Fenella has won prizes in both ceramics and design and her work has been presented in ceramic art books, as well as interiors and architecture magazines. She has undertaken numerous international public and private commissions and work has been purchased for exhibition in museum and privately held collections.
Elaine is the hands-on workshop assistant, getting involved in all the composite elements that contribute to the process of each piece. Mixing, squeezing, loading and firing; no job is too messy for Elaine.
Helen is the first port of call for enquiries and stock lists, and can usually find the solution to most ‘how can I…’ queries. Working part time around her young family she is rarely more than two feet away from a smart device.
In the making
Fenella Elms Studio is based on the edge of the Wiltshire downs in the heart of the countryside.
I first discovered working with clay when I was taught to throw by a school teacher who enthusiastically took the class out to see a Lucy Rie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1981. I sought out workshops and classes over the years until I was given a wheel in 2004, which quickly led to Swindon College to study for an Art Foundation and HNC in ceramics (2008).
I keep fish, bees, ducks and sheep and take pleasure in noticing how a feather holds together, bees build, flowers unfold and sheep gather in a co-operative stance. I don’t seek to put what I see into clay: I notice movement, growth, structure and interaction and it seeps into the process. With this approach, it is possible to find a way through the visual to reach an expression of the experience.
The making process is a practice carried over from previous psychoanalytical work: putting all the preparation aside, attentive, available to the work’s potential, allowing and attending to the unexpected, trusting the process. The repetitive nature of bringing together many components creates a rhythm and facilitates an active trance of intention. The finished work is a mix of the familiar and strangeness; I like the dissonance and have come to bear the disappointments. There is a pleasure in making just in the pursuit of an idea, rather than an outcome.
Porcelain slip is my material; a pleasure to pour, spread and squeeze. All the components are cast before building, waiting for the right stage of softness for them to work together. My making processes have developed in response to porcelain’s contradictory qualities of fragility and permanence, strength and delicacy, sharpness with a wavering softness in the kiln, before firing to a solid translucency. All the work comes out of the drive to show off, challenge, question the material qualities of porcelain.