Bridget McVey makes textured porcelain and stoneware with layered slips and glazes, often imprinted with plants.
Bridget is bringing her work and her potters wheel to the NGS Open Garden & Secret Craft Fair on the 7th & 8th of June. I had a chat with Bridget about her work and her affinity with plants and gardens.
What are you currently working on?
I’m trying to get glazes to work at the minute. I have some colours in my head that are proving technically challenging. An acid green chartreuse and dark dark indigo. They’re starting to work. I’m also getting quite excited about plants coming into bloom so I can squash them into clay. I’ve just tried daffodils – they’re in the kiln at the moment.
What sort of a gardener are you?
I am a frustrated gardener! I have a small backyard and it is quite dark in places. It is filled with my kiln, shed and studio. I desperately try to squeeze in pots and plants. In 2013 I grew a lot of Mexican Tomatillos – I used a whole packet of seed, didn’t thin them and then I needed to look after all of the plants.
How do gardens influence your work?
I suppose I was raised on Gardeners Question Time and mothers milk! We spent all the hours we could outside during my childhood in the Lake District. I heard GQT and saw Gardeners World and things like that as a girl. My parents were very encouraging and I had a flowerbed in Granny’s garden.
I remember picking a few flowers, stealing peas in the pod and eating them even though they were not quite ready. Sunflower seeds would take what seemed like forever to geminate but when they did it was the most exciting thing ever.
I like using plants in my work that have strong emotional memories and vividly take me to places.
For example, snowdrops would be struggling to get through the snow in the Lake District so we would go and pick them and ‘rescue’ them. Fuchsias always remind me of Granny’s garden, and I always found Crocosmia massive and very dramatic when I was little.
There’s also a type of plant that grew outside my previous studio ‘The Pottery Cottage’, outside my brother’s house and a friend’s house in Brighton – all these places and times are different but bring good memories.
How do you use the plants in your work?
I press them into porcelain to get an imprint, then I pick out and define the shape. I use copper oxide and black glazes to enhance the image – creating contrast and subtlety. I like to use rich glossy crystalline glazes.
Where do you get your plants?
Lots of different places. My friend Jo has a lovely garden, I often ring her and ask if I can come and rob some plants.
Imprinting plants in the clay started by experimenting. This was ages ago – I had been talking to Jo who wanted some tiles for behind her cooker. Her kitchen opens onto the garden and she really wanted to use that somehow. I rolled some clay out and impressed some leaves from her garden to make tiles as a commission for her, this then morphed into the whole thing to do with imprinting plants in the rest of my work.
Bridget makes a wide range of vessels and trays that are as lovely to use as to look at. You can see and purchase work by Bridget and other artists at the NGS Open Garden & Secret Craft Fair in Loughborough, Leicestershire on the 7 & 8 of June. Bridget will be setting up her wheel in The Shed so you can also see her working, and have a go yourself.
You can see her work –
At the British Craft Trade Fair 2014 until 8 April 2014
Ceramics in Charnwood 18 May 2014
NGS Open Garden & Secret Craft Fair 7 & 8 June 2014
My Garden on the NGS website