In the next of our Meet the Maker features, looking at contemporary Shetland craft makers showcased in our current ShetlandMade exhibition, we talk to Ellie Duncan, of Island Ceramics, about her work.
Who or what do you draw inspiration from? What motivates you to do what you do?
My inspiration is taken solely from the sea and coastline that surrounds Shetland. The sea is the single motivator in my creativity, with this unfolding from spending much time wandering the coastline of Shetland and devoting a great deal of focus on capturing the beauty that is to be seen here. I feel motivated to share what I capture and to recreate this in ceramic form, for others to connect to the sea whilst being indoors.
How do you work, what is your process? What's your favourite part of the process?
I allow myself to be very free flowing in my creativity, I feel it is something that I cannot force upon myself. When creating pieces, I will focus on one form - such as a mug - I will make a range of sizes, in the next day or two (once dried out to the correct consistency) the wheel-thrown cylinders will be taken to the wheel once again to trim off excess clay, to lighten and refine the piece, I then attach a handle, either a straight or more rounded handle depending on what I feel to be fitting for the shape and size of the mug. The most time consuming part of the process is without a doubt the glazing stage, the Löragub collection which has a total of 9 layers of glaze. I apply my glaze with a hake brush, I do find this to be a very therapeutic stage and will often listen to music or a podcast to keep my mind busy - as the glazing stage can become a little repetitive.
What does your craft mean to you?
My craft means more than I can express, I adore being able to connect with others to the sea through my ceramic creations. Personally my craft offers me a release, a way to express, it allows me to live authentically - in tune with nature and free to slow down in my individual creative flow - I am extremely grateful for all that creativity offers.
Art aside, what do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time I love to be beside the sea, but also in it and on it. The activities that I most enjoy are surfing and snorkelling, as well as walking along the coastline of Shetland and photographing the sea in its stormiest state. The wildlife to be found on Shetland's coastline mesmerises me, I love nothing more than watching an otter hunt and eat its prey among the seaweed, or setting myself up at a location ahead of the often visiting orca, ready to take some captures or simply admiring their magnificence as they glide through the waters around Shetland.
If you could own another artist's work, who would you choose? Why?
If it were possible to be a fellow artist, I could only dream of being able to create art like Ruth Browlee. Her paintings absolutely entrance me, I have an abstract painting of Ruth's and it always takes me to a much treasured location in Shetland, as well as a peaceful state of mind. I particularly love Ruth's most stormy seascape paintings, these really speak to me and inspire me to be creative myself.
What is next for you?
Next for me I'd love to find myself a permanent studio, where I can welcome fellow sea and art lovers, display my art and hold workshops.
You can see Ellie's work as part of the current set of ShetlandMade exhibitions at Bonhoga Gallery during opening hours Wednesday - Sunday, 10:30am - 4:30pm until the exhibition ends on Sunday 4 September.