Originally trained as a painter, Pauline has created a world of minimalistic landscapes. She first attended a ceramics class in art school but only took up ceramics properly after graduating. Wanting to create things that serve a purpose, ceramics fit that need. She could paint but still create useful objects.
Here we talk with Pauline about her creative process and why she finds California so inspiring.
Tell us how you got into ceramics.
I first worked with ceramics when I was in art school. My real focus at the time was painting. Ceramics was something I did on the side for fun. It was an excuse to get sloppy and not take my work too seriously. After abandoning any kind of regular creative practice for years, when I had the urge to make art again I was drawn back to ceramics. The functionality of ceramics appealed to me. It used to bother me that my paintings didn’t serve a “purpose.”
The functionality of ceramics appealed to me. It used to bother me that my paintings didn’t serve a “purpose.”
Describe your creative process. How do you come up with the motifs you do?
It’s very unconscious. I’m drawn to specific shapes and colors. It’s instinctual. I’m a native New Yorker and if someone had told me years ago I’d be painting mountains and the sun I wouldn’t have believed it but it just kind of happened. I’ve always been drawn to landscapes and specifically abstract interpretations of landscapes. I spend a lot of time looking at artwork by artists I love. I tend to sketch out ideas on paper first but instead of painting them in I’ll note the colors I’m thinking of using. The problem is it takes so long to turn a sketch into a finished clay piece. I have a real backlog of ideas!
I’m a native New Yorker and if someone had told me years ago I’d be painting mountains and the sun I wouldn’t have believed it but it just kind of happened.
Why are you so inspired by California?
It still feels very exotic and wild to me. Beyond the fact that it has such a wide variety of landscapes and climates, the feeling of California is intoxicating and romantic. I love that Los Angeles still has neighborhoods with dirt roads and that you’re never far from nature. I love the history of people coming out here in search of a better future or a dream. It’s an optimistic place, and of course, that optimism doesn’t always pan out, but that just adds to the complexity of it.
How has painting influenced your work as a ceramicist?
I think what I took from painting is my focus on color. Sometimes it’s frustrating because painting feels more immediate, but it’s also been good practice to slow down.
What kind of glaze techniques do you use for your work?
The majority of my work is painted with underglazes and then given a top coat of clear glaze before being high-fired. I paint everything by hand, without stencils or tape.
What is your biggest lesson you’ve learned from pottery?
Patience! I like to do things quickly and ceramics is the one area in my life that really forces me to slow down. I’m in the process of learning how not to be a perfectionist. I still want to maintain high standards but with ceramics and in particular glazing I’m beginning to allow for more serendipity.
What are you working on now?
Filling orders! I’m working on a large set of dinner plates for a customer in Belgium. I’ve been working on some more sculptural wall pieces in the background and I’m hoping to dedicate more time to that this year.
Photos courtesy of Pauline Wolstencraft