Engaging the foot on the pedal, the hands on wet clay and the mind on the creation of pleasing forms for practical use, the potter’s craft must be among the most satisfying of applied arts. South African Skye Corewijn gave up a desk-based job in the music industry to follow this path, and her passions. Inexact, almost rustic yet somehow elegant and modern, her speckled tableware caught the eye of culinary pioneers and her bespoke commissions can now be found in some of London’s most stylish restaurants. We caught up with Skye to find out her how using her hands to create in clay connects her with her body – and those who enjoy her work.
The body is…
The body is just a total wonder. When it comes to having children or the way different bodies learn to do different things, whether it’s what I do with pottery or whether it’s dancing or running or even sitting at a keyboard typing, I think the body adapts to what you need it to do and I think people should look after their bodies more.
The most amazing thing I’ve discovered is the way that your body does learn for you, when you’re making something and your body has that muscle memory that kicks into play. That’s a really beautiful and amazing thing. Also, the way the body can regenerate itself; after cuts, scrapes and bruises, eventually you’re just brand new. Especially when you’re working so much with clay – sometimes with really rough clays and your hands get really dry, smooth and cracked, and the way you can just fix all that.
On connecting with the body
My work is super physical, so handling a lot of clay I really work my arms and use my fingers a lot. I really like swimming; being immersed in water feels so good for me. The way your body is just totally surrounded by something that’s so smooth, cool and nice. I think that makes me feel my whole body when I’m in a body of water.
On letting the body take over
I’d say when I first started working with clay, it took a lot more focus and when I’m working on a new shape or a new form it still head over hands. But when I’m working on a shape that I’ve done a lot before or if I’m doing a big tableware order, my hands definitely take over, they kind of know what they’re doing without me having to think too much about it.
Being a potter has given me a huge new appreciation for my body. It’s really physical and I put a lot of tension in my shoulders and back. A lot of tension on my skin as clay really dries out your hands. I just feel like it’s given me a new awareness to look after my body and to have a huge appreciation for it.
On the power of touch
I think a huge part of my work is that I just want people to want to touch it, so I really like things that are super tactile. I use a lot of rough edges on the outside of some of my pots and the indentation is kind of an invitation for someone to touch it and use it and feel it. It’s quite important for me that someone saw that I’ve hand-made it – not just in a factory. Every piece is personal to me.
On pottery as therapy
Pottery is therapeutic. I think it’s the way you can get completely lost in what you’re doing. There are so many things today to think about at the same time, like texting, watching TV and doing everything else. With pottery it’s really amazing how you can completely focus on exactly what is in front of you. When I’m on a tight deadline it can be a little bit stressful, but it’s mostly therapeutic!
On wisdom gained
My mum always told me to just do my own thing. If I met my younger self I’d say ‘just carry on’. She really instilled that in me when I was very young. She’d say ‘just do your thing, do what you enjoy and do it well’. That’s important to me. Whatever I do I want to do it well. Just keep at it.