Interview by Eva Coutts
Lorna Phillips moved to Estonia for her final year, a country she first experienced on an Erasmus exchange and that has radically influenced her artistic practice.
I moved to Estonia for my final year at ECA and my practice has become a way of learning in this new environment. The body of work I developed is a conversation with my surrounding landscape, of the North Estonian coast, through the material of clay.
Through excavating, carrying, walking, reading, making and re-distributing I have learnt of the social history of this place’s people and formed a relationship to Estonia’s landscape.
After working with wild clays from various places I feel a softness and appreciation towards the earth that is under the soles of my shoes.
Clay has a sensitivity that responds to the slightest impression of a fingerprint and once fired this soft touch can be preserved for thousands of years.
The research has become the art as much as the sculptures themselves. Finding clay in the land is my starting point and finding traces of stories in archaeological reports or geological structures is what feeds the making process. The time spent making, and thinking, and considering in the studio is what creates the sculpture. And so for me, from the very beginning to the end, and after that, this whole journey is the most interesting part, and this process is what I wish people could experience when they walk into a gallery space.
The sacred sites, and the whole landscape and culture of Estonia, archaeology, geology, Lucie Rie, Tim Ingold’s book Correspondences, Mark Edmonds’ book Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic, Robert MacFarlane, anonymous pots, David Nash’s The Wooden Boulder.
The Erasmus exchange was a major highlight for me. I went to Estonia to study Installation and Sculpture at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn for three months in third year. This was an incredibly productive time for me, where my art practice reached a point of development that was key in the consolidation of my working method and execution.
The sculpture department proposed to treat this year as a residency as a way to approach the uncertainties of this time, and the completely altered framework of the degree programme. I took this residency approach quite literally and returned to Estonia for my final year after falling in love with the country on Erasmus.
All of the students graduating this year have worked on their own in some sense. We have not surrounded one another in the same building with the community that is so necessary. But yet, it seems that the graduating year of 2021 has produced some excellent work which is amazing. I feel very lucky in many ways to be in the situation I have been in this year.
After graduation my biggest aim is to become a pottery apprentice; I really understand the value of apprenticeships. I would love to learn, from a highly skilled craftsperson, the knowledge that is passed down through generations. I know that I want to make pots for the rest of my life, and an apprenticeship feels like the only rite of passage into becoming a potter myself.