Ceramic artist Ronaldo Wiltshire started Motions of Clay in 2016. He is currently a ceramic technician and tutor at Kensington & Chelsea College and Hampstead School Of Art.
How long have you been working with ceramics?
Both my parents are potters so I’ve been surrounded by clay since I was a young child.
When I was growing up, my mother had her own pottery studio in St Thomas Barbados, and my dad had a studio, Indigenous Potteries, and a shop, The Clay Gallery, which was in the Pelican Craft Centre in Barbados.
A lot of my family members worked with my father at some point and I did the same throughout the school holidays. At this point I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue a career in ceramics.
My mother is now a school pottery teacher in the UK, and my dad is still a potter in Barbados.
What made you decide to make it your career?
I moved back and forth between London and Barbados until I was 12, and returned to London when I was 19. I then studied Art and Design at Croydon College and from there went on to study Product Design at Ravensbourne.
While I was studying, I lost movement in my arm for a few months and that led to months of physiotherapy. I mentioned to my physiotherapist that I worked with clay and he suggested it might be a good idea for me to get back into it as it could help with the movements in my arm. This encouraged me to buy a bag of clay and I began hand building small pieces at home. In 2014 I bought a pottery wheel. Shortly after, I found out my girlfriend was pregnant so my plans to start a business got put on hold for a little while.
In late 2015, a family member allowed me to use their spare room as my studio. I was making loads of pieces but I didn’t have a kiln to get them fired. I contacted ceramic artist Chris Bramble, who welcomed me into his studio and became a good friend.
I now had access to a kiln, but I wasn’t making any money at that point. I used to take a cab from Tottenham to Kilburn to get my pieces fired, which was costly, but it was worthwhile because I knew I was investing in my future.
Was it the idea of using the pottery to help your recovery that kept you going?
It made me think, ‘You know what? Maybe this is a sign. I have a talent and I’m not using it. I just nearly lost movement in my arm so I better use it right now.’
How has working with clay helped you?
Working with clay has helped me a lot both mentally and physically. It’s helped me feel happier in myself because when I lost movement in my arm, it was a very low and depressing time.
My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2006, and we all get together to help him, which can be stressful for my family. I can sit at the pottery wheel and throw clay for hours. It’s a way to escape and not think about anything at all.
What do you enjoy most about making pottery?
I like the feeling of clay. Especially terracotta – it brings back good memories from my childhood in Barbados.
What have your achievements been so far?
It’s still early stages and I see myself as an emerging artist. My first exhibition was in June. It was a group exhibition with other ceramic artists and potters, which was a big deal for me. In July I organised a pop up exhibition with one of the students from Kensington and Chelsea in Babajanis Deli on Portobello Road. It was a great experience and quite overwhelming.
What products have you got on offer?
I make functional as well as decorative ceramic pieces, including domestic ware such a bowls, mugs and plates. I really enjoy making oil burners as they can be used for natural healing and relaxation.
One of the product lines I’m currently working on is a series of face sculptures which are based on my brother. He has a very outgoing and bright personality. When he’s in a bad mood, it can be very tough for not only him but also the family.
I decided to take an abstract approach with the glazing to make them all a bit different which represents his personality.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to spend a lot more time in the studio creating new products. I’m still yet to have a solo exhibition so that’s definitely in the pipeline.
This article first appeared in the Craft issue of Discovering Tottenham which was released in November 2018.