Sasha has over 30 years experience in the world of bone china and porcelain having studied in two centres of excellence , namely Stoke on Trent and Limoges, France. She has taken elements of this industry and adapted them to a studio environment with her own production which includes bespoke vases,bowls, lighting and tea ware. Sasha has concentrated on perfecting the craft-based skills which enhance the inherent qualities of bone china and her carefully produced distinctive work embraces and reflects contemporary taste and lifestyle. Each piece is individually made using industrial processes and techniques which aim to highlight the translucent aspect of this material. Design-Nation asked her a few questions about her practice, inspiration and future.
Design-Nation asked: Can you tell us about your practice and how your business began?
Sasha Wardell: I started making in 1982 after graduating from my MA at North Staffs Polytechnic ( now Staffordshire University). I applied for a teaching post at Crewe and Alsager College of H.E. ( now part of Manchester Met!) on the then new BA in Combined Crafts. I taught the ceramics with Nancy Angus and did my own work the rest of the time – similar to an artist’s in residence situation. I then applied for various setting up grants and and won a free accountant for a year!
DN: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?
SW: Terry Sladden – my A level art teacher at Huntingdon Technical College , Cambs – He was inspirational and introduced me the fact one could do an arts’ degree which I had no idea about in the early 70’s……and Christain Couty , my professor when I studied in Limoges , France where I discovered the industrial processes of ceramic manufacture.
DN: What inspires you and your work?
SW: People like Bodil Manz ( Danish porcelain maker) and a whole raft of Japanese porcelain makers…
DN: Can you tell us a bit about your design process?
SW: My work is very process-led and so I start by turning plaster on a plaster turning bench lathe and , even though I have a rough idea of the form and effect I want , it tends to evolve as I go along..
DN: What is your workspace like?
SW: I have 2 studios – one in Wiltshire at the top of an old Mill – it is very light with huge sky lights ( and a lot of stairs 5 flights up) I work here during the months of November through April producing and running private mould making courses. The other is in France, near Limoges, where I run residential summer courses with my husband during the months of June,through to September. This is a converted ‘porcherie’ in the garden which houses a plaster studio and casting and decorating studio.
DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do you work with others on marketing?
SW: I am realising the importance of social media and so make an effort to keep up with this!
DN: What are the main challenges in your practice?
SW: Working with bone china has it’s own challenges, not least the warping factors. So controlling this is a big concern yet can be surprising and pleasing at the same time. I am also fascinated by the challenges and problem solving aspects of mould making.
DN: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?
SW: Continuing in the same vein although I would like to allocate more time to some larger, more important pieces.
DN: If you could collaborate with someone who would you like that to be?
SW: A bone china ( or porcelain ) manufacturer to make large one-off pieces. For example -Wedgwood in the UK or Bernardaud in France.
DN: If you weren’t a designer what would you be?
SW: A bi-lingual PA or a 3-day eventer !
DN: Why did you join Design Nation? What do you enjoy and find helpful from being a member?
SW: To have the opportunity to exhibit in larger shows both nationally and internationally. And to impart some of the knowledge I have gathered from my lecturing/teaching onto emerging makers.
DN: Have you got any exhibitions, commission or event coming up you are taking part in?
SW: *May 12th London Craft Week at the Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery, Southwark St. London
*Summer Show at the Porthminster Gallery, St Ives , Cornwall
*Running Bone china and mould making courses in France.
Interview by Rhea Clements