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Joey Rutherford Cats and Ghosts

September 28, 2020

If like many people you are a fan of ceramics, cats and ghosts (or ceramic ghosts with their cats) or the ghosts of cats on ceramics or just cats, cats and more cats, then I’m sure you will love the work of today’s artist Joey Rutherford.

Even as a dog lover, I am partial to a bit of cat when it comes to ceramics and Joey does them so well. I got in touch to discover how her ceramics ‘tick’ or rather ‘purr” : )

Hi Joey, thanks for agreeing to be featured on Fishink blog, can I start by asking what is your background when it comes to ceramics, how did you get started and what first drew you to it ?
No worries, Craig, It’s great to be here. I did an A-level in ceramics and then I didn’t touch clay for about 15 years. During that time I was always drawing or making strange
little old men from paper mache. Then about four years ago, my friend managed to get me a job making ceramic Tiki barware in what was essentially, a mouse friendly warehouse, in a carpark by a canal. My manager was so knowledgeable and kind and answered all my questions and over the course of three years, I basically learned what would become my entire studio practice.

Tall cats that double as vases, short cats that sometimes become candle holders and even flat cats who mostly just live on plates.

Can you tell me more about your love of cats and the ones you create amongst the flowers. Do you make each one by hand from scratch ?

While I have always loved cats, my recent obsession does come from my cat Maeby, the only cat I have ever seen with elbows !

My practice is a mix of hand built work and slip cast pieces. Everything starts as a handbuilt piece, and then occasionally I will make a piece that I like enough to make a mould of it so I can use it for slip casting. I really like decorative folk painting, especially with floral and botanical themes. Also a cat sitting in a pretty garden is one of my favourite combinations, so that is probably what I was trying to create with those cat vases in particular.

There’s a whole host of houses, lighthouses, boats and coastal bits and bobs for us adults who still like making their own towns.

Who influences your work and if you could pick one person to collaborate with, who might that be and why ?

To be honest the work I find most influential is mostly from outsider artists or people who have died. Alfred Wallis was a Cornish fisherman and his paintings are so beautiful and Maud Lewis’s work makes me so happy but sadly both aren’t with us any longer, but if I had a DeLorean ( i.e. the car from Back to the Future) that’s who I would look up ! I think I really just like painting what makes me happy, even if that means it’s haunted villages all day long, and that is exactly what they did, they only ever painted for themselves.

I love the way that you link some of your work, like the tall ladies with towns on them. Where did these lofty beauties originate from and is the townscape based on anything real or a dream perhaps ?

Honestly I am not sure where my lady vase forms came from. I like the idea of creating a form and then only really making it recognisable as human by adding hands and a bob haircut. I have family in Prince Edward Island in Canada and the landscape there really stuck with me and I see it also in coastal villages in the UK. I have only ever lived in cities, so there is something about these little pockets of houses by the sea that I really love painting. I find the seaside a lonely sort of place even though it’s so charming, it must have something to do with how big the sea is and how tiny we are.

I’m also curious to know where the ghosts came from, I love their little towns and coastal jaunts captured so cleverly on your pots and dishes.

Well, I can give you the, ‘I think ghosts are cute’ answer, or I can give you the “I think about death often and my Catholic upbringing convinced me that there is a good chance that the people we love never leave us, they just hang about in the ether, floating above our heads”.  Either answer works and they are both equally true. I never really noticed how many of my pots had coastal themes on them, I have been going on holiday to Dorset every year since I was a child and I think my love of the sea started there.

Ceramics, jewellery and paintings too.

How important is your sketchbook in creating your ideas in clay? How much time do you spend drawing and painting ?

My sketchbook is empty, I buy them as it seems the right thing to do and then I never touch them. During my Foundation I was constantly retro-actively making sketchbooks by sticking drawings together in a book to try and show my process, but no more !  I love seeing other peoples sketchbooks, and it’s always the first thing I go to in an exhibition, but they just don’t work for me. I do draw and paint but I always skip the drafting and just go straight for the end result, which obviously never works the first time because I skipped all the sketching. I am at peace with it now.

Something for everyone, and do you think Joey will ever get bored of painting cats…

Where do you see the future for your ceramics ? Any new ranges still to be made or places you would like to sell or exhibit your work?

I have a list of so many things I want to make, what I lack in sketching I make up for in lists. I am hoping that I’ll have some lamps soon, I love lamps. Also I am working on a series of tiles based on the river Thames and, of course, more things with ghosts and cats on them. As for where I would like to sell my work, I am a sucker for a gift shop, and would love to see my work right between the fudge, tea towels and the inexplicably bouncy balls.

Thanks again, Joey for your informative and entertaining replies. More from Joey on her Instagram account here and in her Etsy shop here. What is your favourite aspect of Joey’s work ?

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