Victoria Claire Dawes

Characterful tableware inspired by people and the past.

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In a culture of mass production, ceramicist Victoria Claire Dawes creates objects which are inspired by, and made for, the people.

Having moved to Sheffield to take up a studio through Yorkshire Artspace's Starter Studio programme in 2014, Dawes has now set up permanent residence in the city. Describing her practice as "a meditation on the past", Dawes creates tableware using red earthenware, embellishing her pieces with banister spindles, soft drapery, embroidery and loose pyjamas. The desire behind this painstaking approach is not to create mere decorative objects, but to fashion functional and durable designs that can be used and shared.

Her recent collection of tableware for Made North's Northern Industrial Project is a testament to her commitment to revitalise the position of kitchenware in the home. Titled For Dennis, it's a homage to the time she spent working for former Sheffield steelworker Dennis Black. The collection consists of a bread bin, butter dish, butter and bread knives and a 9-inch plate: objects that are "a celebration of a self-contained family life. A life spent providing for and taking care of each other through industrial and domestic work with the kitchen table at the heart of the home."

Dawes' cups, mugs, wall hangings, bowls, jugs, storage jars and steins not only provide for every domestic need, but the aesthetics of her designs – from the theatrical Jane Emma collection to the simple Audra series – will inject a dose of character into any domestic space.

How would you describe your work?

My work is predominantly wheel-thrown terracotta tableware. When the clay is leather hard I use white slip, hints of colour and repeated patterns to build decorative surfaces. Each piece is made through a series of time sensitive processes. I work at my best when the studio is in the swing of a few making cycles with work at several stages.

What inspires you?

Homes, the past, memories and traditions. Narrative and sentiment are hugely important to me. I love objects that have been well loved and held by generations, that spark memories and open doorways into the stories of our lives.

Until recently all of my work has been inspired by pieces that have travelled through the generations of my own family. I am currently becoming more and more inspired by the stories other people tell of their lives and families. Making gives me the opportunity to reflect, to honour stories from the past – and make pieces to be used around today’s homes.

What’s your desk or workspace like?

Everything has a place where it belongs. I use a lot of different little tools, buckets, brushes, sponges, etc. I like to be able to find things when I need them and clear away without wasting time. When I start putting things in the wrong places I know it is time for a bit of a break and a proper clean up.

What do you love about Sheffield?

Sheffield is just the right size and a great place to be a maker. It is full of welcoming communities and supportive people. I also love that Sheffield is in the middle of my family in the north and south.

What would you do to improve the city?

I love open expanses of water! If Sheffield could have a huge lake or be by the sea that would be perfect!

Written by Holly Hinchcliffe; August 24, 2016

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