5 minutes with Sarah Spackman & Linda Bloomfield

Sarah Wiseman Gallery
Oct 19, 2017 2:57PM

In the lead up to their September 2017 exhibition 'Dialogues' we asked still life painter Sarah Spackman and potter Linda Bloomfield about their creative connections and daily studio practice.

Linda Bloomfield (left) and Sarah Spackman (right) in Sarah Spackman's studio

Linda Bloomfield at the wheel

Sarah Spackman's Palette

Artists rarely work in complete isolation. Over generations, collaborations are an exciting part of creativity, and vital to artists who want to spark something new. In their new exhibition 'Dialogues', at Sarah Wiseman Gallery, ceramicist Linda Bloomfield and painter Sarah Spackman will present new work that explores the course of a friendship, and their shared influences.

Both artists are motivated by colour and light; Sarah Spackman's paintings are informed by the strength of her drawing, as well as an acute sense for colour. She meticulously mixes her paint before it goes anywhere near her canvas, using hand ground pigments. Linda Bloomfield in turn knows that colour and tone are key in making her ceramic pieces. She insists on making her own glazes, never using pre-made ones. Her previous career as a scientist lends itself well to her grasp of the chemistry and behaviour of glaze combinations in the kiln.

Sarah Spackman has exhibited with Sarah Wiseman Gallery for the last ten years, to great acclaim. Her work is in many private collections and she has been selected for exhibition at the Discerning Eye, Mall galleries, the Jerwood Drawing Competition exhibition and the New English Art Club.

Linda Bloomfield has established a hugely successful studio practice, supplying hand-thrown ceramics to Liberty of London, Harrods and David Mellor. Her work is sold in shops and galleries throughout the UK, and she has published a number of books and articles on glazes.

1. Can you start by telling us who you are and what you do?

Linda Bloomfield: I am Linda Bloomfield, a scientist turned potter, making thrown porcelain tableware, vases and bottles in my West London studio.

Sarah Spackman: I am Sarah Spackman, an artist living and working in Oxford. I make paintings based on observation, mainly still life paintings of every-day objects including ceramics, fruits and vegetables.

2. When and how did you both meet?

LB: I met Sarah at Art in Action, Waterperry Gardens, where I was demonstrating throwing on the wheel in the ceramics tent. Â

SS: We met up again the following year when I also became a demonstrator in the painting tent. We swapped some pots for a painting and I also commissioned some bowls.

3. What drew you to each other's work?

LB: I love still life paintings like Sarah's. After our meeting at Art in Action, Sarah started to include some of my pots in her paintings. I visited her studio in Oxford to lend her some more pots and found she had shelves of objects, ranging from old cider flagons to contemporary studio pottery.

SS: I love the shape and glaze that Linda uses in her ceramics, I find them very paintable! They are also lovely to handle and use. There are certain pieces [by Linda] that have appeared over and over again in my paintings.

4. Can you explain a little bit about what the exhibition 'Dialogues' is about - what can visitors expect to see?

LB: I made a range of different porcelain bottles and vases, some plain, some fluted, inspired by Mid-century Modern Scandinavian and British studio pottery. In the exhibition, the bottles will be displayed in frames like a still life. I asked Sarah to choose a selection of pots to include in her paintings.

SS: I have always enjoyed painting Linda's pots and have incorporated them into many paintings. These paintings are a direct response to the ceramics themselves and also to the way in which such objects are displayed. Many pots are made for every-day use but they can become elevated into something else by the way we look at them.

5. Which artists do you both most identify with - have they had any direct influence on this exhibition?

LB: We both love the still life paintings of Giorgio Morandi. I have been looking at the objects he painted and making my interpretation of the shapes. I have an old, battered book of Morandi paintings and Sarah has a book of photographs of objects from Morandi's studio. The objects include metal oil cans, water jugs, glass bottles, lamp bases and vases which he painted many times in different groupings.

SS: I have always loved the paintings of Cezanne, Giacometti, Giorgio Morandi and Euan Uglow amongst others. Both Morandi and Uglow in particular create paintings of either single objects or groups and I love the stillness they generate.

6. Do you hope to achieve new things as artists, by exhibiting together? Have you had to think very differently about how you make your work?

SS: My work is about looking at things and how we see them. Recently, I have been painting either single things or a couple of objects that I feel relate to each other in some way. Working for this exhibition is giving me the opportunity to create more complex compositions, combining ceramics with organic objects. For me this means more questions about how these things that we see and use daily, relate to one another when we spend more time looking at their diverse colours and forms. Dialogues for me is more of an individual response to Linda's work, incorporating it into my own.

LB: I usually make repeat tableware for galleries, shops and restaurants, so I am excited to make larger, one-off pieces and still life groups in a gallery installation. This will expand my practise as an artist as well as a production potter and tableware designer. We have visited each other's studios and discussed the exhibition together and with Sarah Wiseman in the gallery. I am making three dimensional still life compositions, inspired by Morandi's objects and Sarah's paintings.

7. Can you describe a typical day in the studio?

LB: My favourite day would be when I am throwing on the wheel. I try to make at least one or two batches of 12 pots before lunch, and then another two batches in the afternoon, depending on orders. My orders come from my website and by email from galleries, shops and restaurants. Recently I have been making a lot of handmade plates for restaurants as well as new vase and bottle shapes for exhibitions.

SS: I am lucky enough to have a beautiful studio just a ten-minute bike ride from home. I begin my day with drawing for a little while. It's a way to get my eye in. Then I spend the rest of the day painting. I usually have two still life set ups in the studio at any one time, one that I work on during the morning and then as the light goes around, I work on the other one in the afternoon. It's a lovely light and quiet space where I can spend my time thinking, looking, and mixing colours.

8. When exhibiting, what memorable responses have you had to your work?

LB: The best one was from a National Trust buyer who said mine was the best thing she'd seen in the show!

SS: I had a review of an exhibition in Dublin where my work was described as giving the viewer a 'Breathing Space'. Most people say that my work has a sense of calm. I like to think that still life paintings 'still' the viewer.

9. What's next - do you have a particular ambition or dream project?

LB: I am very excited about the Dialogues exhibition with Sarah. In September, I am also exhibiting in the British Craft Pavilion at the London Design Fair. I would love to make more installations.

SS: I just want to keep painting! I would like to develop the stillness in my work and give the colour more clarity.

Linda Bloomfield - Vessels

Sarah Spackman 'Centre Left' Oil on Linen

Sarah Wiseman Gallery