Galleries: Going to pot – Laura Aldridge and the struggle of artists in confinement


Like many of us, sculptor Laura Aldridge fell ill with confinement on the first try. The show she was frantically working on for Glasgow International was due to open in less than a month when it was canceled in March 2020, as the lockdown was announced. Everything has dried up.

“It felt like someone had hit pause on everything,” Alridge says, speaking to me after setting up his new show of raw, vibrant and tactile ceramics at CAMPLE LINE in Dumfriesshire. “We’re so used to it now, but at the start of the lockdown I found it really hard to understand what was going on. I felt like I was having some kind of breakdown. I couldn’t bring myself to be in the studio and do the kind of work I did anymore. The ideas fell. I was really questioning things. Who needs a work of art? It was so hard to do anything in those first few months.

In time, she decided to buy a small oven with the money she had received from a grant. “I thought I would make pots, not for the exhibition, but for the people. Gifts. And then it naturally seemed to me that I would think of someone as I had. It was a starting point to do something, without thinking about why.

The lack of an exhibition-oriented purpose has opened up a new way of thinking. “It was like a healthy way to work. The pots started out small, but they got bigger and bigger, ”she says, her pots becoming something more sculpturally modular, made in sections from different materials, from plastic to plaster. Soon she passed the oven.

The people she worked for were sometimes friends, sometimes artists whose work she admired. One was made for a friend whose mother had passed away. “I didn’t want to make an urn, but it’s the only jar that’s closed. And the realization that I had made an urn was very, very moving. It just happened. Thinking about the craft … I don’t tend to know exactly what the parts will look like when I start.

The urn will definitely be returned to her friend, she told me, although others cannot. “My gallery is pretty mad at me if I donate things,” she laughs.

Aldridge also knows that not everyone can afford “a huge jar,” so she also makes a lot of little things and uses them to test out her burgeoning collection of home icings, which she experimented with wildly during the lockdown, after deciding that using ready-made glazes was “almost a betrayal of those jars I had spent so much time on.” She tests her recipes on whatever she has on hand. “My dogs have pretty exceptional bowls with crazy icings!”

Alridge, who often in his practice, like many contemporary artists, designs something and then sends it to a manufacturer to be made, found the process of remaking the entire object from scratch very liberating.

“I liked going back to doing more physically myself and not relying on someone else. More interesting things happen when you do everything yourself … I learn when things go wrong, and the good thing is I can make decisions along the way.

Aldridge was lucky, she told me. She had her own studio to work in, although she quickly felt the lack of her “day job” of running workshops, often working with artists with disabilities, which she recently realized was a big deal. ‘a central facet of his work. The resulting works are immediately striking, by turns bulbous and domed, daring, awkward but pleasant, organic, tactile, colorful, icy, deeply felt. Next to ceramics, they may contain hairnets or plastic bags, as in the large-scale light sculptural form, “Compare my interiors, outside of others (it’s your freedom)” (2021 ) or the plastic net of the wall “Things that permeate you”. These new ceramic and fabric, plastic and wood banners, some with pseudo-wind chimes or mobiles protruding from them, others draped in layers of material, hang from the walls around the sculptural forms and plinths at the top. ground.

“There has definitely been a change in my work and in my approach,” says Aldridge, who tells me that she now feels a lot happier. “I’ve had a tough few years problem-solving at work, and I feel like a year of loneliness, as tough as it has been, and a year without outside pressure – then realizing that the pressure I was feeling brought me down. – even anyway – allowed me to open things up and get things done.

Her next project, once she has recovered from the installation, and the exhibition now open at Kendall Koppe in Glasgow, is a monograph on her own practice that includes a catalog, an interactive pdf and an audio book in six parts – in the Aldridge vein, an assembly of contiguous parts.

Laura Aldridge: sumVigour, CAMPLE LINE, Cample Mill, Cample, nr Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, 01848 331 000, www.campleline.org.uk Until August 29, Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment, or appointment from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., no appointment necessary

About Margaret L. Portillo

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