A Conversation with Makers in Somerset

Juli Bolaños-Durman, Wild Flowers Collection in collaboration with Jorum Studio, 2019. Photo: Shannon Tofts

  • 16 August 2019

Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset is a destination for contemporary making and the crafted object. The latest exhibition, ‘Re.Use, Re.Think, Re.Imagine’, brings together seven UK-based experimental artists and makers including Juli Bolaños-Durman and Alice Walton, who challenge traditional conceptions of craft and functional design. Bolaños-Durman reconfigures discarded glass, creating luxurious sculptural pieces with hand-cut details, while Walton allows her ceramic structures to evolve over time, highlighting intricate textured surfaces. The two makers have come together for a conversation about their influences, the meditative spaces forged through collaborative display and their shared interrogation of material and process.

Can you tell us about your practice?

Juli Bolaños-Durman: Waste material is the starting point for my work, as it invites the audience to delve into a magical world of second chances. I’m interested in how the visceral bond between maker and material permeates the creative process, guiding it to become something new and embody an authentic story. In the end, these objects honour that instinctual need to create something with our hands, and how this act of making connects us to our forefathers, foremothers and the future.  The primary theme within my creative process is the exploration of preciousness and how intuitive play jump-starts the creation of new ideas within the studio practice. Preciousness is not only the value or quality of the materials themselves but also the journey of transformation they represent. I find myself treasuring objects that act as storytellers and constitute experiences that are a link to emotional connections. Therefore, it is essential for the creative process to give the artwork the same significance, disregarding where it came from or how it was constructed. I create raw pieces that are put together intuitively through the joyfulness of play, explore the different materials to create new meaning and invite the viewer to become part of the journey.

Alice Walton: For the exhibition ‘Re. Use, Re. Think, Re. Imagine’, I wanted to focus on material exploration, pushing the conventional processes of ceramics to be more unusual. I wanted to work with a process I have been developing over the past two years since I graduated from the Royal College of Art. This technique combines individual porcelain components and fuses them with glaze to reimagine a form derived from a pixel component.

Juli Bolaños-Durman. Installation view, ‘Re.Use, Re.Think, Re.Imagine’, Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2019

Alice Walton, Mandore, 2019. Installation view, ‘Re.Use, Re.Think, Re.Imagine’, Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2019

How familiar were you with each other's work prior to the exhibition?

JBD: Alice and I exhibited at the Inaugural Cræftiga Prize Exhibition launched by Hole & Corner at the ‘British Craft Pavilion’ during London Design Festival 2018. This is where I saw her work for the first time.

AW: I really enjoyed seeing Juli’s work at the opening and discussing construction, stacking and colour choice with her. I absolutely love her rich, jewel-like colours.

Each perspective exhibited during this show is completely unique, yet the common denominator is story-telling led by curiosity.

How did you find the experience of showing work together?

AW: I hope that by showing our work side by side, a viewer will be encouraged to look closer and question my construction techniques, which are made more apparent by Juli’s forthright use of stacking. I also hope that both our works’ have a light hearted, playful feel. Juli’s work lets you imagine the previous uses of glass material, and mine brings up new sources of inspiration. Our bodies of work have different stories behind them, which in turn, starts a conversation.

JBD: The collaboration has given us a space for new ideas and initiating critical dialogue among fellow artists and platforms. In the long term, the overall experience has challenged me and my practice into understanding my work’s place in the context of contemporary making, as well as helping me to develop a more open community of creatives. I think it is a brilliant opportunity to showcase work alongside a more diverse group of makers that explore mediums in different ways. Each perspective exhibited during this show is completely unique, yet the common denominator is story-telling led by curiosity, which ended up creating authentic pieces that utilize waste materials. When displaying work in a group, I have found that there has to be enough space—figuratively speaking, a diversity in expressions—for the works to stand out collectively and conceptually inhabit a  common thread. At the same time, it’s essential to allow the uniqueness of each participant to engage with the audience in distinct ways.

Alice Walton, Mirasi Lock (detail), 2019. Installation view, ‘Re.Use, Re.Think, Re.Imagine’, Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2019

Installation view, ‘Re.Use, Re.Think, Re.Imagine’, Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 2019

What have you learned from each other’s practice?

JBD: I really enjoy the meticulous attention to detail and the calm feeling that Alice's sculptures embody. The repetition of element by element make up intricate compositions that soothe and bring to life simple, yet complex shapes. Her work personifies the connection between the maker, the material and the process, whilst allowing the audience into this meditation.

AW: I have really enjoyed realising that we are both connected to and inspired by India. I visited Rajasthan in 2018 and was enamored by the combination of colours used. This resulted in my passion for colouring clays to create vibrant, pastel palettes for my sculptures. Juli visited Kolkata in 2019 to collaborate with the Karwaan Design Project and local glass craftsmen from the Firozabad community (which has 500 years of Persian glass tradition). I feel between both of our practices, this implicit connection with India gives our work a joyful variety of similarities.

We both want to explore different materials and challenge the boundaries of art and its meaning.

Alice Walton, Barber Hill Climb, 2019

Juli Bolaños-Durman. Installation view, ‘Re.Use, Re.Think, Re.Imagine’, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Make, 2019

Do you see any similarities between your individual practice or approach to materials?

AW: I think there are similarities between our individual approaches to the material. An approach to form in terms of construction, stacking and combining shapes is prescient in her work, and known in mine. I made most of my forms in the show by combining different moulds together to create new shapes. I feel that we both want to create raw pieces put together with sensitivity. This is enacted through the joyfulness of play. We both want to explore different materials and ideas to challenge the boundaries of art and its meaning.

JBD: I can relate very much to Alice's approach to making as a meditation and as an open, flowing space that exists without judgment. When time is flying by and we are busier by the minute, moments of quiet and making with our hands is a great way to regenerate and to foster that sense of joy that is vital to our happiness. The sculptures are the culmination of this energy transformed and I can very much relate to this in my approach. I can appreciate from afar that Alice focuses on the task at hand like me, one component at a time. It’s only until we step back that we can appreciate the piece as a whole; how the process was guided by the act of creation and how it’s essence brings the piece to life.

‘Re.Use, Re.Think, Re.Imagine’ is on view at Make, Hauser & Wirth Somerset from 19 October 2019 – 1 January 2020. The exhibition is open for extended hours during ‘Bruton Christmas Evening: Make Late Night Opening’ on 4 December 2019.