Bouke de Vries – Beyond the Vessel – Q&A
What does a day in the studio look like?
I start every day at 7am – when the world is still relatively quiet. The inspiration for my work comes from my background as a restorer and I still do some restoration for a few clients I have worked with for a long time. I always start my day with any restoring there is in the studio before doing my own work. As I use a lot of resins with varying drying times I am always working on several pieces at the same time, which makes the work very varied. I am fortunate to have my studio in the garden of my home, so usually have lunch in the house with my partner. I generally work till 4.30pm and then go to the gym and do another hour or so of work after that.
What is your first memory of ceramic?
A large blue and grey antique German salt- glaze jug my parents had, which had to be turned into a lamp after my brother and I broke it while playing.
What was your first use of clay?
I made a few small figures out of hand- rolled clay in kindergarten, which my mother kept. I still have them.
What is the most challenging element to your practice?
Finding good-quality broken pieces to work with. It is important to keep to the standards I have set myself. Finding good things is difficult but exciting.
What is your favourite fable?
Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau, of course).
Are you an artist or a ceramicist?
Artist. In my view a ceramicist is someone who makes ceramics. I don’t. I use existing ceramics as a tool to express myself.
What is the argument for learning / honing technical skills in today’s world?
For a long time, technical skills were regarded as irrelevant but things go in waves and there is now a time when technical skills are being re-evaluated. The nature of my work requires these skills (which I have been able to develop during my decades as a ceramics restorer). There is definitely a renewed appreciation of such skills.
Have we moved beyond the need to make with our hands?
Never. As with everything, when new methods of making things come along it is always claimed that what went before is irrelevant and will disappear – but it never does. There is always reason for people to work with their hands. It seems dexterity is integral to human life.
Name a book that everyone should read and why?
The Sioux by Irene Handl. Surprise!
Why is your studio where it is and what does it mean to you?
My studio is in my garden and it’s my sanctuary. It’s never a chore to be in there. The 20-second commute and the door I can lock at night are important – to keep that work part separate from my home life.
Why do you think ceramics has endured from ancient times?
Because it is such a versatile material, what it can do is like magic: what begins as the basic raw materials of the world, earth and water, infinitely manipulate-able, becomes something very durable by the alchemy of fire, an amazing and primal technological advancement. You start with rudimentary storage vessels. These get decorated. Then glazes are discovered… and it has never stopped. It’s amazing how every culture has developed their own styles of ceramics and we can still identify these cultures by their ceramics.
Who would be in your ceramics collection?
Grayson Perry (he already is LOL).
What would you make if money were no object?
If I wanted to make something and it would cost a lot of money I would find a way of raising a lot of money.
Beyond the Vessel exhibition page…view details
Beyond the Vessel exhibition catalogue…buy now