Phoebe Cummings on raw clay

25.11.20. Internet

Phoebe Cummings is an artist who works in clay. Intriguingly, she uses the material in its raw form – so unfired and unglazed – for sculptures that are usually site specific. Inspired by nature (either real or imagined), her pieces are ornate, fragile and, often, decay over time – giving them a wistful dynamism. The writer, Imogen Greenhalgh, has described them rather lyrically as ‘holding bays for her thoughts and ideas’. This is clay as performance art but, perhaps most importantly, in her hands, the material becomes extremely beautiful.

Phoebe was the winner of the British Ceramics Biennial Award in 2011, picked up the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize in 2017 for a fountain entitled Triumph of the Immaterial, and was a finalist for the Arts Foundation 25th anniversary awards in 2018.

She’s had exhibitions at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York, a solo show at the University of Hawaii and residencies at Camden Arts Centre and the V&A, among other places.

In this episode we talk about: the relationship between clay and writing; finding solace in poetry during lockdown; her love of sci-fi and the importance of nature; how permanence is overrated; and why declaring herself bankrupt in her early twenties changed her work for the better. It’s quietly mesmerising stuff. 

(Profile shot: Alun Callender)

Find out more about Phoebe Cummings

Triumph of the Immaterial  won the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize in 2017. The fountain, made of raw clay, slowly dissolved over time. Image: Sylvain Deleu.

Antediluvian Swag was made from clay, wire and steel. It was created at the NewArtCentre, Roche Court in 2016. Image: Sylvain Deleu.

This is a detail from Ornamental Chronology, made from clay, rope and wire. It was orginially shown at Beyond the Vessel in the Mesher Gallery, Istanbul during 2019. Image: Hadiye Cangokce.

After the Death of the Bear featured at the British Ceramics Bienial in Stoke-on-Trent in 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.