cooking up a storm

From Camera To Kiln

Artist Kit Anderson has uniquely combined her passion for photography with a love of ceramics to create a rather wonderful creative affair. Here she talks to Made about her exquisite contemporary ceramics and her exciting ceramic school…
 |  Katie Hogg  |  Art & Culture

Kit formed her creative business Foto Ceramica after years of exploring ways to combine her interests and experience in both photography and ceramics and having found a rather unusual niche in her art using her own unique version of the Gum bi-chromate photographic process. 

 

It’s a technique that has allowed her to expose photos directly onto ceramic surfaces with the image fired on permanently. The result is a stunning ceramic piece with, in bespoke cases, a wonderful personal moment or memory on a decorative piece (keepsake).

It’s little wonder that demand is high both from individual buyers and galleries wishing to stock her work, to private and public commissions where she works on specific creative projects.

Kit’s background took shape exhibiting as an Arts Photographer, followed by a MA in Photography from De Montfort University in 2004. This combined with her work as a ceramic teacher and technician cemented an organic interest in developing ways to marry the two. 

Kit had also been featured in Paul Scott’s book Ceramics and Print (1994, first edition) for her work with photo emulsion, which opened her thoughts in looking at how to further enhance ceramics with photographic imagery and igniting a need to find a more permanent process. 

“I’ve always loved photography”, smiles Kit. “And over the years, my career has taken me into making ceramics, but I always felt that the most rewarding thing I could do would be to somehow find a way to fuse them to create something unusual and hopefully delightful to the beholder.” 

Her research into older, less practised photography processes eventually led to her creating her own twist on the Gum Bi-chromate Process, for use on bisque ceramics. The discovery of which opened up an inspired opportunity to create a signature product, using a process that was originally used only on paper. 

This was further cemented in 2007 when Arts Council England awarded a Research and Development grant giving her the natural progression to form Foto Ceramica. 

Fast forward a few years and it’s proven a winning formula with Kit now producing a variety of pieces not just for showcasing in exhibitions but collaborating with galleries, councils, healthcare trusts and commercial entities on specific commissions. Her popularity has grown, now with a loyal following of individual fans, many of whom approach her for bespoke pieces. 

Each collection and each piece has it’s own narrative with consistency and inconsistency of theme simultaneously creating something really wonderful. In fact, inspiration behind the pieces can take many forms and sometimes Kit will look at an entire theme that she wishes to explore and convey and in other instances she may just capture a moment and use it in production. 

The imagery used plays a significant role in the creative process for Kit’s work. The source is mostly her original photography, with a small selection of archival images from local or national collections, dependent on the requirements and style of the project underway. 

“I like to keep the imagery fresh and authentic to myself”, Kit explains. “I take inspiration from nature, flora and fauna, from people and places I visit, holidays abroad and across the UK. Each piece tells it’s own story and I like to stand back and study each image and see where it can take me. I also like to look for humour in an abstract way or unusual themes. I’ve recently been photographing toy boats outside of water as something different to the norm.” 

Kit employs both hand building and slip-casting as processes to make her work, which she has developed and refined over many years. She also uses bought-in bisque tiles which she uses as a base for her collection of Gum photo squares. So when Kit is in her studio, she spends her time alternating between making and decorating, and usually will make 30/40 ceramic pieces for the kiln firing. The entire process can take up to two weeks for a specific piece, because the work has to be fired at least two times. It’s a creative rhythm that has naturally established itself and one she enjoys. 

The Foto Ceramica collection includes medium format monochrome or hand tinted ‘gum photo’ tiles and this compliments the range of hand-built plaques, planters, vases, and even jewellery. Each features either an original or carefully sourced archival image directly exposed onto the ceramic surface, which is then fixed by light and fired on permanently. Surprisingly, this photographic imagery is transformed in the process giving the impression of a fragile, haunting quality. 

Kit has exhibited regularly in ceramic shows such as Earth & Fire, Potfest and within design shows such as Lustre and Top-drawer and through a number of galleries across the UK. She has also exhibited in Karlsruhe, Nottingham’s twin city in Germany.  In 2012, she featured again in Paul Scott’s Ceramics and Print, (3rd Ed) and also in Jill Enfield’s Alternative Photography Processes, by Focal Press, in addition to media and publication features keen to showcase her process. 

On why she enjoys her work so much, something that is clearly evidenced in the love and inspired detailing she assigns to each piece, Kit reflects: “There is most certainly a joy of working with materials that you fall in love with as an artist. My love of photography is constant and there is always the challenge of getting the process to work, which keeps things fresh. 

“You never quite know what to expect when a piece comes out of the kiln, specifically because you are working with the serendipitous forces of heat. I have to embrace the unpredictability of the process and you are always expecting the unexpected. Working with ceramics as a material in itself is incredibly rewarding, even therapeutic.” 

Realising the therapeutic benefits of ceramic making and the joy the craft can bring, Kit took the decision in October 2020 to establish a teaching studio so she could collaborate with other ceramicists and share her skills with those who want to either pursue a career or are looking to find a new hobby. The Nottingham Ceramic School opened it’s doors on the 12th April 2021, and despite the pauses due to the pandemic and lockdowns, it’s has gone from strength to strength and offers six week courses, studio access and even a holiday ‘Clayschool' for children. 

“I am delighted at how well the school has grown, particularly during the challenges we have all faced in the past year or so. I’ve realised, from its popularity, that people really do want a space to come along to where they can explore their creativity, receive encouragement and tuition, learn something new or improve an existing skill. 

“Above all, it’s a creative space to meet other people and to make new friendships. It’s a very nurturing, relaxed and friendly place and we are always ready to welcome new students.”

“For myself, I find creative teaching very rewarding and it offers me the perfect balance between working alone in my studio, which is often quiet and reflective, and can at times sometimes be a little lonely, with the busy creative experience of working and communicating with others. It’s a pleasure to pass on my skills and I’ve found exactly the right ‘mix’ to help me grow, and to hopefully inspire and support others.” 

Alongside running the school and producing her work for Foto Ceramica, Kit is keen to take a new direction in her work. Having recently been awarded the Develop Your Own Creative Practice Arts funding from Arts Council England she is developing a new way of looking at the process in her work. 

She explains: “To take a new approach for an artist can be quite hard and challenging but I am keen to look at using a more conceptual methodology, something the funding will allow me to do. Essentially, shifting focus back to the story through photography, and the emotions and narrative it can bring rather than focusing on the decorative element. 

“Initially, I’m making a piece relating to my Mother and our experiences of her life with dementia”, but I’m also keen to explore my family’s history of shipbuilding on the Clyde and to tell personal family stories though this new body of work. Here, I’ll be working with bigger sculptural pieces which will present a technical challenge in itself.”

It certainly seems like Kit is all fired up for an exciting new phase in her creative journey, with the new direction shaping up, projects in the pipeline, and discussions ongoing with galleries and exhibition centres. It’s an inspiring time for both Foto Ceramica, and for Nottingham Ceramic School as they continue to grow. 

To find out more about the courses and classes at the Nottingham Ceramic School: 

www.nottinghamceramicschool.co.uk 

To view Kit’s latest collections and exhibitions or discuss a bespoke commission, visit: www.fotoceramica.co.uk 


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