Meet The Maker: Vivienne Yankah

Throughout July 2019, Ramsgate-based ceramicist Vivienne Yankah had her gorgeous ceramics on display in our shop. Her work is inspired by the Kent coastline and the seaside settlements it harbours, from chalk stones to rusting buoys, and she's based at Marl Studios in Broadstairs. To celebrate her pop-up, we've spoken to Vivienne about her practice and are offering a curated range of her tea-light holders and oil-burners to purchase online. Read on to learn more, or browse the collection.

Hi Vivienne! Tell us, how did you start making?

My love affair with clay started at secondary school with an inspirational teacher and continued throughout my adult life attending evening classes whilst I worked and had my children, who are now adults. I made the move from London to Ramsgate three years ago, ready to make changes in my life, and be a full-time artist for the first time.

My first ceramics space was at Clayspace in Margate - what a fabulous place. I flourished with the support and encouragement of a wonderful group of people there. It became my artistic home and family for two years. Looking back, it feels like I was honing my ceramic skills in London in preparation for this part of my journey. 

Where do you create your work now, and what inspires you to make it?

Now I work at Marl Studios with a good friend and potter. It's great sharing a space with him, bouncing ideas of each other, working together on projects and having a large space to build my pieces.

My environment always inspires me and the coastal inspiration is limitless. Here, in Thanet, the creative side of my ceramics has really taken off. I enjoy discovering an old buoy, a chalk stone that talks to me, the texture of peeling paint on an old boat and much more, and seeing how it will inform my work. It excites me that this will continue for as long as I create.

Tell us about your process. What aspect do you enjoy the most?

I love the mindfulness of ceramics, handling the clay and spending time creating something is very therapeutic.The coastline inspiration develops through drawings, photography and on walks, stopping and building markers that lead into the shape/form of my vessels, whereas a descriptive line of a stone, body or figure informs surface decoration.

Primarily, I slab build sculptural pieces with stoneware clay and embrace happy accidents, a wayward slab can enhance or change the direction of the piece. And I love getting my hands dirty! I also enjoy slip casting with porcelain. The lightness and smooth surfaces are wonderfully tactile, a natural choice for me with the stone walls that I cast.

What's your experience been as a part of Thanet's creative community?

I've had a terrific time meeting so many wonderful creative people here. My first point of contact was Clayspace, where I could make my work, meet other potters and make good friends. I feel accepted and have had opportunities to be challenged in making new artworks, totally out of my comfort zone but so exciting and rewarding.

One such experience was the creation of my ceramic sound piece, Resonance, which was made for an evening show held by the Meridian 5.41 group. This a group which I and four other artists have set up in Ramsgate to give artists an opportunity to show work for one night only. This has introduced me to more creatives around Thanet and possible collaborations. Being open to ideas and opportunities has opened up a whole new artistic life for me.

We'd love to know, has our programme had any influence on your practice?

Having Turner Contemporary on my doorstep is fantastic - I visit regularly. I love that the works can challenge and provoke ideas I can play with in my work. The exhibition programme has also made me think about how an exhibition can speak to you or not and has opened my eyes to other art practices, like curation.

I particularly enjoyed the Entangled: Threads & Making exhibition - I liked that it involved only female artists, using wide variety of materials and textiles.
Browse the Vivienne Yankah range here and keep up to date with Vivienne by following her on Instagram.