Mémoire Désir

Karen Swami

Karen Swami

Karen Swami plays with materials, fire and oxides, pushing traditional craft techniques to their limits.

Working with sandstone and earthenware, she simplifies volume and enhances colour. The pot becomes an art object, fragile, original, imposing. Her work is full of mystery and shadows, inspired by Etruscan vases yet deeply modern and characterised by perfect lines. Her maxim 'the thought creates the material'; informs much of her work.

In western tradition, once a piece of ceramics is cracked or broken, it is discarded. However, the inevitable cracks inherent in ceramic work can create singular and harmonious designs. Karen repairs cracks with vegetable lacquer (urushi) sprinkled with gold (kintsugi) or silver and sometimes pewter. Instead of being hidden or masked over, the weakness is enhanced.

Her works are thrown and whilst still raw, polished at length with agate. After being fired in an electric kiln the pieces are removed at between 800 and 900°C and submerged in wood shavings. On contact with the blazing ceramics the shavings begin to burn and the smoke penetrates the clay. Karen can modify air exposure and create dense smoke around the piece to bring about a variety of different results.