‘I always want my work to evolve and develop; I enjoy the challenge and rewards of exploring the unfamiliar, of making new shapes and searching for new mark making techniques.
‘In this body of work I have been exploring the possibilities of building onto the edges of my forms to create more complex shapes to apply my surface mark making to. In doing this I feel I have blurred the definition between the inside and outside of the vessel forms and created a closer relationship between form and surface. I have combined more familiar mark making techniques with new marks and, in places more graphical images.
‘I want this work to express something about the location in which it is exhibited. St Ives has always been an inspirational place for me. Although I don’t want to make over literal suggestions and references to places I do want to evoke a sense of place through the use of mark making, colour and form.’
‘All my work is slab built using a lightly grogged body. With larger pieces initial marks, textures and colours are added before the piece is assembled. When the clay is soft, textures can be made directly onto the clay surface with my hands and fingers.
‘I aim to create depth on the surface of the pieces and do this by applying layers of engobes, slips and underglaze colours when the clay is leather-hard and then build up more layers as the clay dries. I combine this with different methods of mark making directly into the clay surface using a variety of simple tools, some of these being bits of broken stick, ends of paintbrushes and my own fingers.’
‘The work is fired to 1140°C and more layers of engobe are applied before oxides and glossy glaze is used to highlight detail.
‘I make simple forms that normally have a defined back and front; this allows the surface that is my main fascination to be shown off. I tend to work with a series of similar forms and explore ideas through drawing and painting before committing myself to the ceramic pieces.’
Underhill was born in Scotland in 1968. He studied for a Btec HND in Design (Ceramics) at Harrow College of Higher Education, from 1987 – 89, and then went on to study BA (Hons) Fine Art (Ceramics) at Portsmouth Polytechnic, from 1989 – 90. This was followed by a graduate assistantship at University of Eastern Illinois, USA, in 1990.
In 2004 and 2006, Underhill was awarded Arts Council grants to produce and promote new bodies of work. Since 1997 he has lectured in Ceramics at Dudley College, and has exhibited extensively in the UK, France and The Netherlands. In 2013 he was an invited artist at the Landscape and Ceramics Symposium in Kecskemet, Hungary.
Craig Underhill now lives in West Cornwall where he has established his pottery studio and gallery.