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Art / Craft Scotland / Collect 2023

"People will react to the work in their own way but the viewer may feel a sense of serenity and perhaps also a connection to our ancestral past."

Ruth Elizabeth Jones

Ruth Elizabeth Jones is a ceramicist based in Dumfries & Galloway. She makes clay vessels, coil-building and refining with meditative focus, striving for harmony of form and surface. Whilst making Ruth practices yoga and chants with an intention that some of that meditative mindset is retained within the work as clay, air, fire and water combine.

Hi Ruth, thank you for talking with The New Current. How has everything been going?

Really well, thank you, I’ve been working hard making and photographing work, and developing my website and social media.

Congratulations on being part of Craft Scotland at Collect 2023! What has it meant to you to be part of such an impressive lineup of Scottish-based Makers?

I’m thrilled and honoured to have been selected and I’m really excited to attend the event and get to know some of the other exhibitors. I’m proud of the amazing craft talent in Scotland and how we are supported by Craft Scotland to progress our work.

Any nerves ahead of Collect 2023, or do you think you are going to be able to relax and enjoy the whole experience?

It’s a mixture of pure excitement and nervous anticipation for me.

How essential are creative opportunities like Craft Scotland and Collect 2023?

They are vital and precious, I’ve been on the Compass Emerging Maker Programme with Craft Scotland for the past year, gaining valuable business support for developing my creative practice and that, in part, gave me the confidence to apply for Collect. I’m very grateful for this support and for the enthusiasm of the knowledgeable people there.

What more do you think can be done to champion and support future independent Makers?

Keep the funding and opportunities coming, it’s a hard path but so vital for our culture and wellbeing. Good creative education opportunties are also vital; I’ve been a part-time lecturer in Further Education for many years teaching ceramics and sculpture alongside my making career. Young people need opportunities to learn skills alongside the development of concepts, and to find hope and vision that, with hard work and dedication, a fulfilling career in the creative industries is attainable.

Can you take me through the pieces you are going to showcase at Craft Scotland and Collect 2023?

I am presenting a collection of three smoke-fired moon jars. I started making moon jars in 2019 after seeing Lucie Rie’s 17th Century moon jar at the British Museum which she had on loan from her friend Bernard Leach. Unlike the traditional Korean thrown pieces my moon jars are coil-built. Exploring the spherical form and working with symmetry requires concentration and focus. I have developed the forms with the small foot detail to create lightness and a sense of floating. I am also presenting a paired composition piece called Holding – Offering inspired by notions of giving and containing.

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How do these pieces best represent you and the stories you want to tell through your work?

Some of the techniques I use have literally been passed down from neolithic matriarchal societies. Clay, fire and smoke coming together evoke our primeval past, generous bellies and feminine curves suggest fertility and motherhood with the delicate, refined forms sitting effortlessly in contemporary spaces.

Have you always had a passion for ceramics and where did you affinity with clay come from?

I have had an affinity with clay since childhood: from first touch at high school I found my vocation. I’m not sure why I was so taken with clay but I really remember almost a feeling of electricity and excitement in my body the minute I touched the clay and the feeling has not diminished yet!

What role does yoga and having a meditative mindset play in your creative process?

I work in a meditative way with a focus on form and texture. My intention is that some of the meditative focus of making is retained within the work. People will react to the work in their own way but the viewer may feel a sense of serenity and perhaps also a connection to our ancestral past. My best works seem to come when I’m calm and quiet and I often chant ancient yoga mantras when I’m making.

You’ve said that your work reflects your body, because of this most intimate way of creating art do you ever feel any apprehensions about sending your pieces off to new homes?

The works reflect the arc of my arm as I draw my tools across the surface, the curve of the vessels reflects the way my hands move. I do become quite attached to some of the vessels as I spend a lot of time on them but I guess it’s like sending your child out into the world, that feeling that your work is done and they are ready for the next chapter. Clients often send lovely feedback about how they are enjoying a piece in its new setting and that is always a treat. The other way to look at it is I simply can’t keep them all!

How much has your style and approach to your work changed since you started out?

I’ve been making for many years initally working on the wheel making tableware, I had a wee break from making after I had my second child and came back to it in 2017. That‘s when I started hand-building, it seemed to fit better with my lifestyle giving me flexibility to work on vessels as and when I could. I’m more interested in expressing emotion through my work now and leaving aside the constraints of function has enabled me to work at a bigger scale and more freely develop my forms.

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What top 3 tips would you offer someone wanting to get into ceramics?

1. Get a good training, learn as much as you can before setting up a studio including work experience if you can.

2. Work at finding your own voice and style.

3. Try and keep overheads down when you set up – finding a free or inexpensive workspace can really make the difference.

And finally, what would you like to take away from being part of Craft Scotland at Collect 2023?

I’m looking for opportunities to show my work beyond Scotland and to find a wider audience. But more importantly I think the whole experince of being at Collect is a dream come true and will give me renewed confidence to continue developing my work.

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