Ceramicist, Ulla Bang is known for her beautiful, handbuilt stoneware ceramics. Created using an ancient pottery technique, her works draw inspiration from forms and shapes discovered in everyday life. The Shapes Collection by Ulla Bang was created exclusively for The Audo and features an assortment of organic shapes and textures — designed to complement the bold, architectural lines of the house.
Q. COULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE BACKGROUND AND HOW YOU CAME TO WORK WITH CERAMICS?
A. Art and design have always been a part of my life and can be traced back to my family’s background. My father was a sculptor from the Royal Academy of Art and worked as a sculptor, painter and ceramicist all his life. My mother also has been a great source of inspiration for me, as she is a maker of jewellery and all kinds of crafts. Therefore, it was natural that my childhood was full of arts and crafts, exhibitions, workshops and books.
My father always liked to say that his work was determined by form and shape. Despite having gone to art school in the sixties, where performance art and expression were the dominant art form, he had no intention of “saying” something with his work. Art, to him, was guided by form and precision. To this day, I still love this approach and it has always influenced the ways in which I appreciate arts and crafts.
I began my artistic career in the theatre, working with props and costumes for puppet performances. Later, I trained as a theatre designer at Wimbledon School of Art in London. I spent three years focused on building my skills and expertise while making endless trips to art museums, theatre performances and various exhibitions across London. After graduation, I spent 10 years as a freelance theatre designer in Copenhagen, primarily working with children’s theatre, props and costume-making.
Around 2005, I changed direction and established my children’s wear label, UBANG. The brand is still an essential part of my business today, however, I’ve taken a step back in recent years to focus on clay and ceramics.
I was introduced to the world of clay when my daughter found my father’s old throwing wheel and wanted to give it a try. For me, it was a case of love at first sight. Working with clay through such a hands-on medium allowed me to create a series of series of pure, unconstrained artistic expressions. After a while, I took up handbuilt ceramics, which is my primary technique today.
Q. IN YOUR OWN WORDS, WHAT CHARACTERIZES YOUR ARTWORKS?
A: My artworks are organic and free but also precise and detailed. I like my creations to challenge balance, to be free and unexpected in their form, but always end with a fine focused and precise top rim.
Q. WHERE DOES YOUR INSPIRATION ARISE FROM?
A: My inspiration arrives from the forms and shapes which I pass by in my everyday life. It can be anything — an artwork, a building or a dress; anything that catches my eye and piques my interest. I try to keep my mind open and let my hands and eyes do the work.
Often, my approach involves drawing a simple sketch and starting to sculpt. If I start placing too much intellectual thought and meaning into my creative process, I feel the spontaneous lightness disappear.
Q: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HANDBUILT AND HOW IS THIS ACHIEVED?
A: All of my work is handbuilt stoneware ceramics — an ancient technique which uses simple tools rather than a pottery wheel. The technique itself is very basic, but it offers endless possibilities for the shape of the ceramic itself.
Handbuilt ceramics are crafted using carefully rolled-out coils stacked on top of each other. The coils are then gently smoothed out until the individual edges are no longer visible. The pieces are then shaped and sculpted from the bottom upwards. This is a long process and involves a lot of pushing, shaping, correcting and refining, with intermittent periods in which the clay must be left to dry.
Once the general shape has been built, I like to spend a lot of time finishing the top rim — evening the organic shapes and creating the surface texture. With the Shapes collection, I worked a lot using a “dot dot dot” texture. This is essentially a series of dots created using the pointed handle of one of my father’s old paintbrushes. I typically apply this technique after the clay has been left drying for some time, yet still has some residual softness. It’s a slow and meditative process which I enjoy a lot.
Q: WHAT IS THE CONCEPT BEHIND YOUR NEWEST COLLECTION, 'SHAPES'?
A: The Shapes collection is defined by organic shapes, raw surfaces and interesting textures. The collection ranges from small, lidded containers to big, curvy vases and more sculptural pieces with curious holes. All the pieces in the collection are glazed on the side, while the exterior is left raw and untreated.
I have a personal fascination with lidded jars. They make you curious as you always want to lift the lid and look inside. The same applies to holes — you want to look through them and see the world from a new perspective. To me, curiosity is equal to inspiration. They both keep us interested in exploring.
With the Shapes collection, I hope to inspire others to embark on journeys of curiosity and exploration. The pieces within the collection are soft, feminine and joyous. Together, they form a still life of sorts — a portrait of organic shapes, natural tones and varied textures.
Q: HOW HAS YOUR COLLECTION BEEN SHAPED OR INFORMED BY THE INTERIORS OF THE AUDO?
A: The Audo is a space that is full of natural tones and textures, great design and strong lines. I wanted my collection to reflect the space’s rich colour tones using the natural colour palette of ceramic clay. By choosing to glaze only the inside of the individual ceramics, I could highlight the gentle warmth and beauty of raw clay. The collection’s organic and naturalistic shapes are a soothing complement to the strong, architectural lines of The Audo.