Galway based ceramic artist Owen Quinlan chats to Future Makers about the high standards he sets for himself and his love for the making process.
Owen’s glaze based work focuses on the geological attributes of the ceramic medium. He has reduced his forms to one singular repetitive shape to enable a focused emphasis on his interest in materials and fire. He continues to test evolving layers of materials in relation to the firing process, capturing a physical record of his developing, experimental practice. Owen received the 2013 Future Makers Practitioner Award for Innovation.
Your work focuses primarily on intricate texture and layering. Is the process of creating your work what excites you or is it the finished product itself?
It’s hard to separate the process of making from the end result. I work in a methodical way, testing different combinations of material layers. I do enjoy this process, as there remains a strong element of risk and uncertainty as I attempt to predict new outcomes. The main driving factor in my work surrounds the anticipation of opening the kiln door, and the sense of elation, or disappointment with new results. The two aspects are very much intertwined.
What are your creative toolbox essentials? Are there any items you can’t live without?
Music in the studio, and the Moncrieff Show in the afternoon.
How has your practice progressed since winning Future Makers in 2013?
On an immediate and practical level, the prize money enabled me to purchase a new kiln and a stock of much needed materials. This helped me to produce better work. Since 2013, I have been busy exhibiting across Ireland and overseas. In 2014, I got the opportunity to represent Ireland at European Ceramic Context, in Denmark. I have developed links with a number of galleries where my work is now represented, and more recently in January, I was selected for Irish Craft Portfolio 2015-2016.
What are you currently fascinated by outside of your practice and how is it feeding into your work?
Maybe fascinated isn’t the word, but I find what helps to feed my current practice most, is creating quiet spaces in the day to think. Walking my dogs in the local woods each morning helps me to clarify my thoughts, to see connections between ideas and to develop my work further.
What originally made you want to become a ceramic artist?
As with many people I imagine, I was drawn to the immediacy of clay as a medium and it’s responsiveness to touch.
What advice would you give to upcoming Future Makers applicants and creative graduates?
Be critical of your work; hold high standards to which you want to aspire to in your making. Also, it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to have good quality photographs of your finished work. I’ve learned the hard way!