Profile - Rowena Gilbert - Artist Designer Maker

Current Exhibitions 2017

The Garden Gallery
Rookery Lane
Spring Exhibition
13th May - 8th July 2017

The Biscuit Factory
16 Stoddart Street
Summer Exhibition
2nd June - 27th August 2017

Craft Centre & Design Gallery
City Art Gallery
The Headrow
Summer Exhibition
2nd June - 27th August 2017

Cameron Contemporary Art
1 Victoria Grove
Second Avenue
Brighton & Hove
The Colour of Summer Exhibition
17th June - 27th August 2017

The Whitehouse Gallery
47 St Marys Street
Dumfries & Galloway
Summer Exhibition
1st July - 2nd Sept 2017

Artichoke Gallery
Church Street
Across The Water Exhibiton
2nd July - 24th Sept 2017

Artist Statement

The main focus with my ceramic work is finding that perfect fusion of strong design, innovative style and spontaneous expression, that counterpoint of form, design, colour and texture. I love well-made things that hold a simple but powerful expression. I love working with a very simple colour palette but using different surface textures such as mattes and gloss, to give my work an extra depth. I also love simple but bold gestures, stylish yet artistic.

My ceramic work above all is a celebration of the natural world. I enjoy a mix of precision and playfulness, layers and layers of clay slips are built up in a very controlled manner, and then marks etched boldly into the surface are impulsive and free. Mimicking nature, the uniform precision of the pieces contrasts with the spontaneous designs engraved, scratched or etched into their surface, introducing a level of organic unpredictability into otherwise flawless objects. I liken this thought to geology, layers of clay echo periods of time, memories; slow, controlled, ordered. The surface evokes moods, tensions, actions, reactions.

My work is informed by my travels and my coastal hometown of Brighton, where the colours of the sea and beaches provide a continuous source of inspiration. Moods and personal experiences also influence my work in more subconscious ways. After recent travels in Southeast Asia, the beaches of the Thai coast provided fresh inspiration for pieces that have taken my work in a new direction. Following the trip, experiments with new colour palettes led to an unintentional spread of hundreds of turquoise blue swatches, spread out in my studio like an ocean of tiny tiles.

The Reef series pieces are a response to this time spent swimming and snorkelling in Thailand, and convey the mesmerising effect of spending hours under the water: forms flutter across the aquamarine surface of the pieces, fish darting between corals and aquatic plants; the glaze ripples like water. The Coast Series are a response to the skylines and shores of these tropical islands, capturing the constantly changing hues and movements of these spaces with accents of waves splashing against rocks and birds in flight.

The Reef and Coast Series mark a step away from the more controlled work of past years. Natural themes still dominate, but not the figurative forms of past work; this is a more abstract interpretation. The new pieces embrace intuitive mark-making, showing that even as the work has matured, it has become more playful.

Some technical notes: The first stage is very scientific: researching and developing clay slips. All the colours in my ceramics are my own creations. Variations in percentages of metal oxides and stains in the clay body, differences in clays, glazes, firing temperatures, all affect the final colour. It takes months to finalise a colour palette for a new series.

The next stage is very rhythmic and therapeutic: I cast the bowls or vases with a certain colour clay body, then brush layer upon layer of coloured clay slips on the insides and outsides of the body. I work on around eight pieces at any one time as the layers need to dry to a leather-hard stage before the next layer can be brushed on. Depending on air temperature and humidity - and the amount of layers I am wanting - this can take a few weeks as slow drying is essential to ensure no cracking in the final stages.

The next stage is exciting, spontaneous, intuitive and artistic. Here I cut through the layers of coloured clay using various metal tools I have shaped. This method is called sgraffito yet the technique I use has been developed by myself for over 14 years so is very different from traditional sgraffito ceramics. This is the stage where I feel I am an artist creating my vision: my coloured canvas is ready for me to be impulsive and free, evoking moods and tensions, actions and reactions...

And the final stage is calm and controlled, cleaning up the piece, bisque firing, masking areas and applying different glazes before the final firing (1170°C with an hour long soak at the top temperature). And then the magical moment - opening the kiln after the final firing to see what I have created.

All pieces are individually designed and hand made by Rowena in her Brighton studio and have her signature mark on the base.

Awards / Education


The Sussex Guild of Professional Designer Makers

2013 & 2011

Craft&Design Selected Award Finalist - Ceramics


The Best Up & Coming Local Artist Award, Brighton & Hove


BA Honours Degree in Three Dimensional Crafts - Specialising in Ceramics


BTEC Diploma Foundation Studies in Art and Design


A-Levels: Art&Design, Design&Technology, Fashion&Textiles, Mathematics