Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.
Clay Conversations: Gilles le Corre
[ Artist in Focus, Artist Interview )
As part of our Clay Conversations series exploring our growing collection of ceramics, we interviewed Gilles le Corre whose Tea Bowl forms part of the Golder-Thompson Gift.
What has been your journey as an artist?
I started pottery at Holland Park School, London, with pottery teacher Christine Rowe. I recall at that time walking past the pottery room and seeing a group of pupils surrounding a potter’s wheel and something clicked. I choose to spend time in the pottery room, which was a very welcoming environment. It was also during that period I spent a couple of vacations in the studio pottery of Eric Stockl in south Wales. It was a great experience to be in a studio situation, as I learnt how to run a workshop. The experience opened my mind to working with clay and glazes.
I did a Foundation course followed by a BA in Ceramics at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts under the headship of potter Ian Auld. While there, tutor Janice Tchalenko was a great influence, and I went on to assist in her studio. Other great artists there inspired me including Ewen Anderson, Colin Pearson and Scott Chamberlain.
After graduating, I became a studio potter making a range of decorated thrown stoneware. I used a glaze-on-glaze technique of trailing and brushing over a white base. Setting up a small workshop near Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, I eventually moved to my current studio in Oxford. I have supplied and sold pots to a small range of galleries and outlets and took part in exhibitions and eventually became a member of the Crafts Potters Association and was selected for the Crafts Council Index of Makers.
Gilles le Corre’s sgraffito work in progress
What artists inspire you?
As well as the tutors I mentioned, I find the work of Hans Coper and Lucie Rie very inspiring. I also love the work of contemporary potters, such as Magdalene Odundo, Claude Champy and Robert Turner.
During the period when I was making my multi-coloured pots, I found a lot of inspiration in the cross hatched prints and paintings of Jasper Johns. Alberto Giacometti’s thin figure sculptures also interest me with their beautifully textured surfaces.
Recently I have been looking at the garden paintings by Patrick Heron, who found inspiration from the natural world around the Cornish coastline. I admire the look of his work, his calligraphic drawn lines and spots of colours against a white background. They have an intense luminosity about them. Heron’s works resonate with me having been brought up around the coast of Brittany. For similar reasons, I enjoy the work of Jean Dubuffet with his drawn lines and jigsaw shapes and his Non-Lieux and Mires painting series.
Gilles le Corre’s finished sgraffito work plate.
What sort of techniques do you use in your work?
I mainly use the potter’s wheel for my pieces. My pots explore the possibilities of gritted clays and the textured surfaces they create. The throwing marks are intentionally left to show the process of making, which I feel enhances the fluidity and movement in the pieces.
Some forms are also altered at the soft clay stage. Others are faceted in order to explore unevenness and some are assembled from thrown composite shapes to make bigger items, such as my flared top vessels and tall thin bottles.
As a potter, I also enjoy experimenting with a range of high fired glazes. I am currently experimenting with a simple white satin dolomite glaze that lets the iron spots from the clay expand on the surface randomly.
Gilles le Corre in his pottery studio.
Could you tell us about your Tea Bowl in the Golder-Thomson gift?
The bowl in the Golder-Thomson gift collection was thrown on the potter’s wheel using a heavy textured stoneware clay. The clay used was a quarried, (Wild clay) dug from an open coal mine. The clay was first removed and left untouched and unprocessed for generations. It is highly textured and naturally loaded with impurities such as flint, iron pyrites, coal, sand and twigs.
The bowl has a trimmed foot ring that raises the shape and has been painted with layers of fine porcelain slip during the leather hard clay stage. After a biscuit firing, the bowl was dipped in a satin and titanium oxide white glaze and fired in a reduction atmosphere in a gas kiln to 1300 degrees centigrade.
I really appreciate the nature of this clay. It contains iron oxide which produced the random speckled effects on the bowl.
Gilles le Corre, Tea Bowl
What are your plans, for the future, what you are currently working on?
I have been producing a new body of work which is currently on show at Wolfson College Oxford. It represents a culmination of the last few years experimenting with new clays and glazes. My cut faceted technique gives the works a sculptural element with whole distorted shapes.
I have also introduced a sgraffito line drawing onto the porcelain slip layer on my plates and vessels, which is then filled with a darker pigment. It has a similar effect to an etched line in printmaking. I am excited with the results and plan to work more with this technique. It feels like a new development in my working process.
I am also a pottery tutor at Activate Learning College in Oxford and the Sunningwell School of Arts. I have done this for several years and find inspiration in communicating ceramic techniques and ideas with the students. I also continue to supply the Craft Potters Association Contemporary Ceramics Gallery and Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery in London with my work.
Find out more about Gilles le Corre and his work via his website.