Exploring Strangeness in Nature

Tessa Eastman is an award winning British ceramic artist with over twenty years’ experience of working with clay. She lives and works in London UK. Tessa graduated from the University of Westminster in 2006 with a BA Honours in Ceramics, and in 2015 gained a MA in Ceramics & Glass from one of the world’s most reputable design schools, The Royal College of Art.

She worked in London and France from 2002 to 2007 as an assistant to renowned ceramicist Kate Malone who featured in the Great British Pottery Throw Down BBC TV series. Tessa has been teaching since 2005 and currently runs ceramic sculpture courses at The Heatherley School of Art, one of London’s oldest Independent art colleges where all tutors are practicing artists.

Her dynamic work is at the vanguard of the British contemporary ceramic art scene and in her relatively short career she has been able to impress many with her originality, skill and above all with a daring new approach to the art form. Tessa’s meticulously hand built cloud bundles and complex crystal formations have found a serious following among collectors and gallery owners and her sculptures have been commissioned and presented by the financial firms Abacus in 2003 Gresham Private Equity in 2006.

Tessa was shortlisted along with nine other makers for the Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize in 2017 and won the Craft Emergency Award, with an exhibition at Aspex Gallery (Portsmouth, 2016). She has been exhibiting in the UK and abroad since 2005 and notable shows include Puls Contemporary Ceramics at Gallery Puls (Brussels, 2017) and Collect: the International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects with Fiona Barratt-Campbell Interiors at the Saatchi Gallery (London, 2017). Tessa’s work has been selected for Biennials including the British Ceramics Biennial at the Old Spode Factory (Stoke-on-Trent, 2015) and the Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale (Korea, 2017).

She set up her first studio in 2005 in West London in an Old Gas Works building. In 2015, she joined Manifold, a collective studio based under an East London railway arch and founded in 2010 by a group of emerging artists and designers from The Royal College of Art. In 2017 she was granted a space at Cockpit Arts, Deptford, the UK’s only business incubator for craftspeople.

Tessa’s work appears curiously alive with movement. Building her shapes by hand, she draws inspiration from organic forms as seen through a microscope. The artist explores the strangeness of growth of natural phenomena in which systems flow and digress from an intended pattern. She subsequently attempts to translate her findings in colourful glazed ceramics.

Grouping her works highlights the contrast and creates a dialogue between pieces whereby negative space is valued as much as positive space. While creating she looks for differences such as soft and hard, order and chaos, geometry and irregularity. Tessa says: “I aim to fix ungraspable states such as fleeting clouds, which represent both the ideal and the perishable, the doom and the fantasy”. She calls herself ‘a modeller at heart’ and it is through sensitivity to form and glaze that her pieces become animated. Much time is therefore invested in glaze research and testing. Tessa says: “Colour is inspiring to me and it can help create distinction between form and shape. Matt and shiny, coarse and smooth and hot and cool coloured glazes are used to offer depth of character to a work”.