I want my work to reveal both the clay's original wet soft malleable state and the transforming action of the fire, and to contain an awareness of the earth/clay/body link: our relationship to the elements, the seasons, the action of time, the landscape.
In my work text is important: I use lettering as an architectural framework for the design, both as a mapping device, and as an entry to the volume enclosed. The marks on the surface lead the eye to the inner space that the pot contains (not only in vessels but also to the implicit space contained within the planes of wall panels). Setting a poem in this way gives both an immediate visual apprehension, and a slower, more contemplative reading which can lead to an enhanced awareness of the text. I liken this process to that of setting poetry to music, with the same implication of translation and reinterpretation.
I work in white stoneware, throwing on the wheel or handbuilding; with the clay I often use reclaimed or found materials. I sometimes use paperclay and I also work with hand-made recycled cotton rag paper (khadi), which in its turn has qualities closely related to the clay. I like to include chance elements contributed by the firing, or by the quirks of found materials, as well as the inevitable changes and patina contributed by time, and the themes that emerge in a sequence of related works.
I decorate with underglaze oxides onto the raw dried clay with a brush, freehand. I sometimes use 9ct gold lustres, and some pots are glazed with a clear feldspar glaze fired to 1255° with green electricity. When working with found materials I use natural pigments and raw materials - charcoal, beeswax, salt, sand, driftwood, linen, ink - and I use random mark-making tools - wooden peg, clay shard, slate fragment, flint, feather.
I also handbuild architectural low-relief sculptures, often as individual house portraits, where proportion, texture and balance are key elements in achieving a likeness; a Georgian brick house facade will be handbuilt in terracotta, a visual pun again reflecting my interest in the relation between surface and inner space.
Liz Mathews, studio potter and lettering artist, set up her first pottery in London in 1986 with her partner the writer Frances Bingham, after graduating in Art History from Warwick University.
They opened The Wisbech Pottery in 1989, and moved back to London in 1996 and opened Whitechapel Pottery;
After ten years in Whitechapel, they moved to their fourth pottery in 2006, Potters' Yard in North London, where they now work.
At all four potteries, Liz has made major commissions for public spaces, including the Jubilee bowl for the National Trust at Peckover House, a Memorial bowl for the Royal London Hospital Trust, lettered panels for theatres, hospitals and museums and architectural low-relief sculptures for the National Trust, as well as thousands of private commissions including (for example) a 90th birthday bowl for the playwright Christopher Fry.
Exhibitions have included Baked Earth and True Fire (at Wisbech and Fenland Museum), A Midsummer Cushion (at Wisbech Pottery), Timepieces and Winter Blues at Whitechapel Pottery, Continuous Cities at The Drill Hall 1997 and inner space in the.gallery@oxo in 2001.
Group shows included Best of Hackney at The Geffrye Museum Design Centre and Pride and Prejudice at The Museum of London.
Recent solo exhibitions include a three-month residency at London's Southbank Centre, with an exhibition in the Poetry Library (Journey from Winter) and a series of gallery talks, as part of the Southbank Centre's 2008 programme.
Liz contributed the images to a limited edition artists' book MOTHERTONGUE, with text by Frances Bingham, published in 1999, and her lettered panel Spacewater is the cover image for Journey from Winter: The Poetry of Valentine Ackland, Carcanet Press 2008.
Press coverage of Liz's work has appeared in The Guardian, The Times, Ceramic Review, Diva and The Pink Paper, Guardian Weekend, Time Out and Country Living, as well as BBC Radio and Anglia TV.