Wiltshire based sculptor Patricia Volk shares her inspiring story from office job to art school to making and painting ceramic sculptures – & the quest to conjure up musical notes in the air…
I was at a party and I met a woman and told her I wanted to go to art college. I said I’d been studying at night classes, given up a proper job, but I wasn’t at all full of confidence, in fact the opposite, as all during my schooling there’d never been the remote possibility of my going to art college – it was an impossibility, but it was deep down what I’d always wanted to do but instead I’d got various jobs and ended up in an office job in an advertising agency. Anyway, this woman at the party sent me the application form for the Foundation Course at Middlesex Poly, which was a massively kind gesture I will never forget. I applied and went along with my portfolio and thought I didn’t have a hope in hell, but this wonderful thing happened and I got in.
Patricia Volk – Individuals
Ceramic sculpture. 3.5 metres in length.
The best thing was, having been in a business environment (and having been so frustrated in it) I wanted to get stuck in and make the most of my time there, because I’d wasted quite a few years and now every day was precious. If you come straight from education I don’t think you have that urgency. But me, I was the first one there in the morning. Couldn’t wait to get in. The only “worst” thing was making up for lost time, and trying to get hold of tutors when you needed them.
Patricia Volk – Rest
Ceramic with acrylics mounted on slate/granite. 49 x 69 x 11cm (19 x 27 x 4″).
I felt I was stuck in a rut. I knew that when the colours were taking over from the form as the personality of the piece. I felt the heads were restricting me, so not doing heads, stopping myself, was a sort of test, to see if I was still there when I didn’t make heads – and I found that I was. Also the heads were inevitably interpreted as a kind of person or an attribute of a person, whereas an abstract form needn’t be that – it can simply be a juxtaposition of colours, or a pleasing or discordant form or combination of the two that has drama, but avoids having a specific meaning.
Patricia Volk – Precarious 1 & 2
Ceramic sculpture. 55 x 45 x 5cm (22 x 18 x 2″).
The work itself dictates what it is, for me, always. I start with no preconceived ideas, it is partly a symbiosis between me as a maker and the material. I find if I start with a concept it gets in the way and is also in danger of being illustrational: that is fine but it’s not how my mind works, or what I find exciting.
Patricia Volk – Precarious (Book)
80 page book showcasing Patricia Volk’s sculptures. Available in in softback and hardback.
I think for sculpture especially people need to see your work one to one, get an idea of its presence in space so the gallery setting is always best. I think it helps to have a presence online, but not to sell directly through it.
Patricia Volk – Serendipity
Ceramic finished with Acrylics. 70 x 33 x 20cm (27.5 x 13 x 8″).
Twitter has made a tremendous difference to me – not only have I found new artists but have established very strong friendships. It is great for encouragement, when you put up a photograph of a new piece or a work in progress, to get instant feedback from people whose own work you admire.
A Glimpse of the Process
Head over to Patricia’s blog for a fascinating peek inside her studio as she documents the process of creating one of her sculptures over a six week period.
I take photographs all the way through the process of making, which enables me, say overnight, to doodle and try different colours or refine a line or just stare at it and ponder what isn’t quite right. The iPad also means I can always have my work with me, to show people.
Patricia Volk – Kinetic
Painted MDF. Each piece approx 34 x 38cm (13 x 15″).
The thing I always come back to is the simplicity of line – a curve that might be so right that it takes your breath away, something that’s almost like a musical note in the air. Just trying to get a physical object that is more than just a solid object, that has an emotional impact or uplift or a grace or beauty, and sometimes you don’t even know why.
Patricia Volk – Totem
Ceramic finished with Acrylics. 68 x 59 x 14cm (27 x 23 x 5.5″).
For a pure kick I like looking at Richard Serra and Peter Randall Page. Almuth Tebbenhoff almost deliberately breaks a line and I love her subtle use of colour. Nick Hornby and Sinta Tantra have worked together to make some fantastic pieces in collaboration yet one is almost a contradiction to the other. And of course Jun Kaneko because they are so child-like, playful, energetic and fun.
Patricia Volk – Cradle 2
Ceramic with acrylics mounted on slate/granite. 50 x 49 x 29cm (20 x 19 x 11″).
I just like working in a setting that is light industrial and where making is a real hands-on, unpretentious process rather than an overly intellectual one. Being dyslexic the theory doesn’t come easily to me and the practical impulse is what appeals most. Also, I think it might be because my father was a builder and when I used to go to where he worked he would always hand me a hammer or something so I always felt good in that working environment.
I also find it reassuring being surrounded by people with different skills – for a start it’s handy! But also being next to a stone mason with a tradition and respect for his craft going back generations, I find that inspiring. But I need the fix of keeping up to date with contemporary work and I’m never happier than wandering round the Venice Biennale or seeing Michael Craig-Martin’s work at The Serpentine – that is inspiring too, and it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning.
Patricia Volk’s Sculpture Studio
Inside the studio where ceramic sculptures and wall pieces are created.
Thanks again to Patricia for being so generous with her time and for giving us a look into her creative process and influences.