Meet the Creative: Rebecca Catterall - Sunken Studio

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in this case, a lovely piece of hand-crafted pottery, then you’ll know that ceramics are booming. The kiln is fast becoming a status symbol of the gram, as we look to spend our time seeing, doing, and creating better things. The perfect antidote to all things tech, the potters wheel is the hottest seat in town, connecting the cognitive with the creative. With classes filling up fast, we are very pleased to say that Rebecca from Sunken Studio will be joining us at Float as we take it back to Clay-sics and learn the art of ceramics. We spoke with Rebecca to find out about the therapeutic benefits of ceramics, and what we can all gain from taking up slow crafts.

What is your company, what do you do and what makes it special?

Sunken Studio is a ceramics studio. We host clay workshops, we make ceramic products, we design, facilitate and collaborate. If it involves making, building, architecture… we’re up for it.

We specialise in hand-built ceramics, but we also offer private tuition on a potter’s wheel, we’re pretty good at mouldmaking and we’re partial to making a tool or two.

Celebrating material understanding, bodily intelligence and problem-solving excites us. Clay is overtly tactile, it connects body and mind. We love sharing what we do and why we care.

Why did you want to be a part of Float?

After workshops people regularly comment on how therapeutic they have found their experience with clay. I’m frequently asked if I find it therapeutic. My immediate response has been no. My mind jumps to all the problems I encounter and the constant disappointments. That said, I’ve been thinking about why, despite the challenges that the material presents, I’ve been loyal to it for over 20 years.

I enjoy the problems and challenges. I’m rewarded when a problem has been solved. Clay, and working three-dimensionally, has made me more resilient & determined. It’s provided me with so many opportunities to know myself and develop my conceptual and critical thinking. Shaping lumps of matter has been transformational.

Is it good for your health and well-being?

Absolutely, but I describe it as feedback. It’s a reciprocal conversation that changes as the material’s properties change – plastic, leather hard, green, bisque etc… It’s also a conversation that’s enriched as you learn more about how it’s shaped how we live & what we know about our past.

f you listen to it & reflect on what it gives, it’s possible to learn something about yourself and the way you approach & resolve problems. In a culture that puts too much emphasis on cognitive intelligence, clay exerts its presence to give meaning and substance to what can be achieved with both body & mind. I’m thankful for that and think float aligns with these values.

Can you sum up Sunken Studio in one sentence?

We love clay and create opportunities to encounter it.

What comes to mind when you hear the word wellness?

Working and living in a sustainable way. Thinking about the choices we make and how they might impact us long term.

What about your craft makes you feel well?

Working on something for a sustained period is itself refreshing & rejuvenating. I’m quite systematic when making but it still takes however long it takes & you need to be patient. This isn’t new news but it’s easy to forget when there’s so much other stuff that demands your attention too. It’s why I think a lot of people leave our workshops relaxed & why it’s important to make time for the things that make you happiest.

Where does your inspiration to create come from?

Spaces, environments, people. I keep a diary and make links between all sorts of disparate things.

How does your environment & location influence your work?

I’m a clean worker. I don’t tolerate mess for too long. I break processes down into batches - focusing of small parts of production at a time. I clean-up between each process. It far too easy to procrastinate if there’s too much stuff around.

What would you like attendees to get from your workshop?

To lose themselves in making, to enjoy responding to the material, to slow down, and to be relaxed when they leave. It’d also be great if they were interested in doing more!

What does happy mean to you?

Having space and time to think. I’m pretty introspective and need time to sit quietly with my own thoughts. I’m easily exhausted by too much fuss.

What was the last thing you made?

I’ve been preparing dishes and necklaces for the Summer Fair at the Hepworth. I’ve been making a lot of tubes.

Do you have anyone you look to for inspiration?

I like to chat to people that keep me on my toes. Looking outside of your own interests and listening to what other people think is pretty inspiring.

What motivates you?

Meeting new people and connecting in different ways, learning new things, being challenged.

What is the best part of your job?

Meeting new people and connecting in different ways, learning new things, being challenged.

When you're not working, how do you like to unwind?

I like being outside. I walk. I enjoy the elements, smells and seasonal shift. I get cabin fever if I don’t get out & move.

What are you reading/watching listening to right now?

I’m reading The White Road by Edmund De Waal, it’s about porcelain. I also have a stack of books that I intend to read but don’t really have the time.

On the Nightstand:

A Philosophy of Walking, Frederic Gros

To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink

Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit

Why We Build, Rowan Moore

Why We Make Things and Why it Matters, Peter Korn

Clay in Common, Clayground Collective

& far too many to list in the living room. I need a holiday to get through them.

I’ve just started to listed to Radio 4’s Digital Human series -  I've started with the one about friction and will make my way through the rest. Then there’s Spotify: Elbow, The Villagers, Martha Wainright, Angus Obel and Cass McCombs at the moment.

Do you have any sage advice that fellow makers may benefit from?

Don’t let anyone underestimate you. Work to defy expectations in whatever you do and you’ll be alright. I think we all have a tendency to focus on the barriers: some you’ll have to work harder to work around than others.

Want to get creative with Sunken Studio? Grab your tickets for Float here

Jenna Campbell