Amy Hughes specialises in hand-building ceramic techniques, working with form and texture and studying its relationship to decoration. Her practice is fuelled by, and is symbolic of, an important time in ceramic history, alluding to the wares produced at the Royal Sevres Factory in the late 17th and 18th Centuries. Hughes’ work both pays homage to, and is a comment on, the grandeur, opulence, sense of occasion and status that surrounded the Royal Severs ceramics in their ‘technical perfection’, their absurdity and eccentricity, creating a kind of ‘modern decadence’ in her contemporary pieces.
Hughes graduated in 2010 with an MA in Ceramics and Glass from the Royal College of Art, London, following a BA in ceramics from Loughborough University in 2007. She has held various teaching and lead artist positions, including for the V&A’s education programme, Brighton University and the Craft Council’s National Firing Up Progamme. She was awarded the Anglo-Swedish Scholarship bursary in 2010 and was shortlisted for the Constance Fairness Foundation Award in 2011. She has had exhibitions at the Petrie Museum, University College London, 2014, Vessel Gallery, Ruthin Crafts Centre, Clerkenwell Design Week and the British Ceramics Biennial.
What is about Young Masters that you are most interested in?
“The old has something to offer the new” is what draws me to the Young Masters. I am in complete agreement with the words of Godfrey Barker and the importance of learning a skill to strengthen you as an artist. Looking back, learning from and embracing lessons taught is undeniably fundamental to me as a practitioner today: my work references and pays homage to the originals inspired by, the skills and traditions, hinting at the decadent and the extraordinary giving a new lease of life.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
I specialise in hand building, enjoying working with form and texture and studying its relation to decoration. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art my practice is both fuelled by and symbolic of an important time in Ceramic history, my pieces speak of the highly prestigious Porcelain wares produced at the Royal Sevres Factory in the late 17th and 18th Centuries.
Fuelling my fascination with the overtly decadent, the extravagant and the exuberant, Objets d’art produced there were so refined and tightly controlled they carried no visible suggestion of their material identity and so lavishly decorated that each detail was left in competition on the surface, striving to attract attention. I enjoy the grandeur, opulence, sense of occasion and status that surrounded the wares in their ‘technical perfection’ but feel the need to comment on their complete absurd and eccentricness, perhaps really only elaborate for their own sakes.
My collections largely aim to bridge the gap between the past and the present, finding a new home in contemporary culture for such objects, a ‘modern decadence’. In contrast, through fresh interpretation the clay body and its material qualities are both elevated and celebrated. Worked in a dynamic and lively expression, textured and stripped back to highlight natural surface richnesses that have no need for further embellishment, each piece establishes a new dialogue between form and decoration, surface treatments becoming part of the structure.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
I take inspiration from several artists using different mediums, both contemporary and past. Ceramicists working today Grayson Perry, Stephen Dixon, Phil Eglin, Hella Jongerius, anonymous artisans and craftsmen of industry. Print artists and illustrators; John Tenniel, Quentin Blake, Henri Matisse, Gary Hume.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
If I wasn’t an artist I always wanted to be a baker/cake decorator. I love the mixing up and weighing out of ingredients, putting in the oven and waiting for something magic to come out. I’ve always been quite fascinated with processes and enjoy working in stages from beginning to end. I like the mixing, baking, decorating (and tasting!) and presenting involved.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I always loved art at school and enjoyed any sort of creative activity from an early age, drawn to colour, texture, pattern and anything involving hands on making. I liked the element of freedom of expression, how personal it is, I like that unlike a maths equation there isn’t a right answer but there is always a challenge and working out to do.
Can you tell us something about your background?
Born in West Yorkshire now living in London, I first encountered clay on my Pre-BA Foundation Course at Batley School of Art & Design, quickly becoming hooked I went on to study 3D-Design: Ceramics at Loughborough University, graduating with first class honours. More recently I completed my Masters Degree at the Royal College of Art in Ceramics and Glass. Since graduating I have set up studio with 8 of my fellow RCA classmates, transforming a railway arch under the East London line in to a multidisciplinary art & design studio and work place in the centre of a lively creative community, We are Manifold.
Outside of the studio, I used to run a Hip Hop street dancing club at Loughborough and have just run my 5th Marathon, training for my first triathlon.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
There is no one major thing but several smaller personal achievements I am very proud of: I have been very privileged to take part in some fantastic shows and exhibit at some amazing locations; Collect at the Saatchi Gallery, Pavilion Art & Design, Berkley Square, The Dorchester, Mayfair. I have had some lovely press and book inclusions, being mentioned in the Times Newspaper as ‘one to watch’ and filmed for an online feature felt a huge accolade. As a maker a massive personal achievement, perhaps my greatest, being able to make large scale in Porcelain and gain a deeper understanding of my medium, it takes a lot of perseverance!
What are your plans for the future?
To continue making my work from my London studio, to be in a position to be able give up part time work and make my ceramics full time. I have a lot of new ideas for collections that my hands are itching to make and just need time and opportunity to do so. I would like to be able to take my work to new audiences, showing in new venues and firmly establish myself as a contemporary maker.