Interview with MiAL Artist: Beth Lewis Williams
MiAL first encountered the beautiful work of Beth Lewis Williams in person when we visited her at the 2013 London design festival at the Southbank. Since then we have fallen more and more in love with her ethereal ceramic lights and her unbelievable artisan skills, handcarving each one to perfection.
Beth has just won Ideas Tap Graduate Award and is the first prizewinner of the Product & Furniture category.
She was also nominated for the Nova award.
Hi Beth, can you tell us why you chose UAL to study ceramics?
From a young age I always had the ambition to study at Central St Martins. I went to Camden School for Girls, which had a fantastic art department and excellent teachers who helped me to put a portfolio together to get on to my art foundation course at Byamshaw.
University of the Arts London is the world’s leading specialist creative university, and host to the largest postgraduate arts and design community in Europe. Most importantly, some of the most influential names in design; Neville Brody, Jonathan Barnbrook, Terence Conran, Sebastian Conran, and Tom Dixon studied there.
The course that I chose was MA Design Ceramics. My main reason for choosing this course was because of the renowned lecturers who taught on this particular course. They are all practicing experts in their specialist fields.
Porcelain, especially for lighting is such an ancient art, are there any modern practitioners you take inspiration from?
Firstly, Margaret O’Rorke who is an artist working with unique porcelain lighting but who also develops design for industrial production. Her love and knowledge of the material I find inspirational and her dedication to practice as a studio potter.
In addition, Emma Bridgewater who incorporates both designs and manufacture in large-scale batch production. With manufacturing increasing in the Far East our industrial heritage is under the greatest threat it has faced for many years. However, the market has reached saturation point with white porcelain plates and mugs selling at prices not dissimilar to their cardboard throwaway counterparts. Emma Bridgewater creates ceramic ware objects with originality, individuality, and character. Most importantly, all her work is made in Stoke-On-Trent.
What are the key inspirations behind your pieces?
A huge influence that is referenced in my work is 19th century industrial ceramics. The emergence of printed landscape patterns on industrial ceramics was a result of a confluence of technological development and the fashionable popularity of Chinese porcelain, romantic and picturesque landscape, as well as an essential literary connection. I am continually inspired by these themes. Many of these pieces are on display at the V&A, which I have found to be a great place to study and sketch.
I have a never-ending love between light and porcelain, it continues to surprise and excite me. This I will always find challenging.
How have you researched the market for your work? It is a beautiful but potentially niche product!
I have identified market opportunities through the feedback that I have received after exhibiting at numerous exhibitions and trade fairs, both in the UK and internationally. This has led me to understand the market for my work, where to sell and the audience that I am selling too. I would like to be working on more large-scale commissions and lighting installations. Hopefully, my audience and buyers will take away an image of a pure and warm design that sharpens their senses and allows them to contemplate and reflect in the ambient glow.
Whats next for lights and Lithopanes?
After London Design Festival 2014, I am about to embark on a lighting installation in collaboration with an architecture firm.
I am also in discussions with an industrial ceramic producer to design and make a line of porcelain lighting.