At Wild Beauty, we are particularly inspired by British artists whose work explores the concept of nature and beauty in its many forms. We are delighted that Katie Spragg, ceramicist and Friend of Wild Beauty, has shared the inspiration behind her work and how she finds wild beauty in unexpected places. Combining clay with a range of processes including animation and installation, Katie creates work that aims to arouse curiosity. Her current work explores our relationship with nature; specifically, the ways that humans and plants co-exist. She hopes to motivate an appreciation for the natural world, yet not be elitist about the environments that are revered – to see value in the overlooked everyday nature that exists in urban spaces as well as vast, natural landscapes.
Your work explores our relationship with nature. What was the catalyst for this?
While doing my MA at the Royal College of Art, I explored the connection between natural landscapes and storytelling. However, it was a camping trip to the Brecon Beacons, where I saw how humans had impacted the natural landscape, that really inspired my subsequent creations. Whilst living in London, I also became more aware of the overlooked idea of nature in urban spaces. Not everyone has access to nature in the sense of open green spaces, yet greenery can be found in many forms in unexpected areas of a city.
You explore, through your art, the idea that we curate nature, yet it grows and thrives beyond human ordering. Does this mean you prefer wild nature to more formal gardens?
I often get asked to create installations in more formal spaces such as Forde Abbey. I am fascinated by the idea of manicured garden spaces and the wild unbound nature that surrounds them – the juxtaposition between the two. I find it interesting to see glasshouses which humans use to plant and grow seeds in an orderly fashion, often taken over by nature with the disorder of abundantly growing plants.
I worked with the local community of Lambeth Young Carers for this project to consider connections between wild plants and being a young carer. I aimed to celebrate both wild plants and communities that live close to the museum that may be overlooked by wider society. The wild plants which grow through concrete or in hidden corners show a resilience and determination. This is akin to those communities who may suffer hardships, but still get up and remain strong. My limited edition riso-printed book ‘Lambeth Wilds’ celebrates and shares the research and stories gathered during the project.
Do you think that wild plants are a good metaphor for resilience and hope?
I think they are indeed a metaphor which has transcended generations. The predictability of plants is something we can rely on. The recent handing out of sunflower seeds to soldiers on the front line in Ukraine was a powerful message of hope and resilience in a bleak situation.
You have worked on many wonderful creative projects such as the Wildness installation in 2016 under an otherwise dead area of a concrete staircase. Clay for Dementia, a completely different one, helped people affected by dementia come together in a creative support group. Which project to date has been your greatest achievement?
Working on the Lambeth Wilds project was a great personal achievement in the respect that the museum made the objects in the collection a permanent installation. Beyond that, however, was the fact that I helped the Garden Museum work with and support the local Young Carers community – something I’m delighted to see they continue to do to this day.
One last question – where is your wild beauty escape?
I absolutely love wildflower meadows and being lost in their beauty. I am about to visit Iceland – it is home to fields of wild Alaskan Lupines during the Spring and Summer – for someone who loves meadows, I will be in heaven!
Katie Spragg’s work will be featured in the upcoming Beyond Nature: A Presentation by Make Hauser & Wirth in London 20th – 28th May Hauser & Wirth London
Lambeth Wilds by Katie Spragg is available here.