FORCE OF NATURE
TRUTH, NOT TRENDS, IS THE CORE OF LAURENCE GEHANNIN’S FASCINATION WITH CLAY.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY EDWIN HO . SHOT AT ANRÁN STUDIO
From organic farming to pottery, ceramic artist Laurence Gehannin’s life has always revolved around nature.
She muses: "I have always searched for what is at the heart of everything, the true identity of every form or concept. Nature has all the answers — everything around us, from architecture to industry, is dictated by the laws of Nature. In my work, it is reflected in the design which does not follow any trend or fashion. Instead, it is led by the properties of the clay I am using at the time.”
Her career path has taken a somewhat circuitous route. Originally from Brittany, France, Laurence arrived in the UK in 1987 as a second-year university student, working as an au pair in London in order to improve her English. She met and married a musician there, and subsequently moved to Plymouth, exchanging the city life for the green and open spaces they both craved.
She also decided to pursue her interest in art. “I was always drawing and I used to get commissions designing venue posters for bands,” she says. “So I applied to Plymouth College Of Art & Design where I enjoyed five of the most exciting and wonderful years of my life. Ceramic became my favorite medium for my spontaneous creative style.” She has exhibited at the New Designers show in London and in South West England, notably in Plymouth at the Royal William Yard.
After getting her degree in 1998, she worked as an art therapist but stopped because of the stress of going through a divorce. Instead, she got involved with a circus troupe at the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth, where she trained as a trapeze artist. On one of their tours, a tarot card reader told her that her life would be linked closely to the land and nature.
As it turned out, she took up a permaculture design course where she met her current partner. Both of them became involved in the organic movement, developing techniques of production. The close communion with nature eventually spurred a return to her first love — ceramics.
Her minimalist forms evolve spontaneously as she tries to express the true attributes of the clay she works with. Her favourite piece is a female abstract form made from strips of porcelain clay with textures reminiscent of eroded sea creatures buried in sea beds, inspired by childhood memories of summers by the beach in Brittany where she constructed landscapes out of the liquid sand.
Soft and sensual forms, with details accentuated with copper and cobalt oxides, are typical of her work. Some of her work is displayed at her drop-in space called the Keramik Studio at ANRAN, where she conducts workshops for all ages and abilities. Her current collection has evolved from decorative, sculptural pieces to more functional, Scandinavian-inspired white stoneware with a matte finish, as she wants to provide “simple, down to earth, well made and alive pieces that everybody with a taste for simplicity and quality can enjoy”.
Laurence’s ceramics are available at lifestyle store Me And East in Totnes, Devon (www.meandeast.com).
More of her work can be viewed on Instagram @ker_lau_ceramics.
For workshop enquiries, email email@example.com.