Creativity, at its core, is all about making connections, either with ourselves, our ideas, or those around us.
In the twelve long weeks spent indoors during lockdown, many turned to creative pursuits, not simply to fill the time and stave off boredom, but also as a means to connect. This connective power is something Salford-based ceramicist Victoria Gilles understands all too well. Her passion for ceramics developed by chance. “Three years ago, I was looking for something to do to help me go through a difficult time, and joined a ceramics course near my home at the time in Buenos Aires, Argentina,” she tells me. “I’d been working as a graphic designer for many years and, until then, I hadn’t had any interest in sculpture or object design. But I immediately fell in love with clay, something inside me clicked and luckily never left.
She continued going to classes on and off for the next few years, until she moved to the UK and joined 7 Spot Pottery. Located within Salford’s Islington Mill Artist Studios, it was this open access pottery studio that gave Victoria the final push to launch her brand, Victoria Ceramics. “It gave me a place where I can experiment with tools that, otherwise, I won’t have access to,” she says, “and the perfect space for growing and practising as well. But mainly, as a newcomer here in the UK, being a member made me feel supported and inspired by all the amazing makers that make up the 7 Spot family.”
Her inspiration when crafting comes from art history, heritage and the need to reconnect with nature and rituals. “I’m interested in bringing a bit of my own culture and vision of the world, while adding joy to each space. I love vibrant colours and patterns because I feel like they have a voice of their own, they can’t be unseen.”
All of her pieces are handbuilt. “Most of the time I start coiling a pot without knowing where I’m going – I tend to improvise a lot,” she says. “If I have a plan to start with, I almost always change my mind halfway, because of external factors like humidity. But also because the shape speaks to me. It’s like a dialogue that involves my ideas and the clay’s predisposition to take them!”
“Possibilities,” Victoria says, when I ask what her materials mean to her. “Every time I stand with some clay in front of me, I have this feeling of creativity, freedom and opportunities: I can make whatever I want! It’s like a superpower. Also, at least for me, working with clay has a healing energy that makes me stay focused and soothes my anxieties.”
All photography © Victoria Ceramics, used with permission.