Sarah Dunstan was born in Helston, Cornwall, in 1969 and studied at Falmouth School of Art & Design before taking a B.A. (Hons) degree in 3D Design Ceramics at Cardiff Institute of Higher Education from 1989 to 1992. After graduating from Cardiff, she returned to her native Cornwall where she established her first pottery in St. Ives, in 1993, and has worked as a full-time potter ever since. Since 2002 she has worked from the Gaolyard Studios, founded by ex-Leach potter John Bedding.
Sarah is an Elected Fellow of the Cr aft Potters Association and recent exhibitions include Contemporary Ceramics, London and the Leach Pottery, St Ives.
Using flat sheets of stoneware clay as a canvas, Sarah paints the surface with coloured slips, and then applies intricate ‘fretwork’ patterns, individually carved from a thin layer of porcelain. No stencils are used, instead every design is hand drawn and then hand cut from the porcelain sheet before being transferred to the prepared slab in a unique process Sarah has perfected over many years. The decorated sheets are assembled to create the finished form. Joins are left as raw seams and the surface is treated to create the final distinctive patina.
“I collect images, such as the shape of the railing in a hidden doorway in St. Ives, or writing on an antique glass bottle. I use my sketchbook to draw and paint these impressions but also as a scrapbook. Feathers, fabric and packaging are glued in next to photos. These photos are fragmented memories of places I’ve visited, a close-up detail of a Greek sign perhaps, or advertising on a French café wall.
I am fascinated by collections of objects, from the very small and personal – scent bottles, the mundane, sardine tins – to large architectural forms such as Gaudi buildings.”
Some final pieces are purely ornamental while others tell a story. Sarah’s latest work has been influenced by a very specific memory from her childhood, a little china cup with ‘A Present from Porkellis’ written on it. Porkellis is a tiny farming village near Helston where her father was born. Displayed with similar cups, she remembers it on top of a pelmet, out of reach but always there: “I brought it to my studio where it was living on my window sill…when these delicate gold flowers started to appear on my pots!”