Vineyards in France, the Grand Canyon, the waves and ripples of water in the ocean or pine forests in summer and autumn, you are looking at ceramic art, the creations of Jo Pethybridge’s artwork. I am looking at a bowl, and may I add, its not to be useful, this is what Jo explains to me. The round shape alters the perspective of what is a vineyard or the ripples in sunlight on water, or her fishlike plates, star shaped dishes or what is the shape of vase. Her work is different and none of her designs are the same, everything tells a different story, it is intricate and delicate yet bold and abstract and most defiantly contemporary. “People keep telling me to make something useful” she tells me “I want to make something I really love and people who buy it really loves it” and then she tells me a story of her most satisfying sale when a customer was so effected emotionally by a piece of her work, that she bought it.
For Jo, art was an escape; although now retired from working as an Occupational Therapist and what earned her a living for a long time. It was creative in its own way and she loved it she explains “ I wanted to do something useful ” but it was also very stressful, ceramics was her therapy, a form of meditation. Pethybridge and I talk about the making of her artwork and how she prepares the clay and how using her hands is one stage of the work. Raised, to use her right hand when she is actually left handed; it was obviously cruel, however Jo looks at the positive and explains how subsequently, she can use both hands and that using her hands to dig in the earth as a child is the same when she is working the clay, very therapeutic. We laugh at how we can remember being children and how some of us enjoyed getting down in the dirt and others were afraid to get dirty. “ The clay is my canvas ” she tells me, making them in batches, after moulding and baking and then the second stage the painting.
Jo started ceramics in her 20’s and graduated from art college in Newcastle, born in Birmingham, her father had immigrated from Poland after the war and married her Scottish mother. Jo met her husband in Oxford, together making Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle their homes before moving back to London in 1996. She has also traveled extensively, where much of her ideas have derived. Jo spent time focusing on Motherhood taking time off work, to raise her two daughters and her son and now she is also a grandmother. She took a diploma in Ceramics whilst her children were still very young and started creating and exhibiting, then returned to work as an Occupational Therapist. Yet, there is more to Jo, she has always been an energy healer or therapist and practises yoga, she runs the Highgate Energy Healing Centre in London, and anyone can walk in. She has also been involved in the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town, giving some healing to African women, who are here in England from very tragic lives, she explains, stranded in a country where they are not allowed to work until their asylum status comes through. We had been talking about South Africa and how we both noticed that racism was still prevalent and that living in cosmopolitan London we are spoilt. “ But spoilt in a good way ” Jo adds. “ People are afraid of integration ” she points out and that London is an example of how it can work.
Pethybridge is a member of the East Finchley Open House and will be opening her house with other artists June/July 2019. They are also holding an exhibition in November 50:50 at the Highgate Literary Society. Currently she is thinking about applying to show at the Ceramics Art London. Her next one is at Hornsey library with Islington Arts Society, which will be opened by Tristram Hunt, the director of the Victoria and Albert museum. She has had many exhibitions and often works together with other artists teaming up and complimenting the differences in their work. She enjoys the painting side of her ceramics the most, she explains and the reflection time to paint, sketching ideas or taking pictures from nature and everything around her, inspirations come from an array of different sources. She emphasises how exhibitions give her something to work towards, that she particularly likes having a topic. Then Jo reveals the importance of healing when she informs me how during a meditation session the reflection of the light around the candle became the inspiration around a pot design and confirms something I have always believed that you may learn a skill but creativity can never be measured.
Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst