Paul Philp is a studio potter who has been making ceramics for over 50 years. Building everything by hand, he is free to create the forms his imagination requires, beyond the restraints of a potter’s wheel. Each of his pieces undergoes a patient process of multiple high-temperature firings, where thin layers of finishing material are applied incrementally to the surface of the ceramic. “To get first-class results takes huge amounts of concentration,” Philp says. “It is so easy to get distracted in today’s world, so I keep a low profile and focus entirely on my pots.”
Philp studied ceramics at Cardiff Art School, and has also dedicated much of his life to building, using traditional methods to work with reclaimed stone and other materials. His proficiency for stonework culminated in his personal renovation of Llansôr Mill, his former home in Monmouthshire—a 15-year project that saw his ceramic-making put entirely to one side. Since completing the renovation around 25 years ago, Philp has focused purely on his studio pottery, and now makes his pieces from his home studio in Bath, UK, in a mews house arranged around a courtyard, where he has lived since 2010.
Philp’s work features in the permanent collections of the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montréal, the Cité de la Céramique in Sèvres, France, and the Musée Ariana in Geneva. He has had solo shows at Brame & Lorenceau Gallery in Paris, London’s Contemporary Ceramics Centre, and Willer on Holland Street, as well as Hedge Gallery in San Francisco, and the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture in Hanford, California. Philp’s work has also appeared in the shows and stands of his brother and art dealer, Richard Philp, in fairs across Europe and the USA, including at Grosvenor House Fine Art and Antiques Fair throughout the 1990s, where Philp’s work appeared alongside ancient, classical and medieval art.
“In my work, for much of the last 25 years, I have been aiming for a sense of classical serenity, to evoke a certain feeling of timelessness,” Philp says. Other than these simple acknowledgements, Philp does not wish to attach further meaning to his pieces, preferring to allow the viewer to trust in their intuition when experiencing his work.
Though all work is fired to about 1260 C, the length and number of firings and the finishing techniques differ as each piece is unique. Many can be fired up to five times. Slips and a very basic dry ash glaze may be applied in varied ways. Dipping, dry glazing over a raw or fired-on slip, creates great difference in the finished result.
As well as developing his skills and ideas as a potter he has spent much of his time learning to build in traditional ways. He is also interested in literature, in ancient culture, oriental art, geology and the natural world and contributed articles to Ceramic Review International Magazine of Ceramics.