Margaret Brampton is a ceramicist living and working in the Ogmore Valley, where she creates beautiful decorative and functional pieces inspired by continental and North Devon slipware using the sgraffito technique. We met with Margaret at her home and studio to find out more about her journey into ceramics, her creative process and her life as an artist in Wales.
For people who are not yet familiar with your work, who is Margaret Brampton?
I am really a mum to four children but the sort of mum I am may have a lot to do with the fact that I love making things.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
I don’t have any vivid memories of childhood, all my memories are fragile and fragmented. However, certain smells take me back to childhood. I smell a geranium and I am in my grandmother’s spare room where she overwintered her geraniums. I smell lilac and roses and I am in my grandmother’s garden where they perfume the air. Not so wonderful I smell cabbage and I am back at school.
How did you get into ceramics? What are the milestones of your journey?
When I was about 11 years old we visited Ewenny Pottery and I was amazed that the potter could form a pot on the wheel. The potter, seeing I was captivated, asked me if I wanted to have a go but being very shy I declined. I regretted that decision but when I went to college the opportunity to study ceramics presented itself and I was hooked. When I moved to London I couldn’t take my large kiln and the replacement kiln wouldn’t fire to stoneware temperatures. This turned out to be a real turning point as I had to move from stoneware to earthenware and look for a new way of working. I was inspired by Mary Wondrausch’s work and completely changed direction.
Your pieces are both art and functional objects. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from traditional British slipware. There were centers around the country but
particularly in North Devon and Ewenny.
Tell us about your creative process and which step in the journey from idea to final product do you enjoy the most?
Nothing gets made without either drawing or painting first. Although I don’t always copy the
drawings exactly, they do inform my work. Sketch books are a vital part of my practice. I enjoy almost every stage of the process. Throwing is completely absorbing and can feel meditative. Even sweeping up is a part of the process. Before I start decorating each pot I
draw out the design with food colour which burns away in the firing. This is because no mistakes can be corrected once I start the sgraffito. I really enjoy that part of the process,
the feel of the brush on the slip and the freedom of the lines.
What would you like a viewer to walk away with from your work?
I use lettering as an integral part of the design and I try to use well known lyrics. I like to think that people enjoy reading the lyrics and relating them to the illustration. I also hope that people will use the work.
How do you engage with the local community of designers, artists and makers?
I belong to South Wales Potters and that provides a platform to meet other potters. I also belong to the Makers Guild Wales and sell work through their gallery which involves volunteering in the gallery. I have yet to meet any other makers or artists in the Ogmore Valley.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind and get inspired?
To unwind I often just walk in the garden and things I see in the garden go onto the pots. The garden changes throughout the day as the light changes and the weather alters.
What’s the the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Best piece of advice – It’s never too late.
What are three questions you do not have an answers for?
1. How do we explain predestination in the light of free will?
2. How did I bring up four great children? (It’s possible they were switched at birth).
3. How it rains so much in the Ogmore Valley.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I am working on wassail bowls. Trying to do my own take on the wassail bowls we see in museums. This feels quite indulgent but good fun. Sometimes as a maker it’s nice to do something just because it’s fun.
Where can we see your work in 2019?
What are your dreams and aspirations for the future? How do you see yourself evolving as a ceramicist?
In many ways I am happy to just keep producing and my designs are always gradually evolving. I am hoping to make more fun sculptural pieces, a menagerie of animals and people. I would like to be able to develop more figurative illustrations based on the theme of Adam and Eve. Lots more drawing and development in my sketchbooks before I can translate some of these ideas to pots.