“I loved the tactile quality of working with clay and the way a lump of clay could be transformed into something beautiful or full of character.”
Polly’s latest thrown and hand-built porcelain collection features a range of contemporary, elegant pieces decorated with organic materials found on wild walks in the Dorset countryside. Polly is exhibiting with Jane Shaw, a sculpture artist, from Jane’s garden this year.
Who are you, and can you describe your artistic medium?
I’m Polly Cazalet and I’m a ceramicist working mostly in porcelain. I both throw on a wheel and hand build pots. I like to produce pieces that can be used in everyday life but also have a beauty and decorative quality to them. I particularly like porcelain clay for its fineness and translucency and I use simple glazes that pick out subtle details on the pots and have a visually unified effect.
Where did your art journey start?
I started making ceramics at an evening class in London, where I worked in Television Production, and was immediately hooked. I loved the tactile quality of working with clay and the way a lump of clay could be transformed into something beautiful or full of character. I also liked the way you could experiment so much with ceramics and how pots and glazes would do all sorts of unexpected things in the firings - both good and bad!
So for many years I made ceramics alongside my TV work and was lucky to find some excellent teachers such as Akiko Hirai, Richard Phethean and Mirka Golden-Hann (who runs the Salisbury Arts Centre Pottery). But I longed to set up my own studio and get a kiln which I eventually did when I moved from London to Dorset in 2011.
What are your inspirations? Is there something about Dorset that influences your work?
I’ve always been inspired by Japanese Ceramics and in particular the pieces in the Tea ceremony. The Tea bowl is a simple vessel which carries a rich history of the culture of Japan but also has a mystique about it. I’m intrigued by the meditative and contemplative quality of the ceremony, something I like to try and evoke in the way I work, particularly when throwing on the wheel. I’m also a yoga teacher, so that definitely has an impact on my creative process too.
It’s important to me that I don’t try and have too much control and allow works to evolve and take on a life of their own.
The beautiful and varied landscape of Dorset also inspires me. I like to decorate my ceramic pieces with organic materials which I pick up on walks in the Dorset countryside, on the beach or in my garden. At the moment I have a huge selection of dried poppy seed heads which make the most intricate and varied textures in the clay and which are then gently enhanced by the glaze. When my children were young, we would go to Ringstead or Kimmeridge beach with a lump of clay and try and pick up as many interesting textures as we could from shells and fossils that we found.
How has the pandemic affected or influenced your practice?
Before the pandemic I taught pottery part-time to adults with Learning difficulties but unfortunately due to the pandemic the Art Centre had to close down. So, that was obviously a negative effect of the pandemic, but on a more positive note, I’ve had more concentrated time in my studio which has allowed for more focus and also more experimentation. I felt very lucky to have a studio in my garden during this time and realised more than ever how wonderful it is to get your hands dirty and essentially have a connection with the earth. Pottery is definitely good for the soul!
What are you most looking forward to at DAW this year?
Jane Shaw and I have shown our work together before and we like the way the delicacy and tranquillity of the porcelain complements the energy and aliveness of the bronzes.
We are going to exhibit as much of our work as we can outside to make a safe viewing space, so I’m looking forward to displaying that and welcoming people to come and see it (fingers crossed)!
You can visit Polly’s venue 11 - 4pm every day this Dorset Art Weeks or at other times by appointment.
Visit Polly’s venue page on the DAW Directory for more information | Here
Visit Polly’s website | Here