more immediate".

Saki Cup Cut Out, ceramic pinch pots, Nina Gerada

 

Nina describes the allure of clay as a three-dimensional blank canvas with the promise of total immediacy. "Making something three-dimensional with one’s hands is fantastic. My hands can think for themselves, my brain switches off, it is like entering into a meditative state". Her Cut Outs are objects known as pinch pots – made from a ball of clay, a thumb stuck in the middle, and a pinching motion with one hand while the pot is rotated with the other. After this initial pot is formed, Nina then trims its edges with nylon thread. "It's all very simple and low-tech. The pinching technique is ancient; the thought that I'm part of a long line of pinching potters, going back to prehistoric men and women, fascinates me. It's great to make this connection". 

 

Although Nina's Cut Outs have been created intuitively, her technique is meticulous and patient. The result is angular, neat objects that would look completely at home in any contemporary homeware catalogue. Their spartan sophistication belies the rudimentary process by which they're made, but ensures that their unique character is held within their careful patina. 

Cut Outs, ceramic pinch pots, Nina Gerada

 

"I would make pinch pots and cut them, not knowing how the final form would look – I have little control over the movement of the nylon thread through the clay - it sometimes hits a piece of sediment and changes direction. There were many accidents - mostly pots with gigantic holes in their sides, which can be demoralizing, but at the same time it makes the technique exciting."

 

Nina has slowly refined her process through practice - she's learnt which movements worked best and which forms are more appealing to touch and hold. "I'm still never completely in control and this keeps it interesting," Nina says, "the resultant pots often surprise me. I work in conjunction with the clay, I don't control it, and so no two pots can ever be exactly the same". 

 

The art of Japanese ceramics has helped Nina to accept imperfection in her work. She describes this process point as a "break from rigour" – something which can sometimes enslave people from a technical creative background. Deferring to accident is something that Nina has learnt to embrace, but has also been an inherent influence from the landscape of her childhood. "I'm from Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean, a land of limestone rock and sea. The rough layered cliff edges, carved prehistoric temple stones, weathered limestone walls, salt pans, smoothened slimy reefs… I come from a rich palette of texture that is both temporal and transient".

From left to right: Cut Outs directly after pinching, Cut Outs after glazing, Cut Outs after firing

 

"The other great appeal of pottery is fire! It adds an element of unknown. I tend to seek processes that I cannot completely control. With pottery there is always a surprise when your work is taken out of the kiln". Indeed, when observed individually Nina's pots are a gorgeous display of unique craftsmanship – each having their own bite-size, quirky character. But as a collection they fully hit the harmonious spot, forcing you to mentally plan your next one-of-a-kind saki tasting or bread-dipping evening.

 

Nina Gerada is currently creating a body of ceramic work for Pam Pam in Bethnal Green, London. She will also be selling her pottery at Turning Earth Winter Market on 2nd and 3rd December at Turning Earth, Argyll Avenue, London E10. 

 

Nina Gerada is an artist and designer who lives and works in London and Malta. Nina’s work spans various fields from production design for film and urban design to cartography, ceramics and printmaking. Nina makes and draws by hand as a means of thinking and embedding work with value. At heart she is a storyteller, her work is narrative driven. Nina holds a bachelor of science from the Bartlett, UCL and a postgraduate diploma in Architecture from London Metropolitan University. In 2015, she won the Best Production Design Award at the Peloponnesian Corinthian International Film Festival for her work on 'Simshar' the Film. Nina teaches at The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, London Metropolitan University. 

 

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NEXT: Designer creates clothes that fit children as they grow

 

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