Mark Compton – Ceramic Artist and Potter

Mark Compton is a ceramics artist and potter, based at Westbury Farm Studios, Shenley Wood, Milton Keynes.  He uses his own hand made moulds to produce unique pieces of work, extruding handles and spouts from his own hand made dyes.
Mark’s sources of inspiration combine the natural world of plants with machinery, suits of armour and aircraft, following his interest in engineering and manufacturing.  He looks at the shapes coming from the processes of construction, merely alluding to these shapes and forms in his work.
In the past, Mark has used salt to glaze his work and is now working to develop new glazes to enhance the finished pieces.  He hopes people will not only enjoy looking at his work but will also take pleasure from the amusing and witty shapes he has created.
I met Mark at his new studio in Shenley Wood, and he talked about his craft – how and why he was first inspired and what he will be working on in the future.
Your first inspiration?
Mark was first gripped by the pottery bug on a school trip to the pottery factories in Stoke, at the age of 13.  Mark says, “I was fascinated when I saw all the processes involved in turning a lump of clay into a finished piece of work.  I was already interested in all things mechanical, but after that trip the pottery became much more of a passion to me than engineering.”
How and When did you learn?
“I learnt the basics at school, then took a series of jobs, but decided to go to Epsom School of Art and Design in Surrey.  I then worked in pottery factories for a while, gaining more skills before I went back to college, in Cardiff this time, to complete my MA in 1991.  I was lucky enough to be taught by such inspirational characters as Mick Casson, Peter Starkey and Geoffrey Swindell.”
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your craft?
“I use a technique which involves using salt in the kiln to glaze the work.  The end result is rather haphazard, but with skill and experience it is possible to achieve some control– the placing of each item within the kiln and the timing of each stage in the process is crucial to the final appearance of each piece.
The temperature within the kiln is raised to 1280°C, and after a certain time has elapsed salt is thrown in through the chimney of the kiln.  The salt causes a reaction within the kiln and so the pieces of clay are ‘glazed’.
The most enjoyable aspect of all this, is that when the kiln door closes and the processes begin, there is always the thought that ‘nothing can survive what is about to happen in there’, but when the door opens again, there inside the kiln are several perfect pieces of work – it’s a marvellous feeling.”
How do you see the world of ceramics developing?
“Pottery is slowly becoming recognised as an art form as well as a craft.  More artists are now using clay in installations – as a part of the creative process, rather than just as a material.  This shift in attitude was very clear, when ceramics artist Grayson Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003.”
Who inspires you now?
“I continue to be inspired by my three tutors in Cardiff, but also love the work of traditional potters such as Richard Batterham and Wally Keeler, and people like Neil Brownsword, Takeshi Yasuda and Adrian Saxe – all producing exceptional work.”
What are you working on now?
“This is quite an exciting time for me – as it is not possible to have a salt-glaze kiln in my new studio,  I am currently working to develop a completely new range of glazes – the finished pieces will be available soon.”
Do you have any workshops planned?
“Yes, I hope to run some workshops from the new studio at Westbury Farm Studios in Shenley Wood, Milton Keynes – details will be on the website soon.”
You can get some idea from the pictures here, that Mark’s work is unique and fascinating – to see more, or to contact Mark, check out his website at http://www.markcomptonceramics.co.uk

Mark Compton is a ceramics artist and potter, based at Westbury Farm Studios, Shenley Wood, Milton Keynes.  He uses his own hand made moulds to produce unique pieces of work, extruding handles and spouts from his own hand made dyes.
Mark’s sources of inspiration combine the natural world of plants with machinery, suits of armour and aircraft, following his interest in engineering and manufacturing.  He looks at the shapes coming from the processes of construction, merely alluding to these shapes and forms in his work.
In the past, Mark has used salt to glaze his work and is now working to develop new glazes to enhance the finished pieces.  He hopes people will not only enjoy looking at his work but will also take pleasure from the amusing and witty shapes he has created.
I met Mark at his new studio in Shenley Wood, and he talked about his craft – how and why he was first inspired and what he will be working on in the future.
Your first inspiration?Mark was first gripped by the pottery bug on a school trip to the pottery factories in Stoke, at the age of 13.  Mark says, “I was fascinated when I saw all the processes involved in turning a lump of clay into a finished piece of work.  I was already interested in all things mechanical, but after that trip the pottery became much more of a passion to me than engineering.”
How and When did you learn?“I learnt the basics at school, then took a series of jobs, but decided to go to Epsom School of Art and Design in Surrey.  I then worked in pottery factories for a while, gaining more skills before I went back to college, in Cardiff this time, to complete my MA in 1991.  I was lucky enough to be taught by such inspirational characters as Mick Casson, Peter Starkey and Geoffrey Swindell.”
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your craft?“I use a technique which involves using salt in the kiln to glaze the work.  The end result is rather haphazard, but with skill and experience it is possible to achieve some control– the placing of each item within the kiln and the timing of each stage in the process is crucial to the final appearance of each piece.
The temperature within the kiln is raised to 1280°C, and after a certain time has elapsed salt is thrown in through the chimney of the kiln.  The salt causes a reaction within the kiln and so the pieces of clay are ‘glazed’.
The most enjoyable aspect of all this, is that when the kiln door closes and the processes begin, there is always the thought that ‘nothing can survive what is about to happen in there’, but when the door opens again, there inside the kiln are several perfect pieces of work – it’s a marvellous feeling.”
How do you see the world of ceramics developing?“Pottery is slowly becoming recognised as an art form as well as a craft.  More artists are now using clay in installations – as a part of the creative process, rather than just as a material.  This shift in attitude was very clear, when ceramics artist Grayson Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003.”
Who inspires you now?“I continue to be inspired by my three tutors in Cardiff, but also love the work of traditional potters such as Richard Batterham and Wally Keeler, and people like Neil Brownsword, Takeshi Yasuda and Adrian Saxe – all producing exceptional work.”
What are you working on now?“This is quite an exciting time for me – as it is not possible to have a salt-glaze kiln in my new studio,  I am currently working to develop a completely new range of glazes – the finished pieces will be available soon.”
Do you have any workshops planned?“Yes, I hope to run some workshops from the new studio at Westbury Farm Studios in Shenley Wood, Milton Keynes – details will be on the website soon.”
You can get some idea from the pictures here, that Mark’s work is unique and fascinating – to see more, or to contact Mark, check out his website at http://www.markcomptonceramics.co.uk

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