An interview with talented ceramic artist Viv Lee

I asked talented ceramic artist Viv Lee to share her story with us and I can’t wait for you to read it. Born in Hong Kong with time spent living in Toronto and London, ceramic artist Viv Lee is currently based in the west of Scotland.

I first noticed Viv’s work in London, but didn’t realise it was her work until I found her on Instagram.

An interview with talented ceramic artist Viv Lee

1. WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND? 

I was a florist for nearly ten years prior to going to art school. It had always been a dream of mine to study art, but it wasn’t until my mid thirties that I had the courage and opportunity to follow this dream. In the second year of my sculpture degree at Glasgow School of Art, a visiting art professor from China came to teach a class on modelling a head in clay. As soon as I touched the material, I felt instinctively drawn to it and promptly began experimenting with making ceramic objects, which continued throughout my time at art school. After graduating in 2017, I decided to work exclusively with this medium and set up a studio at home.

2. WHAT DOES YOUR WORK AIM TO SAY?

My last body of work, States of Being, was influenced by my interest in zen Buddhism and western mindfulness practices, and in particular, how I could approach making as a form of meditation. I became interested in the intuitive process of making, not having a fixed idea of the outcome and allowing the material and the moment to dictate the forms that emerged. To some extent I don’t feel it’s imperative that the motivation behind my work be conveyed to the viewer or user. The beauty of making functional sculpture is that the meaning of the work, which can be a very personal one, emerges through the use of the object.     

An interview with talented ceramic artist Viv Lee

3. WHAT WORK DO YOU MOST ENJOY DOING?

My practice centres around hand building sculptural vessels utilising slow making techniques, such as coiling. I really love this technique as I find the slowness both meditative and grounding, which is a good counterbalance to my otherwise frenetic pace of operating! As for my fascination with making vessel forms, I think this is connected to my belief in the body as a sacred vessel for the soul. When I approach making with this in mind, I appreciate the diversity of forms that emerge and go easy on the ‘flaws and inaccuracies’, accepting them as beautiful idiosyncrasies that make each piece unique. I definitely enjoy making work that leans more towards sculpture than purely functional ware, as with sculpture there’s more room to be playful, breaking away from conventional forms.

An interview with talented ceramic artist Viv Lee

4. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE ART WORK?

This is a challenging question to answer as there are many works that I enjoy. However, if I’m pushed to choose one work, it would be Louise Bourgeois’ Fée Couturière, 1963. This biomorphic sculpture has references to the human body, dwellings and nest forms. There is something about its ambiguous nature that’s so compelling, and I find it both unsettling and beautiful. I am intrigued by ambiguity and work that creates a multi-faceted experience for the viewer, I would love to push my work more in this direction.

5. WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?

Louise Bourgeois, Barbara Hepworth and Valentine Schlegel. Women sculptors who made powerful, abstract works with so much sensitivity to the mediums they worked in.

An interview with talented ceramic artist Viv Lee

6. WHICH CURRENT ART WORLD TRENDS ARE YOU FOLLOWING?

Whilst I enjoy going to see contemporary art, I don’t tend to follow art world trends. If anything, I am more interested in following what’s happening in interiors and architecture. I guess this is because I am interested in imagining the environments where my work might exist eventually.

7. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM PROJECT?

I have a long-held love of Japanese culture, aesthetics and spiritual philosophy. My dream project would involve travelling to Japan for a residency, ideally somewhere remote where I would be able to explore the natural environment, and make work utilising local materials and techniques, such as firing my work in an anagama kiln.

An interview with talented ceramic artist Viv Lee

8. WHAT DOES A NORMAL STUDIO DAY LOOK LIKE?

I try to get into the studio by 9.00am and begin making, I am a morning person so starting my day with work that requires more of my focus and physical exertion works best for me. I stop for lunch about 1pm and either resume making after lunch or I might do some glazing or photographing of my work. I leave the studio about 5pm to make dinner for my kids and depending on whether I have a deadline or not, either return to the studio to finish work or I spend the evenings doing research, attending to e-mails, ordering materials, and all the necessary admin evils of running my own business!

9. WHERE CAN WE BUY YOUR WORK?

Currently I have two stockists, The Welcome Home Store at The Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, and Benchmark Furniture in Berkshire, England. I also welcome sales enquiries and commissions through my Instagram and website. Viv has been selected to exhibit and sell her work at Craft Scotland’s summer exhibition in Edinburgh which takes place during Edinburgh fringe festival, so if you’re going, make sure you visit! 

Thank you so much for sharing, Viv!

An interview with talented ceramic artist Viv Lee

All photos are by credit Kevin J. Thomson.

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