Sheffield Artist Meghan Downs
Time just seems to fly by in the Volta Studio, it’s already time for another of our regular “Fellow Sheffield Creatives” features. For the next couple of months we are focusing on our new friend, Sheffield Artist Meghan Downs.
Meghan’s abstract sculptures are extremely interesting, very tactile and we love them!
Volta: Who or what inspired you to do what you do?
Meghan: I’ve always loved to make things and be creative, so I pursued this in a degree in Decorative Arts. This gave me an understanding of various different craft skills and it was the first time I had ever used clay, which I instantly enjoyed using. I carried on from there, with many fails along the way in the material.
Volta: What did you do before you did what you do now?
Meghan: I came in to this career straight after University, working for myself in my ceramics business whilst working part-time in retail. I now work in a full time office job alongside my ceramics in my spare time.
Volta: How did your current style develop and how do you see it developing in the future?
Meghan: My initial ‘style’ came from working towards my degree show collection, where in my third year at university I had to focus and create a clear collection. I had enjoyed hand-building in clay, especially with slabs, so I wanted to continue the development of this.
The summer before my final year I went to Italy for a 6 week period as an Au Pair, and I gave myself the task of drawing whilst I was out there so that I didn’t return to my course with no inspiration.
My illustrations of the Italian street scenes were the first thing that I had drawn in a while that I was happy with, so I wanted to combine these with clay techniques to create a visual representation and memory of the place I had spent so much time in.
I then continued with the layered imagery and illustration theme onto further collections, and only recently have I altered my style to more abstracted and textural on larger sculptural pieces. I am still inspired by memory of place, but I have been drawn to more everyday sights around me in Sheffield.
Volta: You’re not originally from Sheffield, why did you decide to settle here?
Meghan: I moved to Sheffield after graduation as I was offered a position on the Ceramic Starter Studio Programme, ran by Yorkshire Artspace. It was a 2 year programme that had supported shared studio space and access to kilns, so I decided to begin my career by moving here. I then registered as self-employed and started selling my ceramics at fairs and events.
After the 2 years was over, I was lucky in getting my own studio space in the city centre and that’s where I still work from now. The community in Sheffield is wonderful, and I love being here because everyone is so friendly and welcoming, and the culture is so rich and varied.
Volta: What influence has living in Sheffield had on your creativity and how you approach your work?
Meghan: The steel city has definitely engrained into me, and my new collection of work is based upon the Architecture in Sheffield that I see on a day-to-day basis. Inspiration comes from the contrasted juxtaposition of the old and new; the smooth, matte finish of modern structures against the weathered, worn and abandoned old red brick buildings. Details of common architecture styles are referenced, such as now dis-used factories and the remnants of the once thriving steel industry.
Volta: How would you describe what you do?
Meghan: I make sculptural slab-built ceramics that are each different to the next, and they are decorated in multiple layers using slips, oxides, underglazes and glazes.
Volta: Can you remember the first piece of work you ever sold?
Meghan: It was one of my first ‘Italian’ vessels that I had made as part of my degree show, I was so honoured that someone wanted to own something I’d made!
Volta: If you could lay claim to one piece of creative work in any area what would it be and why?
Meghan: It would have to be a large painting by someone like Vincent Van Gogh or Gustav Klimt, a classic piece that is timeless.
Volta: What is your favourite thing about Sheffield?
Meghan: Being so close to the Peak District but also having all of the city amenities. There are also a great number of cultural things going on, every week there are new exhibitions and events so there is plenty to keep busy with and so many friendly people here.
Volta: What advice would you give an aspiring fellow creative who was wanting to break through to the next level?
Meghan: Mistakes and failures are the best way to learn what works for you. I have tried many different paths, and you don’t know what works until you try. I am still figuring it out, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Not everyone will like your work and that’s ok, so once you accept that, life gets a little easier.
Sheffield Artist Meghan Downs
Want to find out a little more about Sheffield Artist Meghan Downs and her work?
Here are links to Meghan’s website and social media channels – enjoy!