Off a drab residential street in South London is a cobbled mews, plants spilling over the rims of their pots and climbing up the victorian brickwork of the buildings. It is here that Daniel Reynolds, a luminary of handmade ceramics pottery with a unique style and vision, has his studio. We dropped by to get to know him and his work better.
Hi Daniel, lovely to meet you! How are you?
I’m great thanks – I’ve just had open studios, so I’ve been run off my feet!
I can only imagine. I know you’re a busy man, so let’s get straight to it – what coffee will you be drinking?
Usually whatever I have – today it’s a nice strong Colombian from around the corner.
Delicious! So, what’s your story, Daniel? What led you to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Venezuela, where I lived until I was nine. Back then it was a very different place: Venezuelan Modernism was in full swing, the art, and architecture that surrounded us was wonderful. It was a really inspiring time. I came to the UK to attend boarding school in rural Oxfordshire – gorgeous countryside, but quite a change!
It must have been! What was it like?
I remember the first winter it snowed; before that, I had only ever seen snow on a trip to the high Venezuelan Andes. I was shocked when everyone started to change into running shorts to play soccer! I remember writing home to my parents telling them that it was cold and I’d really like to come home now.
Was it at school that you first encountered pottery?
Like most people, I worked with clay in art class. My school had a fantastic art department which not many people used. They made us all feel like we were artists at 15! I was training in furniture making and had a small cabinet that needed small porcelain feet and handles. I went to the ceramics department and learned how to make them – I’ve never forgotten that first feeling of excitement and wonderment.
So you started off as a carpenter?
Indeed – I worked at that for a decade or so and loved it, but slowly I began doing more and more handmade ceramics until it became my main focus. I still like carpentry though, you can see signs of it around my studio.
What is it about ceramics that engages you?
An important aspect is a direct lineage that the craft traces through history, especially when using traditional hand building techniques – countless people in countless places throughout time have done the same, you know. There’s also the satisfying quality of the material in its raw state, and the forever-surprising transformation it undergoes during firing.
You work a lot with stoneware – how come?
Yes, my handmade ceramics pots and sculptures need to be watertight and weatherproof, so I predominantly use stoneware. It’s good clay for this: it won’t absorb water which might then freeze, expand the body of clay and crack the piece. Slightly mundane reasons, but that’s why!
Not at all – form and function are forever interwoven. Where does your inspiration come from?
Well, the first years of my life in Caracas were very formative. As I said, I was surrounded by modernist architecture, houses that were post-Bauhaus with a Spanish colonial influence, very unique to that time and place. They were filled with Scandinavian furniture and carefully placed geometric and cubist art – what we consider high design today. Most of it was lost in the following decades, but it always stayed with me and I guess now comes out in my work.
That’s fascinating – you can certainly sense an architectural element to your work.
Yes, architecture has always been an interest.
What is your process when making one of your pieces?
It depends on the piece. Many of my lampshades are handmade porcelain molds of found objects, things that speak to me, you know. With my handmade ceramics pots, I often make studies – tiny little things that allow me to see how the finished piece may look and how to produce it.
The forms and patterns of your ceramic pots, whilst evocative of many different things, are very unique – what informs them?
Well, inspiration comes from all over – I think it’s how inspiration manifests itself within each person that is truly an art. I love working with light; the way in which angular forms can project completely different countenances from the same finish, the same material, just through the play of light and shadow. Light is the most fundamental tool with which an artist works, and the hardest to master!
Well, I’d say you had! This space is incredibly inspiring! It’s definitely an eclectic step out of London.
Thank you, I’m glad to hear it! Yes, there are many aspects here which are not British, but there is a lot that is also. I take inspiration from many mid-twentieth-century British artists, especially in my sculptural work. The English Constructionist movement in particular: artists such as Kenneth Martin; Peter Lowe; Victor Pasmore; Adrian Heath – the list goes on!
Where do you see yourself going in the future?
World domination! Joking aside, I have been working on more sculptural projects as of late – I want to pursue that, whilst developing the things I do right now. I’ve been working with steel, which I find exciting, and also making large porcelain pieces. Things like pots, though, center me. They’re a simple but very delicate art, and I’m still trying to get it just right. I think I’ll be continuing with that for quite some time!
Thank you so much for your time, Daniel – it’s been very inspiring!
A true pleasure!