An experienced painter, Belinda Wiltshire says she started her ‘somewhat meandering’ journey towards ceramics after attending her first wheel-throwing class in 2015.
‘Shortly after the class I etched out a modest wheel setup within my painting studio, and remained content for a while just making for fun and practice’, Belinda says. A few years later, though, she decided to take her hobby more seriously, and expanded to a dedicated workspace.
Initially, it was a bit of a power struggle to balance her two creative practices. Belinda admits she used to try and keep painting and ceramics separate – even sometimes feeling guilty for giving one more attention than the other! ‘I don’t know where it happened along the line in the mainstream art industry, but there was always this unidentifiable pressure to make one type of work in one medium,’ she says. ‘It took me years to feel comfortable to let one practice sit on the sidelines while I focused on the other, but I’m well over that now.’
Now, the versatile creative floats freely between painting from her at-home studio, and working on her ceramic art at her new, 9sqm studio space in Preston.
Belinda’s heroes range from prolific artists like Louise Bourgeois (who maintained confidence to work in whichever medium or discipline she liked) and Bauhaus-trained ceramicist Marguerite Wildenhain. But her current pottery work also has another surprising source of inspiration: the geometric, ballet costumes of Oskar Schlemmer, a painter, sculptor, choreographer, and designer known for his ballet productions with the Bauhaus School.
‘His use of basic shapes and bold lines in a kind of mischievous and unexpected way is kindred with how I’d like my work to manifest,’ Belinda says.
Belinda says she’s drawn on Oskar Schlemmer’s whimsical, layered forms to create her own visual language in her sculptural vessels and objects. Just like his avant-garde costumes, Belinda’s sculptural works have an impressive presence, characterised by bold silhouettes and decorative, black stripes painted onto natural-coloured clay.
‘My works are comprised of a selection of what you might call building blocks. Each final piece is a compilation of smaller basic forms which are then stacked and joined,’ Belinda explains. The overall process happens organically, without any rigid planning as a way to give the handcrafted results an extra sense of character. It also means each piece is a one-off.
‘Both in my painting and ceramic art once I focus in on a concept or technique, I try to immerse myself and fully explore it,’ Belinda muses. ‘I will inevitably move on, but there will always be traces of each movement in my visual language, one development will inform the next.’