Colour Box Studio Member and workshop facilitator Carolyn Warren-Langford is a sculptor from Western Australia who’s passionate about clay. Now based in Point Cook in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Carolyn has taught workshops and exhibited in both Perth, at The Metamorphosis Art Gallery, and in Melbourne, at Brunswick St Gallery and at the Wyndham Art Prize Exhibition.
Carolyn first became involved with Colour Box Studio when she participated in the Wyndham Arts Activate professional development program for emerging artists, where she received mentoring from Colour Box Studio to build workshop development and facilitation skills. Carolyn is eager to share her years of experience and passion for ceramics with others. We interviewed Carolyn to find out more about her practice and what she’s currently working on. If you’d like to learn clay handbuilding check out her upcoming workshop here.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an artist and sculptor from Perth, Western Australia. I’m the maker of Pyre Born Women, sculptures of women that are formed from clay and then go through a pit-firing process, which results in flashes of colour across the sculptures. The theme of transformation and new life is a theme that runs through all of my work and is very tied to my life.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on The Bead Project, which invites women to come and make a few clay beads – one they keep for themselves, and the other goes into a huge community necklace which will be exhibited next year. I received a grant from Wyndham City Council to run the Project, and so far about 200 women have participated and contributed beautiful, heartwarming messages. They’re all about love and family and aiming for the stars, and it’s amazing to think of all these women and all the things they do with their hands, and how they’re surrounded by all this love in the community. The Bead Project is still in progress – beads are taking up my whole workshop! I’m still reaching out to ladies and girls to make even more beads and keep it going.
I’m also starting to think about my next project, which will be an exhibition of a set of sculptures inspired by the Maya Angelou poem, And Still I Rise. That theme of rising and becoming and transformation is very relevant to all of my work.
Has working with clay been a part of your life from a young age, or is it something you’ve started more recently?
I went to uni to learn how to make kiln-cast glass, and when you do that you make the original in clay – that’s what got me into clay to start with. I did that for six months until they closed the hot-glass furnace down, so I went into clay and just stuck with that! That was in about 1998, and I’ve been playing with clay ever since.
What’s your creative process like for your sculptures?
Sometimes a lightning bolt strikes and I get a particular idea that I want to capture in clay – it might be a mood, or a piece of music, or a phrase in a song. When I can imagine it in 3D, I look for other inspiration to work into the idea, until I’ve got exactly what I want to make in my mind.
Then as I make, the piece just becomes itself – it takes over. Sometimes when you’re working with clay, it decides what it wants to be, and the piece often turns out better if you don’t fight that. If it doesn’t turn out how I’d planned, I just have another go at that idea later in another piece.
How long do you spend on a particular piece?
It depends how big the piece is. My first really big sculpture took me 5 months to make (but I had a day job at the time). One of the pieces I’m currently working on I started about a year ago. Sometimes I’m on a roll, and if I’m making something small I can finish a few in a day. Other times, I get to a certain point in making a piece and can’t do anymore; then I have to wait until the piece tells me what they want to be. I’d really like to start working bigger if I can find the time.
Where/when do you feel most creative?
In my studio, usually when I’m not being disturbed and I can focus – often when all the teenagers in my house have gone to school or out for the night!
Hand-making ceramics seems to be a popular craft activity right now – why do you think this is?
It comes from this innate need inside humans to make something with their hands; to form something out of a lump of dirt that they can use or be proud of or enjoy as an object of beauty. It’s a need that a lot of people have that they might not even know they have until they start transforming something raw into something finished.
What can participants expect in your workshop?
Participants can expect to get a ‘taster’ of different vessel handbuilding methods and decorating techniques. I think this will whet their appetites for discovering the multitude of other building and surface decoration techniques. The decoration techniques (adding texture, glazes and firing) are where you get really creative; they completely change how your piece turns out, and there’s endless variation!
What do you think about Colour Box Studio?
Colour Box Studio are great. They’re always there if I need advice or help, and they do a great job with all their promotion. (Also they’ve got the best tote bag for Colour Box Studio Members – it’s got perfect-length handles so you can sling it over your shoulder comfortably!)
Where can we find you online?
Carolyn’s brand new Colour Box Studio workshop, Clay Handbuilding: Make Your Own Ceramic Vessels will take place on Saturday 24 September. Held at Colour Box Studio’s space in the heart of Footscray, participants will get their hands dirty as they learn from an experienced facilitator and member of the Australian Ceramics Association.
For more information and bookings, head to: www.colourboxstudio.com/workshops
Featured image: Carolyn Warren-Langford in her studio with one of her ‘Pyre Born Women’. Image by Caroline Esbenshade.