My studio life: Grayson Perry RA

Published 16 October 2014

We caught up with Grayson Perry RA as he moved into his new Islington Studio, where he told us about ceramics, motorbikes and why he wears cashmere socks.

  • Grayson Perry RA works in a variety of mediums but is best known as a ceramicist. There is a dissonance between the conventional forms of his vessels and the depictions that adorn them. He uses imagery and text to chronicle social concerns, his own formative experiences and to tell the story of his alter ego, Claire. The tone of his narratives is psychologically complex and often caustic. Although he uses traditional methods to make his pots, he employs a range of techniques, such as embossing and photographic transfers, to create intricate, animated surfaces.

    Having worked for many years in Walthamstow, we caught up with the artist as he settled into a new studio in Islington.

  • Welcome to the studio

    Welcome to the studio

    “Welcome to my brand new Islington studio! We used to walk past here 20 years ago and think, ‘Wow, this would make a wonderful studio’. And now I’ve got it.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • A building with history

    A building with history

    “The building was originally used as a watch factory, and you can still see signs of the belt-driven machinery. The next company here made decorative plaster moulding for theatres, and it was finally a small metal workshop. After that, it was used as a film set. With pale green, flaking paint, it was perfect for period drama murder scenes…”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • Cashmere socks

    Cashmere socks

    “I do feel slightly embarrassed here. It feels like one of those YBA studios: they always have perfect white industrial studios. I’m not complaining though. Moving here has been the biggest change in my life – my work rate has gone up hugely. In Walthamstow I had to go home by four as it was simply too cold. Even here though, I swear by cashmere socks from November all the way through to about April.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • A sad day for Walthamstow

    A sad day for Walthamstow

    “We had to hire cranes and knock down the front door to get these kilns out of my last studio. A man was walking past pushing a buggy and asked what was going on. So I told him I was moving to a new studio. ‘Oh, it’s a sad day for Walthamstow,’ he said. Artists are the shock troops of gentrification, and Walthamstow is well on the way. ‘My work here is done,’ I told him!”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • Alan Measles, kiln god

    Alan Measles, kiln god

    “The woman on top of the red kiln is my kiln goddess. Alan Measles got co-opted to look after the second one.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • "Everything is contingent"

    "Everything is contingent"

    “For the tapestries, I start with a full-scale drawing and then use this to design them. I work with a production company called Factum Arte, who sent their Photoshop expert here for two days to give me a crash course. What’s brilliant about it is that everything is contingent. Unlike real things, you can always go back to the beginning and start again.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • My Bible

    My Bible

    “This is Kate Fox’s Watching the English. I love this book, it’s my Bible. Every time I meet a foreigner thinking of moving here I tell them to read it.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • The Essex House

    The Essex House

    “I’m always referring to lots of different sources – my books are primary in my work. The green tile in front of these ones is a sketch for the Essex House that I’m doing with FAT and Living Architecture. They’re going to be giant!”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • Producing repeat images

    Producing repeat images

    “These terracotta stamps on the second shelf down are used for logos and other repeat images on my pottery. One of the first I made was a stamp of a hell’s angel. I’ve got thousands of them now.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • Up close

    Up close

    “I use the magnifying glass to carve them.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • Fragments

    Fragments

    “That’s one of my Tate Modern reliquaries hanging from the beams – it’s a piece of broken pot. You can buy it from their gift shop if you like.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • This old thing?

    This old thing?

    “That cushion is ancient and full of pottery dust. There’s something of the little old lady in her conservatory about it.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • "Bikes have always been part of my identity."

    "Bikes have always been part of my identity."

    “I’ve never owned a car. Bikes have always been part of my identity. Trannies do tend to overcompensate by doing very macho stuff. I’m getting to an age now where I’m thinking of buying a car – probably a red sports car, something exotic and embarrassing. ”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • "Like the skin of my younger body"

    "Like the skin of my younger body"

    “These leathers are the first thing I ever had specially made, when I was 29. I look at them now like the skin of my younger body. I could probably squeeze into them now, like some kind of middle-aged sausage.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

  • Never knowingly understated

    Never knowingly understated

    “I bought this from Rachel Choi’s student fashion show. It weighs a tonne: clearly, an awful lot of artificial fibres have gone into it! It might be the most bonkers thing I own.”

    © Eamonn McCabe

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