Photography by Shannon Tofts
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR CREATIVE BACKGROUND?
I arrived in Edinburgh in 1995 to study ceramics at Edinburgh College of Art and have made the city my home ever since. I work from a lovely little studio which I rent from Out of the Blue Abbeymount in the Hillside area of the city. It's a perfect spot, only 15 minutes walk to the city centre but also very close to Holyrood Park and Arthurs Seat for when I feel like I need a breather.
CAN YOU GIVE US AN INSIGHT INTO YOUR PRACTICE AND WHAT YOU DO?
I work predominantly in ceramics making pieces that explore cultural histories of ornament and pattern, combining a studio based practice with sited projects, residencies and design commissions.
In the studio I create ornately decorated collections of ceramic forms that explore the evolution of languages of ornament through drawing and making. My most recent body of work has focused on a pattern book called ‘The Grammar of Ornament’ by Victorian architect and designer Owen Jones. I have made work in response to the India pages of the book, reflecting on the featured pattern samples in relation to recent travels in South West India. The work formed my contribution to a group exhibition, 'A Fine Line', which is currently touring around Scotland. A selection of pieces were also exhibited at The Saatchi Gallery in February as part of the Scotland: Craft & Design Stand for Collect 2018. Pieces from this latest body of work have recently been purchased by The National Museum of Scotland and The Fitzwilliam Museum, which has been a real thrill.
The commissions and residences I undertake can lead to work in some unusual places, including a Tudor hunting tower in Sheffield and a community owned country house on the Inner Hebridean island of Raasay. With each new project I use my own interests as a starting point for connecting with the locality, researching a particular aspect of a place that I then make work in response to. Often this work is permanently sited so it becomes a part of the place that has inspired it.
ANY EXCITING PROJECTS OR EVENTS YOU HAVE ON THE HORIZON?
In the studio I am currently in the midst of working on a tile commission for NHS Lothian Health Foundation which is intended for two entranceways in new buildings at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Morningside. The work reflects on the ornate Victorian interiors of Craig House, a former psychiatric hospital, and in particular a set of beautifully tiled stairwells. I am collaborating with a wonderful manufacturer called Craven Dunnill Jackfield who specialise in combining traditional and modern manufacturing techniques to create bespoke tile projects. The designs will capture the luscious glazes and vibrant colours of Victorian tiling within a contemporary pattern design that I hope will create inviting public spaces for the hospital community.
The touring exhibition I mentioned, 'A Fine Line' featuring work by Lizzie Farey, Angie Lewin, Bronwen Sleigh and myself, is currently on show at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery until the 12th May and will move onto Gracefield Arts Centre from 19th May to the 7th July. We have a website where you can find out more about the exhibition: https://www.afineline.info.
I am also very excited about an invitation to participate in Home Faber, a showcase of European craft organised by the Michael Angelo Foundation to be held in Venice this September. I will be presenting work alongside a host of makers from across Europe including two fellow Scottish makers, glass artist Amanda Simmons and ceramic artist Patricia Shone: https://www.homofaberevent.com.
WHAT MAKES EDINBURGH A GOOD CITY TO BE BASED?
Where to begin! It is a beautiful city steeped in history with a vibrant cultural life, a growing economy, an increasingly diverse population, visitors from all over the world spending time in the city and a political focus which is pro European. I am very privileged to live and work in the centre of the city so I benefit greatly from all that is on offer and the size of the city makes things very accessible, whether that be meeting a colleague for coffee, dashing to a private view, fitting in an exhibition over lunch time or taking a walk up Salisbury Craggs! Being a part of Creative Edinburgh has made me realise how broad the creative community is in the city and I have really enjoyed making connections across lots of different fields.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE THINKING OF PURSUING A CAREER IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES?
Join Creative Edinburgh and build up your network!
Follow Frances on Instagram here.