AWARD Profiling: Sam Lucas

AWARD is the headline exhibition of the British Ceramics Biennial which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2019. In the magnificent expanse of the China Hall, AWARD will showcase work from the ten selected artists. Each artist demonstrates a breadth of exploration and expression of ideas through the medium of clay and ceramic processes.

Last week we spoke to AWARD artist Sam Lucas who gave us a wonderful insight into her creative practice. Sam told us about her journey in ceramics and how it feels to be exhibiting in AWARD this year.



Tell us a little bit about yourself 

As a child, I was troubled and unpredictable. We moved a lot and I didn’t settle in school. I struggled as I could not do maths or English. I would daydream out the window at the Art College up the road. This invariably led to me having to run around the field as penance. Fortunately, I was given ceramics as an option as I was considered too disruptive to attend certain lessons. The ceramics room became my sanctuary.

The local Art College gave me the chance to pursue the Foundation Course. I threw myself into life drawing. There was always a battle between ceramics and sculpture, but it was the malleability of clay that I loved.  Finally, I graduated from the BA in Ceramics at the notorious Howard Gardens Cardiff, almost 30 years ago in 1990. After straying from the ceramics path for a few years, I took a job as an Education Facilitator in the Art department of a Specialist College.

For the next 20 years. I trained in night classes as a Teacher at UWE. I also began training and dabbled with the idea of becoming an Art Psychotherapist at Bath College and the University of Hertfordshire. It was always the therapeutic and transformational properties of clay that inspired me though. I was constantly returning to the idea of doing the MA in ceramics in Cardiff. 

In 2016 I finally decided this was the time to step back from teaching and do some research. These days I find myself facilitating, encouraging and enabling specialist Tutors of young people with complex disabilities to engage in the sensory experience of clay. By working part-time in the department, I am able to balance working in this specialist environment with making my own work. A much healthier work-life balance and giving me something to feed back in.



What processes and materials are important to your practice?

I create them in different ways depending on my mood. I am an intuitive maker and believe deeply in the haptic experience of using my hands and body. The results of this creative process are described as ‘sloppy craft’ but is integral to the sensory experience. In contrast, I enjoy the clean newness of slipcast forms which can form an interesting dialogue when placed together.

My process is a balance between concept and material exploration. It could be described as a game of ping pong, back and forth. I am beginning to realise that my work is quite theatrical. I produce groups of objects at one time and then play with them in different arrangements. Then I choreograph them to see what kind of interaction they have with each other and the viewer. I don’t really have any favourite tools just my hands, an old school ceramics knife and a mud tool kidney. For slip casting, I just use utensils found in the kitchen. Of course, being at fireworks has been fantastic being able to use the spray booth set up by Dan Allen.



How do you feel about exhibiting in AWARD this year?

I keep swinging from excitement to anxiety to denial. I was so excited when Rhiannon sent me the initial email informing me that I had been selected. It was a cold wet morning in January and I was floating around the exhibition at Spike Island in a daze of disbelief. It is possibly the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. After attending two seasons of BCB Summer schools while doing my MA, I was falling in love with the place.

My most recent body of work for AWARD is called ‘Same Same but Different’. This is a development from my MA work. I have carried these words with me since my travels through India in my early twenties and they apply to so many different situations but mainly to the similarities and differences of people.  This piece is based on the weight and awkwardness of being in the body, the pain this alienation can cause and ironically the beauty and humour that can result from this diversity.

The idea was born from working in clay with and alongside people with complex needs for most of my working life and how displacement is not only geographical, but can also be within one’s own skin. Exposure for those with neurodiversity can be a contradiction in terms, as it is important that those with differences are realised but at the same time moving through the social world can be an extremely violent experience.


Finally, I must take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the following people. Rod Ashman, Mick Casson, Claire Curneen, Dean Coates, Kate Haywood, Jo Millar, Zoe Preece, Geoff Swindell, Clare Underwood, Mathew West, Anemarie & family, my colleagues at The Star College, my partner Barry and my immediate family.


See more of Sam’s work.

Look back at the 2019 British Ceramics Biennial.