Meeting + interview with Samantha Kerdine

Brutal. went to meet the artist Samantha Kerdine in her Paris studio. Let's discover his universe through an interview.

What is your background and your training to get to ceramics?

I have a master's degree in graphic design, research and innovation option and I have been a DA graphic designer for more than 10 years, including 6 years as a freelancer. It's a job that brings me a lot and that I appreciate enormously, I serve brands, I bring them my expertise, my taste, to make their brands shine. At the end of 2016, I began to feel frustrated in my job, I could no longer find the creative part that I had loved in my studies. I understood that I had to find this feeling elsewhere than in my AD projects. I found a small neighborhood pottery workshop with François Dubois while teaching, I learned ceramics there with a very free practice. I went there for 2 hours every Thursday evening, for almost two years. François did not teach me how to make a bowl with a particular technique, but rather started from my desires by advising me on the best way to achieve it. I gained a lot of confidence in my ideas and my abilities. Then came the moment when it was no longer enough, so I joined a shared ceramics workshop, but I only stayed there for two weeks because I was dependent on other ceramists to do my firings. So I did my math, and with a lot of stress, anxiety but also excitement I bought my first oven.

Are you self taught or did you learn from someone else?

My ceramics teacher, François Dubois, taught me the first gestures: pinching, coiling, enameling. When I had to launch my first oven on my own, I realized how little I knew and learned everything on my own, thanks to my suppliers, but also thanks to many people on Instagram who gave me advice (Lucie Faucon, Kim Lê, Salima Zahi to name but a few). I've delivered leaky vases, I've had handles that have fallen off for a long time, I've had cups that weren't stable, and currently I'm trying to make a chair but I can't. always not. The autodidact path is a much longer path but I like this road. It is a path filled with failures and frustrations of course, but above all with mutual aid, conversations, learning and my successes are so joyful that I believe that the game is worth the candle.

Do you remember your first play?

Yes of course, it was at Atelier Trétaigne, for my trial class, I made two small cups - which I kept - and I made a pink gradient with enamel. I remember finding the practice difficult, and not being able to do it right away made me wonder. I discovered the importance of taking the time to finish my pieces well, to take care of them, I was in a somewhat voracious process of creativity. Today I give ceramics lessons in my studio and I recognize myself when I see some students with this same frenzy. I also try to pass on to them what I have managed to acquire in my practice: to create without a specific goal, just to take advantage of the time they have and free themselves from a form of profitability of their time.

How would you define your job?

I have a free practice of ceramics. Not having learned the fundamentals of ceramics, the vocabulary as well as the precise gestures are not particularly part of my practice. But I'm not looking for precision, a perfect craftsman's gesture. I am trying, I believe, to reproduce an emotion, a sensation or in any case put myself in a very special state of creation that is dear to me, close to a certain form of trance. Earth is the material I'm using at the moment, but it could be something else tomorrow: wood, papier-mâché, paint, fabric. What I like is to build objects in their entirety and independently, but I'm not attached to the material. Recently Laurent Dubé, an artist friend, gave me this fabulous advice that I try to apply: “You have to know how to remain calm.”

What is your creative and manufacturing process?

I have projects that start with an order, I draw up a collection plan, I start with sketches, with a range of colors selected for the project. I submit these sketches to my client, we have a few round trips and I create the parts.

At the same time, I carry out personal research work around objects or shapes like this famous chair that I can't manage to hold, or I have made a few lamps. In this research, I create the pieces that I have in mind, without sketches, without a precise idea, I begin to model without knowing where I'm going, and I slip in the same way. The surface of the canvas, or the sheet of paper impress me a lot, I am more comfortable painting on a volume surface like my ceramics. I believe that in the end, the pieces I create serve as a support for painting.

What is your favorite technique? Your favorite moment in the process?

I like to combine different techniques, I usually start with pinches and continue with coils, I like the shapes it creates, a little twisted as if the pieces were alive. And with hindsight, I think I like the whole process, I like the moments of doubt, the moments of intensity, the calm, the moment when the shelves are filled, when I unload. What I particularly appreciate is being able to share these moments, whether with my roommate Marion Livran, my assistant Jessica Lemeur, or my ceramist friends from the neighborhood Kim Lê and Salima Zahi, I have the impression of living a great adventure and it is very exciting. In my way of working, I like to go into immersion: I listen to long podcasts and I let myself be guided by my hands, I end up with a form that I then try to transform into an object. It's a more instinctive and deconstructed way of working which is the opposite of my way of working as AD, I have to unlearn everything I've learned in 10 years.

What is your favorite material? What do you like about him?

I work with earthenware, it's the earth we used in the workshop where I practiced ceramics, rue Trétaigne. The earthenware suits me perfectly, the colors stand out intensely and there is no deformation during cooking. But I'm doing a training next week at the CNIFOP to learn the enamel research technique and I think I'm going to have to take a close interest in stoneware because the high temperature makes it possible to obtain incredible effects with enamels. I like my practice to be in motion, I am not attached to materials, colors, earth, I remain curious to discover other practices so that my work is always evolving.

What inspires you apart from ceramics?

I am passionate about the lives of artists: podcasts, exhibitions, books, I particularly like to dissect the lives of artists that I appreciate. In recent months I have read a lot about the practice of David Hockney, and I acquired the catalog of the exhibition The Joy of Nature held in Amsterdam in 2019, which brings together the work of Hockney and that of Van Gogh. The catalog makes it possible to make the link between these two artists and reveals the major influence of Van Gogh on the work of Hockney. Both have in common an intense observation of nature, and for both of them painting is looking. Their work of superimposing touches of paint to form a whole is what inspires me the most in their practice.

I also did a residency with my artist friend Laurent Dubé, I was able to explore different mediums and techniques, such as that of fixed under glass, or monotype, so many practices that led me to begin a deconstruction of the mechanisms of painting that I could have. He made me discover the work of Joan Mitchell, who herself is in a deconstruction of the painting of flowers and landscapes. Impressionism and abstract expressionism particularly affect me and Damien Hirst's last exhibition at the Cartier Foundation, although controversial, touched me deeply. I loved the double reading of the canvases: up close, a juxtaposition of touches of color; from afar, cherry blossoms.

Can you tell us about one or more books on ceramics or something else?

I'm reading right now "Do artists need to eat?" collective work edited by Coline Pierré and Martin Page which precisely details the creative process of today's artists. We talk concretely about what's in their fridge, what time they create, how to manage the work of ordering and that of creation. These are questions that inspire me, and not having been immersed in an artists' environment, nor having studied Fine Arts, I have the feeling of being able to enter into a dialogue on concrete questions in the lives of artists.

In a somewhat similar register, I really liked the little book "David Hockney in Pays d'Auge", it recounts Hockney's daily life during confinement, his passion for observing nature, his relationship to work on painting on an ipad versus painting on a canvas.