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Vanessa Hogge

by Angie Boyer

Published: March 2018

Winner of the craft&design Award at MADE London Marylebone 2017

by Angie Boyer

Vessel Gallery in London is perhaps most well known for the high end glass art that it exhibits, but the gallery also shows the work of a small number of ceramic artists, including some extraordinarily detailed pieces by Vanessa Hogge. When I asked Vessel Gallery owner, Angel Monzon about this he explained: "We were Vanessa's first gallery after our paths crossed again and we reconnected after having known each other from her styling years. Vanessa is incredibly talented and hardworking, she must also be a very patient person to make the remarkably detailed work. We love her pieces and she has completed some stunning and challenging commissions for us, most recently she made her largest ever Daphne vessel form with thousands of flowers that we exhibited at Tresor in Basel. At Tresor her work was critically acclaimed by international curators and visitors:

"Vanessa is the new generation ceramic artists to look out for and invest in"

"Hogge’s art works are the result of a very intimate and intense relationship with her material. Abandoning the use of moulds to create her ceramic embellishments, each flower is made by hand and one by one attached to her pieces until they are completely covered. An involved process that takes time and patience, with every element coming direct from her finger tips having been shaped and brought to life. The final result means no two blooms are the same, creating truly unique creations."

Amazing accolades indeed and very well deserved! 



Looking back over her career and recalling those 'styling years' that Angel mentions, Vanessa recounts that she did her BA Ceramics at Bristol and then her Masters in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1989. "But I’m afraid I gave up being a ceramicist when my children came along in 1993 and 1995. I had some good orders in - had supplied Paul Smith shops in London, Tokyo and New York with large sunflower vases, but it just proved too difficult to juggle a job, children and being a self-employed ceramicist. I married a furniture designer so we were both ‘creative’ and without proper jobs! Very hard to survive and sadly we both got jobs, albeit in the creative industry, but not as makers in the end! 

"So I became an Interiors stylist and worked freelance for a number of years for various publications including Homes & Gardens. I grew increasingly interested in Graphic Design and laying out pages beautifully as opposed to creating the images for the pages. 

"I retrained and worked for a number of years as a Graphic Designer for various agencies until a couple of years ago, when a bag of clay in my shed caught my eye and I remembered that that was my true passion and what I actually trained to do! The children had both disappeared off to University so with more time and a whole lot of life experience I started my ceramic career again. 

"I think there is so much to be said for having experienced other careers - the styling and graphic design experience stand me in very good stead now. In 2016 I was lucky enough to receive the Cockpit Arts/Radcliffe Trust Craft Development Award which entitled me to a free studio space in Cockpit Arts Holborn amongst other things. Until then I had been producing work and firing my kiln in my kitchen which was pretty tricky!

"My work and my working life have been transformed by moving into Cockpit. The business support and workshops have made me rethink and assess everything for the better. And to be able to compare notes and get feedback instantly from my new studio mates works so well, particularly with ceramics, as it's so technical and so much can and does go wrong!"

Vanessa has a deep seated love of working with clay and her creative influences and inspirations are wide reaching. "I love decorative textiles, surface pattern and painters who portray flowers - Georgia o’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo and Marianne North for example - they are great influencers. But to work in 3D and in particular with clay, is the most luscious experience - there is no medium like it - especially porcelain, which I predominantly work with - silky smooth and soft to the touch, but very strong and stone like once it’s fired. 

"What I love about porcelain is not its translucency or fragility, but its beauty when used in thicker sections to portray and resemble the most delicate of forms. The way porcelain changes in the making and firing process from a sticky and stubborn ‘plasticine’ into the toughest, most brittle and beautiful shades of stony white inspires me to push it to its max. It’s unpredictable, so much can go wrong with firings and glazes, which all adds to the thrill. And I know it’s a cliche but I still get such a buzz every single time I open the kiln - that thrill never leaves you. 

"The infinite patterns and possibilities of flowers inspire me to create rich, decorative ‘icings’ and over-the-top frilled porcelain ceramic forms. It’s a mesmerising process! I’m addicted to the rhythm of repetitive action and how it can alter surfaces," she enthuses. 

By tearing, pinching, rolling and cutting porcelain Vanessa forms simple petals that blossom and grow into complex symmetrical forms. With each small, detailed piece being crafted by hand, I suggest that she must have infinite patience and dedication to her work.

"To me it's so enjoyable and satisfying that I wouldn't work in any other way! It's definitely about the joy of repetition and channelling warm thoughts of my matriarchal family as I get into the zone."

It isn't always about smaller pieces collectively making a larger work though, as Vanessa explains, "I do produce bigger, more unusual pieces for clients who commission me through my gallery, Vessel, on Kensington Park Road in Notting Hill. It was through them that somebody encouraged me to cover my largest piece with my smallest DAPHNE flowers both inside and out - the piece took three weeks to make and I might not have ever produced it if it hadn't been commissioned."

Making to commission and selling through a gallery can be very different from selling direct to the public, especially when the latter results in winning an award. "MADE LONDON in Marylebone is special. I feel the people who come to it really have a good idea of what they are looking for. I get so much interesting feedback and I love meeting and chatting about my process with them."

Keep an eye on Vanessa's website for details of where you can see her and her award winning work in the coming months.

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