Mudbelly x Ssōne N°2
Mudbelly is founded by Phoebe Collings-James, and is the gut of her ceramics practice and research which is described as “a transformative, yard art sculpture space for tender, haptic objects. Wheel-thrown functional vessels exist alongside hand built sculpture, as I continue to study the form"
We are proud to present the second collection of Mudbelly ceramics at our Chiltern Street store, where Phoebe has taken over our window creating an installation with a limited edition series.
Mudbelly has created a bespoke series of vessels here on display at Ssōne as part of a continued collaboration with Ssōne Circle - our nonprofit organisation that advocates community and crafts through a series of ongoing events and collaborative projects.
We joined Phoebe in her studio in East London to see the making of the collection and catch up since our first collaboration.
What’s was your childhood or earliest ambition?
All versions of an artist, musician, dancer, clothes designer, film director, witch... miriad fantasy worlds to transport me elsewhere.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I am understanding the value of a mentor more since working in ceramics, as the technical skills needed are gathered over years and decades, with an ingrained dedication to passing them on generationally from person to person. In my wider art practice I have worked in a far more solo and dexterous way, less methodically. Doing what I want to do! Which does not often lend itself to the discipline of the mentor kind of relation. Mostly I look to close friends and peers for guidance, in a constant reciprocal process of learning. My studio mate Grace McCarthy has been whipping my throwing skills into shape recently which I have greatly appreciated, she is an excellent teacher which was especially inspiring - it led me to understand new things about what makes a great teaching experience; it being not only about holding the knowledge but how you are able to articulate it. Other artists who are mentors include Rebecca Bellantoni, Magdalene Odundo, Beverley Buchanan and my friend Seraphine 1369, who has been a constant agitator & accomplice in my art life since we met at college. They're probably the closest thing I have to a traditional mentor. Perhaps because they are so close to me. I have been thinking a lot about self-as-mentor, re-learning how to listen to the knowledge we hold in our liminal spaces, within our bodies and (sub) consciousness'.
Some of the people who are mentors to me might not even know it like Odundo & Buchanan! I don't think there always has to be a spoken dialogue, instead gaining understanding through researching other artists' practice. Paying attention to their ebbs and flows, returning to them over time.
I wonder too about how new forms of mentor relationships can be made that are not born of patriarchal, colonial or industrialist capitalist structures! How can a queer, reciprocal pedagogy of mentorship exist for ceramic culture that passes on all the vital learning in a way that does not repeat an ablist misogeny! It is possible.
Can you explain a little more about your process, what materials do you use? Do you have a favourite tool?
Currently I am using clay and sound as my primary materials, the overlap is quite hmm. It makes sense to me. I want to give language to my thoughts on this but I have not found them yet! Homework. My favourite tool is probably a new turning tool, it is almost razor sharp and I get a deep sense of satisfaction from watching layers curl off the clay as I shape it on the wheel.
What drew you to working with Ssōne?
I was pleased to read about Ssōnes commitment to sustainability and to see that it went alongside beautifully designed clothes. I like that you are not following outdated fashion show cycles, esp ones that do not work for fledgling businesses and cause toxic quantities of waste. The ambitions for the space to work in a collective , collaborative way speak to me too.
I have worked in fashion on and off in different guises since I was a teenager, the unethical nature of the business has always been a point of intense wrangling. As a result I have kept my art practice quite separate from fashion contexts, protectively. While it has been important to hold space in this way, with the Mudbelly project and especially the functional ceramics I feel there is an opportunity to be more free in their connections. I have been enjoying the space opened up by design to explore the objects we desire to live with and adorn ourselves. It weaves through the breadth of my work I think. I taught a class on devotional objects recently, the students were from a contemporary dance school in London and through the dialogue we extracted a lot about the things we find to be vital in our surroundings. The devotional object as messenger. The body as messenger. The body as parable... From our conversations this sensibility feels close to the ethos of Ssone.
Rest. And then a commission for a set of Solstice plates. In October I am releasing a new sound piece Can You Move Towards Yourself Without Flinching?, on Takuroku the new record label by Cafe Oto.
Phoebe is photographed in her East London studio wearing our Greenham Knit