Kay Aplin of The Ceramic House tells us about how lockdown has changed the way she thinks and works.

Kay Aplin at her home – The Ceramic House Stanmer Villas Brighton
(image credit: Jim Holden)

Hi Kay – We’ve all been in lockdown for nearly two months now –it sounds as though you have made good use of time throughout this period. Would you like to tell us about the Ceramic House blog you have been regularly producing?

At the beginning of the lockdown, I decided to publish a daily update on my @ceramicempress Instagram profile about The Ceramic House, including features on the permanent installations I have created, objects in the permanent collection, any new projects underway and also some ventures slightly further afield during the lockdown. The blog started off with photographs and short videos capturing moments in the house and garden and evolved into me presenting different features in edited videos every day and turning myself into a “vlogger”, almost by accident! It has now become such a routine it seems strange to have to wrap it up, but it is only meant to be during lockdown!

Your house is a permanent exhibition of carefully curated domestic space – would you like to tell us how you have been using this space creatively during lockdown?

The interior and exterior space is filled with tiled installations as well as a collection of ceramic sculpture gathered over nine years since opening the house for the first time in 2011, and it is open all year round by appointment. The purpose of the blog was partly to document a snapshot of life here at a very unusual time and also to use the opportunity of being locked down to reveal a “behind the scenes” take on what is here, given that we can’t open to the public this May. In addition, I had curated an exhibition called JOY for May featuring an impressive line-up of international ceramic artists (which I hope to show in October). I collected the artwork from Sten Lykke Madsen whilst I was in Denmark last autumn in readiness for this year’s show, and so that has actually been on display since January, and I am investigating interesting ways to feature his work online over the next few months.

Ceramic: Sten Lykke Madsen


Has the experience of lockdown changed the way you work or think creatively?

I have had to think carefully about strategies that will enable me to continue to curate exhibitions, sell work and interact with the public in a post-Covid-19 world. In addition to developing my “vlogging” focus I have been participating in the #artistsupportpledge on my @kayaplin Instagram through which I have started to sell work. I have been thinking about ways to develop my digital capacity including redeveloping both of my websites, theceramichouse.co.uk and kayaplin.com including a webshop, which will be online soon.

Do you think there are advantages to developing more digital ways to interact with audiences?  Do you have more ideas of how you would like to work in this way?

The current situation has revealed that the opportunities and capacity for digital engagement is huge, and I expect most arts organisations will be developing this as an integral strand to their work going forward. I collaborate with sound artist Joseph Young on some of The Ceramic House projects and we are already looking into extending the range of cross-disciplinary collaborations with artists from other disciplines and strengthening our digital output, for example in hosting live music/sound events, producing podcasts and digital album releases as well as continuing to offer opportunities for ceramic and sound artists to collaborate through our invited residency programmes.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Just as the lockdown started, we received funding from Arts Council England for our biggest ever project, an ambitious China-UK exchange project in ceramics and sound that will take place in the UK and China over 18 months throughout 2020-21. However, not only is there a huge amount of uncertainty about whether we will be able to travel to China, but also our UK partners are facing an unprecedented funding situation which will impact hugely on our plans and therefore we have a big challenge to realise the project. We expect we will have to radically change many elements and outcomes and are brainstorming with all of our partners about ways of achieving this. We will be looking very carefully at how to continue to hold exhibitions and run residencies in these changed circumstances. I am also in the development stages of offering tile making workshops potentially online and eventually at The Ceramic House, so please direct enquiries to [email protected] for information or keep an eye on the website!

Kay’s Artists Online House: https://aoh.org.uk/gallery/the-ceramic-house/

Kay has also produced many videos about her work for her own blog:

Tudor Kitchen

Blackberry Hill Terrace

Asturias Gateway

Bamboo Bathroom

Beach Blanket Babylon Bar

Barcelona Glass

Burdon Moor

Roses and Tiles

Malene Hartmann Rasmussen

Lisa Krigel

Heidi Hentze

Delfina Emmanuel