Peterhead born ceramicist Morag McGee finds her work is shaped by local people, travel, ancient traditions and even Elvis…
‘Everyone in my family is good with their hands. My mum has great creative flair and my Grandad was always building boats and making sail plans. I was always encouraged to draw, so it’s no surprise I ended up in art school. I first discovered ceramics at Edinburgh College of Art, before winning a postgraduate scholarship’, Morag began.
‘As a student, a couple of summers working in America really influenced me. My degree show was brightly coloured Elvises on fairground rides made in clay! I was commissioned to make figures based on local workers and trades for a museum in Prestonpans and my current figural work developed from there. I also make an affordable range of pieces incorporating local Doric humour, which are great for storing knick-knacks.
‘For me, clay is the ultimate sculptural material; it will do almost anything you want it to. I absolutely love the process – the patience, the sometimes methodical ways you have to work when making in clay. Unlike many other art forms, clay holds the marks of the maker for millennia. I love seeing 700 year-old pots that have the fingerprint of some lowly maker preserved forever…When it’s fired – it’s finished and can last for centuries!
‘All sorts of things can inspire me, but travel normally sparks me off. When I start on a new range or figure, I hold lots of ideas in my head. I use sketchbooks to jot down phrases and words but each collection starts with a list. Accuracy is really important to me so I have a subscription to a few online historical photography sources. I collect lots of imagery and the sketch develops. I’ve been known to sketch daggers in the Gordon Highlanders Museum and trawl through the archives at Peterhead’s Arbuthnot Museum. Once I have decided on the figures, I only sketch up to a point, the poses, faces and movements are dictated in the making, I much prefer to see how a figure develops rather than just recreate a drawing I have done.
‘My figures are made in large or small collections, many with a local flavour. I have the Working Folk, which incorporates oilmen, fishermannies, gutting quines and all manner of recent and historic jobs in the North-east. My Ceilidh Collection is much more Scottish and features kilted figures – I love getting the outfits accurate and the ruffles in the right place. Mostly, my figures are made to commission and have various one-offs from retiring teachers to Muhammad Ali and Napoleon Bonaparte!
‘I use the same paperclay technique I use on my figures to make my Doric Delft range of boxes, trinket plates and small interiors pieces. Over the past two years, I’ve also started working in Raku and really love the instantaneous process – it’s the antidote to the laborious figures. I have a range of vessels and sculptures all decorated with the shiny, smoky, crackly glazes.
‘I teach art and design as well as ceramics and the range of students I meet is fantastic. I especially love seeing people progress, despite lack of confidence and experience. I need to be out and about and in amongst folk, it is the perfect antidote to hours in the studio with just the cat, the radio and the odd visit from one of our hens for company!’
You can see some of Morag’s work at Junction Arts on Holburn Street or can buy larger pieces or commission a special piece directly from Morag via
www.moragmcgee.com or FB: moragmcgeeceramics