Interview with Pete Bodenham

SOON met with Poppit based potter Pete Bodenham to talk a bit about his current work, where he gains his inspiration and life today as a working artist…

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Introduce yourself and your work.
I’m a potter, visual artist, and part time ceramics lecturer. I live next to my workshop at St.Dogmaels Pottery. I grew up in St Dogmaels and went to school in Cardigan. My family lived on a smallholding and I attended art college, both environments encourage you to repair stuff, think, invent and create things. I’m happiest when I’m around my two sons and Ellie, at the beach with Poppit Sands Surf Life Saving Club members or making and being engaged in creative projects.

How did you become a ceramicist? 
As a child I used to repeatedly thumb through a book, ‘The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency’ by John Seymour. I loved the detailed illustrations and the underlying philosophy of the book. Within the book there were two pages on making pottery that sparked my interest along with tips on keeping hens, pigs and cows. I was lucky to experience ceramics at Cardigan School and as a teenager I used to hang out at Cippyn Pottery near Poppit Sands, which made me think you could be a potter. From there I went to Carmarthen School of Art and then onto Camberwell School of Art in London to study a BA in Ceramics & 3D.

Have you always lived in Wales?
No, but I’m a passionate Welsh Rugby and sports fan! My Parents moved to St.Dogmaels in the late 1970’s. I’ve lived most of my life in West Wales with short spells in London and Cardiff.

Would you say your surroundings play a big part in your work? 
Yes, in a big way. I try to capture a sense of place within my ceramics and creative projects. Journeys and mini adventures on foot, often walking the shoreline, feed the work on a direct level. Intuitive brush marks reference the feeling of moving through water, or studying the edges or boundaries between land and sea. Motifs and gestural marks brushed on the pots can be seen as direct traces of my experience of a sense of place.

Who are your main inspirations/ favourite artists?
Alive – Francis Alys, Theaster Gates, Marcus Coates, Allora & Calzadilla, Bedwyr Williams, Wim Delvoye, Cornelia Parker, Takeshi Yasuda, Atelier N.L. Nao Matsunaga, David Gates.
Dead – Joseph Beuys, Antoni Tapies, Gillian Lowndes, Cy Twombly and many forgotten potters / un-marked pots in Museums.

What are you currently working on?
Part of my work as a lecturer at Bath Spa University is being a researcher. This involves either writing academic papers or creating innovative research art and design projects. I’m currently researching material culture and its symbolism regarding site and place. I’m interested in how you can make ceramics that can evoke or reference a sense of place, imbedding objects with meaning. On a practical level I am researching the history, geology and ecology of Poppit Sands beach. A local historian Glen believes the name Poppit is derived from Pot-Pit, this idea coupled with what I can learn form the beach has been my starting point of this year’s research. I’m collecting small amounts of clay, rocks, wood and seaweed from the beach using these materials to create clay and glaze experiments. On a regular basis I collect plastic from the beach both cleaning the shoreline and keeping some plastic containers to form part of the project. I’m making plaster casts from these plastic items, make pots by pressing the clay gathered from the beach into the moulds. The project will ultimately draw together research, information and images from visitors to the beach, geologists, historians, scientists as well as the creation of a small set of functional ceramics made from materials gathered from the beach.

Where do you source your materials? How do you make decisions such as choice of clay and glaze?
The raw materials come from Stoke-On-Trent, which is the centre of the British ceramic industry. I supplement these materials with local clays and materials. I use dark clays, which I feel evoke the local geology.

Describe your work in 3 words.
Utopic, practical, rooted.

What’s your favourite piece to date?
A coffee bowl featuring seaweed collected from the beach integrated into the glaze chemistry.

It’s rare for people to fully commit to a career in the Arts. What’s the hardest thing about being a full-time artist today? 
To be honest, on one level it’s probably the easiest time in history to be an artist. The challenges are financial rather than cultural. Financially sustaining yourself and your art / design practice is an art form. The current political economic climate is challenging or put it another way messed up. It’s hard for artists and makers to find affordable spaces to live and work.

What would be your advice to a young artist starting out in the industry? 
Learn skills from highly skilled people and aim to practice your skills to the highest level. People with good skills will always get work. Study the history and theory of your field as well as being inquisitive about other fields of study. An inspiring art lecturer Osi Rhys Osmond I used to work with, repeatedly said ‘ art and design is all about making connections!’. Network and figure out who you need to talk to and where you need to show your work. Finally, commit to your creative practice.

What’s your SOON, your Something Out Of Nothing? 
Diving into a wave.

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Behind ‘A Lilac Mind’ with Bibiane Bisala

In late February, SOON met with Bibiane Bisala- the incredibly talented young woman behind the poetry book ‘A Lilac Mind’, to find out more about her main influencers, her journey as a poet thus far and what her hopes are for the future.

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Introduce yourself.
My name is Bibiane Bisala. That’s pronounced bee-bee-anne but most people call me Bibi. I’m eighteen years old and I’m a Virgo who loves to write poetry, take walks and live inside my head. My Instagram is @bibixne and my Tumblr is alilacmind.tumblr.com. If you want pretentious playlists for 91 different moods, my Spotify is @iambibiane.

Tell us a little bit about A Lilac Mind… Where did it all begin?
‘A Lilac Mind’ is my first born. It’s an anthology that mainly covers love/heartbreak, infatuation, youth, freedom, the idea of the self and many other realms. I don’t even know how it really begun; all I can say now is that it is a product of inevitability. I’ve always been writing poetry ever since I was young, but the actual sharing of it begun when someone simply asked to read my poetry. Everyone knew I kept seven notebooks locked away but no one had ever really asked to read my stuff; perhaps they knew I would say no because I was and still am to an extent, really private about my writing and innermost thoughts. This person though, at the time, I couldn’t say no to and I guess that’s how the idea of sharing my art form stopped seeming so bad. In terms of the concept, it became really evident to me that everyone around me was trying to fit into a mould, to live their life as one thing and this idea that if you were one thing you couldn’t be the other was also so prominent. That is something I’ve struggled with a lot. I mention in my letter to my readers at the beginning of the book, that ‘A Lilac Mind’ is about embracing the polarities within yourself and accepting who you are unapologetically. The fundamental message: It’s okay to think/feel/be one thing and/or another.

What’s next for Bibiane Bisala? 
Right now I’m focusing on ‘A Lilac Mind’ touching a wider audience but as far as working on something new goes, I am working on new things and I am excited about future projects. I don’t want to give too much away but all I can say about the new project I’m currently working on, whenever it will come out, is that it’s more societal than personal (though still a reflection of me) and will hopefully take my poetry to a very visual level. I also want all my work to be cohesive, so it will have the same underlying vibe as A Lilac Mind but it’ll still hopefully be distinctive on its own.

What’s your favourite environment to work in?
I’m really flexible when it comes to the environment I cultivate my creativity in. I can literally work anywhere so long as I can get into my mind and concentrate on connecting and interacting with my thoughts and ideas. I’m a chronicle daydreamer so it’s easy to mentally leave a place whilst being physically there. But if I had to choose an ideal working environment, it would probably be in forests, alone with nothing but the trees watching or when I’m home alone, blasting whatever music I’m into at the moment, in front of my computer with notebooks and magazines out; tumblr on my screen. I also work a lot amidst the chaos public transport on my notes page.

Where do you source most of your inspiration from? Are there any artists, poets or even musicians that heavily influence your work?
This is a really cliché answer but I draw inspiration from everything everywhere. Other writers, magazines and music are my main sources. Lana Del Rey’s lyrics and music videos really pushed me towards the vibe I resonated most with; the dark, romantic, slightly disturbing essence surrounding love. If there’s one thing I can say about Lana’s work is that whether it’s just a song or a song paired with a visual, it is so cinematic and it’s literally this beautiful aesthetic experience for whatever senses it’s targeted at. When I was writing ‘A Lilac Mind’ I really wanted to write in such a way that if a director or someone who creates short films wanted to use my words, it would be easy for them because of how vivid my writing is (or how vivid I hope it is). Anything I’ve ever listened to and felt connected to is seen in ‘A Lilac Mind’, it’s a heavily influenced anthology from musicians such as the funeral suits, the 1975, Carla Bruni, SZA, and other obscure indie bands; it’s a product of eclecticism. Other writers such as Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Lang Leav and Pablo Neruda really shaped my character and perhaps the ‘persona’ that surrounds ‘A Lilac Mind’. As far as magazines go, I am a lover of authenticity, fashion and aesthetic and so simply flicking through a cool magazine such as i-D, DAZED AND CONFUSED or the Messy Heads and staring at a picture is enough for me to come up with an entire concept. Everything in ‘A Lilac Mind’ is real whether it is a direct experience presented just the way it was lived, embellished or understated; it’s the truth subjective to one’s mind. Whether you can even call that the truth is questionable… I guess the point of this tangent is that all my sources of inspiration allow me to ‘clothe’ reality the way I want when writing poetry.

To have published a poetry book already is incredibly impressive, what advice would you give to anyone else hoping to self-publish?
Perseverance is the key. It’s the key for any project in life being executed. There will be days when the idea of going through with your project is less sparkly than when you first engaged with it, but you just have stick it out. Whenever you get into that “meh” head space just think about why you embarked on his journey in the first place. Visualise the feeling you’ll get when it’s done; it’s the most rewarding feeling. As far as technical advice goes I would say just watch a lot of YouTube surrounding self publishing, do your research about it, find an indie self publishing company that is legit and gives you a lot of space to keep your original ideas intact. Also if you know anyone who has self published before just ask them for advice.

And Finally, what’s your ‘Something Out Of Nothing’? 
My something out of nothing has to be… There are so many little pleasures in my life that I literally live for. My favourite has to be my journey back home from school when the sun is setting. When I’m travelling alone, I put my headphones in, sit at the front seat of the upper deck of the bus and put my feet up. My bus goes up this hill everyday on the way home and when it reaches the top you get this breathtaking view. The sky is painted with all these bleeding colours and clouds and you can see all these trees and buildings in the horizon, with their lights. It’s literally the most beautiful thing ever. I normally reach a really good bit in my song when the bus stops there for a minute or so and I hold my breath every single time because it’s just this perfect harmony between nature (the sun/sky/clouds/trees) and industrialisation (the buildings and all their lights). I don’t know; it gets me every time. Then the bus goes downhill and the moment ends.


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To keep up to date with Bibiane and her poetry, head over and follow her on Instagram / Tumblr . To purchase ‘A Lilac Mind’ find it on Amazon here.