ABOUT HANNE WESTERGAARD
Hanne Westergaard is a Danish potter, living and working in Sheffield, England. She was born in Denmark and trained at the prestigious Kunsthåndværkerskolen (The School of Arts and Crafts, now known as The Danish Design School) in Copenhagen before moving to the UK in the 1970s, where she set up her ceramic practice.
“Clay has been my medium for over 50 years. I have been potting since I first discovered ceramics, and have gone through different viewpoints about my work. I am influenced by Modernism. While at art school in Copenhagen I was taught that there are strict rules about what should and should not be made. I have mellowed over the years and can now allow myself to experiment with works I previously would not have considered making. But I feel a responsibility to be careful about what I make. The world is full of objects, and I do not want to add to that multiplicity unless I feel I have something worthwhile to say in doing so. I do not make as many pots as I used to, but perhaps I put more thinking into them.“
From Modernist beginnings
Her ceramics are influenced by the Scandinavian Modernism that was prevalent during her ceramic education and the notion that objects should have a function. However, over the years she has moved away from the strictures of Modernism and now makes larger scale vessels and ceramics that are objects in their own right, as well as decorative pieces and garden ceramics. She derives much inspiration from nature.
“I was raised in the era of Scandinavian Modernism, consequently the majority of my work is, or has been, designed with function in mind. Increasingly, however, I find myself moving towards making ceramics as art works in their own right, as well as installation pieces, where I use patterns inspired by nature. Throughout the years, and alongside the changes in direction my work has taken, I have remained particularly attracted to the vessel as an object: the possibilities it offers in terms of shape, colour and texture, and its ability to be simultaneously functional and decorative.”
The vitality of being a maker
“A vital part of my life is my ceramics, and I get much of my inspiration from nature: walking on the moors and by the sea, looking at the ever-changing light and the rhythms in the patterns of nature. I enjoy the making process and the firing – the excitement after a firing and the wait before the kiln opening, where it is revealed which ideas have worked and which have not. There are many disappointments, but in-between I may get something out that ‘shines’, and that is what makes me want to carry on being a maker.”
Inspiration in observation
“When starting any new piece, I find inspiration as I walk in the countryside or on the seashore. I look at birds in flight and observe their movements, the changing light, and the rhythms in patterns on tree barks and decaying vegetation. I aim for my pieces to reflect some of this harmony in its many aspects.
“Observing nature I learn from the patterns, colours and scale of things – everything in order. The Norfolk shore has been the inspiration for much of my nature work: wader birds huddled together to keep warm, prints left in the sand by the retreating sea, flowers in the cottage gardens. I have taken casts from the sand and made these into porcelain tiles, while the Okseøje flowers are made using casts taken directly from ox-eye daisies. Each one is individually decorated before being soda/wood-fired. The title Okseøje refers to the Danish name for the daisy.”