Nunhead based ceramist Caro Gates has dabbled pottery since studying a short course during her degree at Camberwell College. After spending 10 years in the branding industry, Caro returned to making two years ago and started to build her own brand specialising in slip casted and hand made items for the home. We caught up with Caro at her home studio to find out more about what inspires her and how she creates her elegant pieces.
Caro’s background is in graphic design, so it makes sense her home studio be relatively minimal and ordered. One of the main pieces of furniture being a mid century shelving unit covered in unusual curiosities and materials gathered up by Caro herself. Some of the tasks done here are carving and finishing as well as her design and illustration work “I enjoy the combination of working in 2D and 3D, every project feeds in to and inspires the next.” Caro then casts her objects outdoors as well as at The Kiln Rooms (ceramic studios based in London), which offers interaction with other members “I have been practising for about 2 years now and my enthusiasm is ten fold.”
Caro’s work draws elements from the organic and the manmade, so it’s no surprise to hear that growing up she and her brother were always encouraged to observe visually beautiful things by her parents, from a complex of buildings to a piece of driftwood and this is reflected by her personal surroundings. “It’s because of this I have become quite a hoarder, I am always collecting things, I love a car boot sale.” Alongside this a selection of natural objects, that show in her pieces “I would say natural forms are the major contribution to the pieces I currently make. I think you can find inspiration in any.”
In Caro’s light and open gallery space she stores an array of experiments and previous works, one of her most prized being a sculpture for an exhibition in aid of Mind Charity called Tactile Minds. “The theme was mental health and I explored how people deal with bereavement. It’s a representation of a Hindu ritual called Śrāddha, a yearly honouring of past loved ones - in some cases people offer balls of rice, called Pindas to their ancestors.” The object takes the form of a hand, which was one of four pieces “although the most painstaking, I loved making this piece and was pleased with the results, I started with a quick sketch and it came together more successfully than I had hoped.”
Caro’s been situated in South East London for some time now, one of the main reasons being the down to earth community “I bump into so many people whilst going to and from The Kiln Rooms, sometimes it really does feel a bit like a village. A pretty busy, eclectic village, there is always something to do or see.” Both living and working in such a creative hub has allowed Caro to reach a local crowd of people who’ve supported her from the beginning “Theres always a huge sense of gratitude to anyone who wants to give you a chance and help you when you are starting out.”
Given that Caro splits her time working at The Kiln Rooms and from home, a sense of space is imperative. “I have to have some outdoor space and a spare room to use as a studio, I was really lucky to move into a house that was already decorated in a style I like and was in pretty good condition so I have not had to do much.” In Caro’s previous place she redeveloped it entirely whilst living in it and it’s for this reason she’s beginning to start visualising changes she’d like to implement here. “In the past I’ve found almost everything I could on Ebay, including some Victorian radiators, one of which I managed to keep when I moved. Having an excellent builder and working to a budget is key, it also offers room for creativity. I can't wait to do it again.” We’re so happy to be stocking Caro’s work. Explore the full collection here.
Words and photography by Joseph Walker