Here’s my statement about my work, how it comes about and my intentions in making it. It’s written in the first person, that’s intentional, I don’t want to mystify my work by pretending to be someone else writing about me:



I work predominantly with clay, making figures, objects and installations which are fired and sometimes glazed. I make drawings too, not just to work out what to make and how but as artwork in its own right.

Clay is a fantastically expressive medium if you understand how it behaves in different states and conditions. It’s my medium of choice, I work with its qualities and investigate its limitations. I am not averse to including other materials but most of the time I don’t.

History, skill, pottery

Ceramics was invented in prehistoric times, you might say it has a track record. Try spending a morning in the V & A ceramics galleries in London to get a real sense of this. Working directly with your hands with a pliable material that preserves your actions is a pleasure and a challenge. Part of the challenge consists of all the amazing (and ordinary) work that has gone before. Working with ceramics does not feel like a limited palette to me. Most of my work has now stopped looking like it but pottery is present in many of the techniques I use, it is even present in my avoidance of utilitarian forms. I generally create shell forms in clay, that is, I work out ways of making small structures that support themselves with their external shape just like pottery does. You need to acquire skill to be articulate with clay, that is an interesting and fruitful subject in itself.

Meaning and intent

In terms of meaning, I think my work is broadly about what it means to be a man in the era following the rise of feminist ideas since my childhood. Recently my output has largely consisted of male figures. This is the result of a decision to try and reflect my interest in personal growth and gender politics. I don’t intend to be evangelical or didactic with the subject, and I can’t tell if my thinking really comes across, the ideas are not exactly spelt out. These ideas are visually or physically expressed in clay and glaze rather than in the form of words so it’s quite hard to translate exactly what they are saying even when you know the intention behind them.

Men and feminism

Feminism was the liberation movement that had the most direct influence on my own experience. The challenging of gender roles and expectations has rippled outwards to anyone that is receptive and changed them, it also forced reluctant transformations. Men have adapted during my lifetime and will have to continue to do so, much of the change has been prompted by feminism although it is rarely credited, often blamed. I may be gloriously out of step with, my time, my country and many of my own gender but this is all part of the new diversity that is in the throes of coming to terms with its own nature. I believe the current turbulence in western politics is largely due to the crisis in masculinity that great changes in technology have brought to the surface.

Hybrid directions

My artwork is now a hybrid somewhere between contemporary sculpture and the tradition of figure making from the Staffordshire potteries with an undercurrent of identity politics. My tacit skills and my art education often pulled in opposite directions and left me with an enduring sense of myself as an artist and a sometime outsider, my later education through psycho-analysis gave me a drive to heal myself and perhaps a few others. This aspect of my development has led me to start The Artists Space, a series of workshops, talks and individual sessions reflecting on the dilemmas of choosing to be an artist.

Simon Fell's Axisweb profile