Lesley graduated from Harrow in June 2005. Her sculptural work sits at the fine art end of the ceramics spectrum and refers to coastal landscape and the human form. Her aim is to express both the fragility and fortitude of the human spirit through the character of the landscape.
Lesley’s pieces are hand-built - the ‘earthy’ quality suggesting its landscape origins. By incorporating buff and terracotta stoneware clay with some porcelain, there is subtle shading to the body of the work, and engobes add depth and patina to the textured surface. Recent developments include use of a paler clay which has had the effect of lightening the work, giving pieces a ‘ghostly’ look.
My inspiration is primarily the human form, particularly the classical face. I would say that my work is a contemporary ‘take’ on a classical subject – hence the busts. I am also inspired by the drama and energy of coastal landscape with its large-scale rock formations and their constant erosion. It is this character that I use when building the human heads/busts to describe both the fragility and the strength of humanity. As a result the work looks earthy and weatherworn. The heads are often incomplete suggesting not only ancient classical ruins, but also our vulnerability – they are open to the elements and look almost cave-like.
Visits to the Jurassic Coastline, Dorset, during the winter have inspired my colour palette, making the work quite sombre. The different coloured clays are reminiscent of different coloured layers of strata and additions of porcelain create highlights.
My work is hand-built and sculptural. I mainly use a clay body, called ‘crank’, which is designed for large, sculptural work and fires to high temperatures, making the work frost resistant and suitable for display outside. However, as the surface of my work is textured, it is advisable to cover during a heavy frost.
I generally use two colours of crank clay - buff and terracotta. The additions of porcelain rolled into the surface of this clay have a different shrinkage rate to the crank, which when fired causes intentional cracking on the surface. The work needs to be thoroughly dry before firing.
The work is fired twice in an electric kiln – firstly, for 25 hours to 1050c. This slow firing is essential for large thick work so as to avoid any explosions. Once fired, coloured ‘slips’ are applied to the surface of the piece to bring out the texture. I mix these myself using colouring oxides, such as copper, cobalt and iron, to achieve the desired effect. The second firing to 1250c ensures that the clay and slips are fully matured and become ceramic.