sarah gillham

Wispering Lies (detail), Found ceramic, glazed ceramic, plaster, stool, foam & wood. 60x60x103cm, Sarah Gillham, 2018

Sarah is a master weaver of stories using found objects, different processes and materials. Looking at her work opened up other possibilties for my own and I'm very grateful to have had her as a tutor during my degree at the Art Academy, London.

Tell me about your work - what do you make and why? My art practice and the development of my ideas are led by materials and processes and the interplay with found images and objects. The body, female sexuality and desire are recurring themes within the work. These bodies often become fragmented, fetishised and displaced, they are relics of a psychological or bodily experience. I am fascinated by how different representations of women have informed our ideas of what female bodies, identity and sexuality ‘should’ look like. I am interested in drawing out the paradoxical relationship between our desire to conform and be obtainable with the desire to disrupt these notions of femininity and sexuality.

How did you come to be an artist? I am severely dyslexic and went to a specialist boarding school for dyslexic children. Art was the one thing I thrived at and loved at school, the art teacher gave me a key to the art room and I would lock myself in there in the evenings (my boyfriend would be knocking on the classroom door and I would just ignore him pretending not to hear him!), it was my happy space and still is.

Can you tell me a bit more about your creative process? A starting point for my work is usually in response to ‘something’, it could be a ceramic hand brought in a charity shop, a heirloom, pieces of fabric or from just playing with sculptural materials like clay and a ‘thing’ appears. I feel a resonance with these things, they usually connect to a ​psychological or bodily life experience​ either from my present or past. I am mostly not fully conscious of this till the work is finished and I have some distance from it.

When are you at your most creative? When I am alone, listening to music or Women’s Hour!

Do you work in a studio or do you make work in your home or somewhere else? I shared a studio from the time I graduated from the RCA and then 5 years ago I had my son and bought a house, so I could no longer afford to have a studio. However I worked as Technical Demonstrator running a sculpture and ceramics workshop, so I have been using this space to make work in the evenings, lunch times and going in on my days off. This has really helped me to sustain my practice in this time. This summer we converted our garrage into a studio which I am super excited about and I finally have ‘A Room of One’s Own’.

Do you use a sketchbook or anything else to capture your ideas? I have a couple on the go at the same time simply because I often misplace them.

What helps you to be productive? Having space to myself and being surrounded by all my clutter/collections of things that inspire me such as found ceramics, images, furniture and textiles.

If you sell your work how do you sell it? When I have sold work this mostly has been through a gallery or open studio event. I have done some commissions too but selling is not my objective for making artwork.

What else are you juggling in your life and what helps you manage your time? Life can be quite busy and it got more busy last year when I had my daughter. It was quite a shock going from one child to two, so I am still figuring out how to balance being a mother of two, being an artist and working in education. My own Mother is the person that helps me manage my time, she helps out with childcare and the laundry!

How do you relax? I enjoy spending time outside with my family, walking, exploring the countryside and coast near where we live in Sussex. I also love visiting National Trust houses and gardens. Doing this makes me feel like I am combining art research and family time into one.

Is there anything that you do to support your practice that you consider to be an important factor in your success? The one biggest thing that has supported my practice is curating shows/projects this has given me a context for my work, an opportunity to make connections and I have used my curating as a research tool. It can also be really fun and inspiring specially if you are working with other artists who you admire.

Where do you get your inspiration from? It can range from ceramics, shells found on the beach, the birth of my children, the losses I have experienced or my mother’s miniature sewing machine collection.

Are there any creatives / others whose work you particularly admire? I have been a big fan of Louise Bourgeois during all of my career, her life and work are phenomenal. More recently I have getting into the work of Gillian Lowndes, she had a solo show at the Sunday Painters Gallery and it blew my mind to see what is possible with ceramics. It made me realize that I had not been pushing the boundaries at all. In the last 10 years Lowndes art work has started to get the attention it deserves.

Where can people find out more about your work? I have a website ​​ and I also use Instagram​ which I should use more.