The Journal | Karin Blach Nielsen - Tactility and Gentleness
It's been 30 years since Karin Blach Nielsen touched clay for the first time; it was the beginning of a journey that led her to study ceramics at The Royal College of Art in London and to open up her own studio when she returned to Copenhagen.
I met Karin in her studio in Vesterbro in Copenhagen on a sunny Tuesday back in November and we chatted about her journey so far, how she stay present during all steps of the process, and the Danish ceramics tradition.
So, let's get to know Karin a little better.
"I look at ceramics like ”signs of life”; when you place a piece of ceramic in a room an atmosphere is set and the place starts to live – you can start to make your own story around every object"
Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, Karin
Yes of course. I grew up on the small island Als in South of Denmark, but I now live an work in Copenhagen. It must be 30 years ago since I used clay for the first time at ”Engelsholm Folk High School and since then I have learned various techniques and methods during my studies at Designskolen Kolding and Royal College of Art. Now I am back at the wheel throwing stoneware for exploring the glazes – a niche within ceramic making that I've always been fascinated by.
Photo credit: Birgitte Røddik
What words do you think best describes your ceramics?
My pieces are tactile, sensuous, playful, and calm; they are diverse and always in change. Working with the glazes I am engaged with how we are influenced by the quality in the material, by colours and tactility. I mostly focus on function, form and the processing of the material rather than on storytelling.
Yet I look at ceramics like ”signs of life”; when you place a piece of ceramic in a room an atmosphere is set and the place starts to live – you can start to make your own story around every object.
Have your working method changed over time?
I've never been too obsessed with one specific style or method of making, I've been more focused on following and testing ideas in various projects. I work and select projects very intuitively although each step in the making process is carefully planned. I think diversity and change should be the keyword at any time because it stop oneself from ”doing by habit”. It somehow force oneself to stay present during all steps in the process and this hopefully is visible in the finished piece.
Karin Blach Nielsen vase available in the shop
"I've simplified every step in the making process, even the spray cabin for glazing is down and I apply the glaze only by dipping or pouring"
How do you bring your ideas to life?
I adapt my working method to the type of object I make or to the subject I want to focus on. Now the glaze work is my first priority and the reason why I practice the wheel throwing again. My thrown ceramics are made barely for the glazes. Many of my pieces and glazes could be seen as a kind of prototype, all of them with the potential for further development. At the moment I like to work on several glazes at the same time – it's like learning to play several instruments before I compose the song.
I've simplified every step in the making process, even the spray cabin for glazing is down and I apply the glaze only by dipping or pouring. I can be very split between making the functional or sculptural objects because I really love both areas. Right now, to be able to explore the glazes freely, I prioritise the aesthetic and visual element more than the functional.
Karin Blach Nielsen bowl available in the shop
"My life in Copenhagen makes me more aware of the country scenery, such as subtle changes in the light, nuances in a cornfield or the bright sea; sceneries and ”colour landscapes” that I often recognise in my glazes"
Where do you find inspiration?
I'm affected and inspired by all sorts of things in my surroundings. Now living in Copenhagen I look at architecture or colour clashes in the streets. Growing up on an island I also need the country and the seaside to clear my mind. My life in Copenhagen makes me more aware of the country scenery, such as subtle changes in the light, nuances in a cornfield or the bright sea; sceneries and ”colour landscapes” that I often recognise in my glazes.
Karin Blach Nielsen vase available in the shop
What do you think characterises contemporary Danish ceramics?
I think contemporary ceramics in Denmark both signal curiosity, quality and dedication to the material. During the last 8 years the popularity for ceramics just went up and up thanks to a crowd of makers insisting on being visible through galleries, shops and the social media. All this happening at the same time as the educational institutions closed down their ceramic departments.
Said that, when you look at new conceptual or classic ceramics, then the Danish ceramic tradition is both being neglected and embraced; no matter how one tackles the influence of our ceramic predecessor we are all pupils of the same solid tradition to learn and to build from. Exactly this awareness of tradition is what keeps the wheels running and hopefully enhance the broad diversity of expression.
"We are all pupils of the same solid tradition to learn and to build from"
Thank you so much for telling us about your working process and inspiration, Karin. We look forward to following your work in the future.
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