Nikita Oakley: Ceramic artist whose work focuses on those enduring themes originating from the bog lands of Ireland
Born in the Midlands near the small village of Shinrone, in Co Offaly, I attended the Sacred Heart Primary School and the local community college; Coláiste Phobal.
For years I would paint at home, with the subject matter being mostly landscapes around my area or images of places we had taken on family holidays. Nothing remarkable, but it did give me time and a chance to learn, to connect with people and the environment. My primary and secondary school teachers were also crucial to my artistic development through different types of projects and approaches.
Despite, applying to various arts schools around Ireland, after visiting Limerick School of Art and Design my heart was set on the latter.
Its facilities are second to none, the staff are friendly, and I was blown away by the spaces available to students to use and to create in. LSAD staff allow you the freedom and support needed to develop your project work. I had hoped to study painting but switched in year one and settled on ceramics, as it was a completely new area with fascinating material to discover and explore. Ceramics give me a freer and more diverse range of opportunities to convey my ideas. It is a simple thing but I enjoy working with my hands. There is something satisfying at looking at a finished piece that is the culmination of long hours of hard work, trial and error, numerous re-fires and tweaks, just to get to the final seal of approval.
Today, my creative work derives from a deep sense of exploration and curiosity, with my graduation show focusing on the bog lands inhabiting my home place.
Ethnography was certainly a natural progression of this fascination with the Irish bog as a vessel. Throughout our often-turbulent history, bogs have acted as providers for many local communities and as links to childhood days in rural Ireland. Also, I am seeking to look at any impacts on our environment given those sustainability factors that are now present currently within broader society. Despite graduating in November with a First Class (Hons) I still feel that there is a lot yet to explore within this project. The latter, consisted of multi-disciplinary practices that used a mixture of ceramics, photography, and videography. I am currently continuing to work on the ‘Bog lands of Ireland’ and will, in stages, set-up a fully equipped studio at home to further facilitate this.
Since graduating I have been very fortunate to show my work at numerous exhibits both at home and abroad.
These included; ‘New Designers’ in London, the ‘RDS Craft Show’ in Dublin, the ‘Taste of Kilkenny – The Medieval Table’ at Rothe House Kilkenny, and ‘Ceramics Ireland’ exhibitions in Dublin Castle. I was also thrilled to have interned with the ‘Design and Crafts Council of Ireland’ in Kilkenny. There have been many artists and designers that have influenced me over the years, mostly for their use of form, glaze, or concept, artists like Jack Doherty, Deirdre McLoughlin, Hilary Mayo, and Peter Beard, to name but a few.
Always inspired by nature as a child, while spending time with my granny, I would watch her paint and talk about perspective and colours.
Later, at college I found that the natural environment, community, history, and a personal sense of place, would be the themes that I mostly explored in my work. In particular, I still enjoy researching nature, through hiking, and taking long walks.
There are many elements and areas of ceramics that I love working with but I am mostly drawn to hand-building.
The reasons for this are its physicality, and the ability, at the slightest touch, to be able to alter the work. In studio I always end up covered head to toe in clay partly because I am a messy person and also, I become so focused on my work I don’t notice anything. I also love working with glaze. In college I would spend a lot of time working and testing out glazes and recipes. I love the excitement of opening the kiln and the surprise of the glaze tests result that comes out.
As with everything else in life if you don’t put the work in you won’t get what you want out.
Working on ceramics involves extremely long hours, but having good friends and family that support you, make it a lot easier. On the plus side I don’t think that there is ever a typical day because you are always running here and there getting things sent or picked-up, making, firing, and doing varying tasks from photographing your work, marketing it, and editing websites that show it.
For more information about Nikita’s work please see: nikitaoakley.weebly.com/