A culture of quality and the traditional values of craftsmanship characterise Katy West’s work: purposeful ceramic home-ware that balances an economy of design with a desire to draw meaningful narratives from a range of objects, furniture, lighting and tableware. Within each piece a connection between architectural ornament and utilitarian purpose is legible, whether a glazed clay pendant light or a porcelain jar, the formal language of our vernacular built environment is carefully translated onto decidedly functional pieces.
West’s collage of references, fragments often sourced from historically aspirational interiors and architectural follies, align to her commitment to galvanise craft practice with industrial manufacture. Her work draws attention to craft’s artisanal relationship to the industrial revolution: its social, political and economic associations filtered through a concern for quality material and making processes. Borrowing from such traditions, West works with a practicality, modesty, and a commitment to exclusively produce in partnership with local makers and manufacturers to the highest quality possible and with an acceptance of their stylistic lineage.
The resulting pieces do not stand alone as inactive products on a shelf. They are authored objects with agency, profoundly related to where they are made, the status of their material and their practical purpose. Though engaged closely with the design development of kitchenware, fashioned through our social history, they hold within them meaning beyond that normally associated with everyday concern of functionality.
Sensitive re-workings of the humble and restrained, West’s work encompasses tradition and a truth to materials, passed down through generations, continually evolving but universally understood. From jelly mould, to pie and butter dish; she slips design innovation and ornate narrative detail into conventional ceramic-ware to create practical but beautiful objects that connect to both the past and the future.
United with the studio, West’s curatorial programmes also offer a unique position from which she redefines a contemporary craft practice. Proposing a subjective re-appraisal of the adaptability of craft and its commonalities with design, West re-interprets their historic traditions through an engagement with collaboration, commissioning and exhibition-making. Though varied in subject and discipline, her portfolio of independent exhibitions carefully examine questions of identity, ownership and authorship, highlighting the philosophical and market value of our material culture.
Working both independently and in partnership with makers, designers, artists, producers and exhibiting venues, West’s wide-ranging practice skillfully unearths a critical space for design and craft with making at the fore. Through varying arrangements of invention, scale, detail and material, her output oscillates between the public and the private, the grand and the undoubtedly domestic – one often concealed inside the other, layering ideas, methods and ways of making.
Lucy McEachan and Catriona Duffy