Frances Priest is an Edinburgh based artist who says that "At the heart of my practice is a long held interest in clay..." This simple line belies the sheer creativity and cleverness of her work, and it is this, and the variety of projects she is drawn to, which I found so very interesting.
Patternbooth: Tell me about your work.
Frances: My work explores pattern and ornament in decorative art and design; where it is found, how it is used and the craft process involved in it’s production. Recently I have been drawn to pattern books and to thinking about how they are compiled and used by designers and crafts people. I think ornament is interesting because it is a visual language that can communicate a great deal about people, places and cultures.
I enjoy the idea of the mobility of ornament and how, through reproduction, motifs evolve and change as a consequence of the individual makers hand, manufacturing processes and
materials. I am fascinated by the accessibility of pattern and how we all seem to have a connection to, or understanding of languages of ornament. Pattern books in particular seem to embody the democratic nature of pattern, offering an open source of ideas which can be used and adapted. These interests fuel work across a range of platforms from gallery exhibitions and designs commissions through to residencies and socially engaged projects.
Patternbooth: You exhibit and you produce commission work. How does they differ?
Frances: I view these contexts very differently, exhibitions offer the space to think, explore, play and then present a set of ideas whereas commissions ask you to respond to a particular set of criteria. Both offer interesting challenges and open up news ways of thinking and definitely feed off one another.
Patternbooth: What are you inspired by?
Frances: So many different sources it would be hard to pin these down; people, places, travel, conversations, museums, galleries, books, objects, artworks, but I think at the heart of it all is an interest in making and materials.
Patternbooth: What got you started?
Frances: Again this is hard to pin point but I have always been more of a doer than a thinker, and I certainly have very strong memories of making and constructing things as a child. The process of making things seems to be a very important idea and something I explore through the residencies and socially engaged projects I undertake. My focus on working with clay came about through my education and in particular an inspirational artist and tutor called David Roberts.
Patternbooth: What are your biggest challenges and what are you most proud of?
Frances: I find working with ceramics extremely challenging, the material and processes can be very unforgiving and work can be lost at so many different stages of the making process. But when a piece of work finally comes together it can be very rewarding.
I think it is the diversity of my practice and the projects I undertake that I'm most proud of. I enjoy finding ways of sharing my passion for making with people, whether that be through presenting an exhibition in a gallery or making fortnightly visits to an elderly woman who is teaching me to crochet. The common denominator is the fundamentally human act of making.
Patternbooth: What's next?
Frances: Time in the studio developing a new body of work called Gathering Places.
Patternbooth: What is the best business decision you've made?
Frances: I have yet to make it!
Patternbooth: What advice would you give someone starting out?
Frances: Enjoy the journey.
You can find our more about the work and projects of Frances by visiting her site www.francespriest.co.uk.