Spotlight: Anastasia Tory - Ceramicist and Studio Holder at The Margate School
Tell me a little bit about your background and what originally inspired you to get into ceramics...
Growing up in the port city of Odesa in Southern Ukraine, I spent most of my formative years dreaming of becoming a sculptor. I studied at art school at night alongside my regular studies from the age of 6, and surrounded by the beautiful baroque buildings that characterise my hometown, sought to merge my love of sculpture with a growing interest in Architecture. I earned a bachelor's degree in Architecture and Land Art at the University of Architecture and Construction in 2014. My subsequent return to ceramics was with a professional interest, and I trained in sculpting and pottery until I was spending most of my time working with clay.
After numerous requests to teach others to sculpt, I began taking students and decided to study for a second BA and a Masters in Decorative and Applied Arts. In 2015 I was accepted into the Union of Artists of Ukraine, on the basis of which I exhibited my creative works. Having taught at numerous institutions, I began working with a friend to launch the first social pottery studio in Odesa, focussing on using ceramics to create a positive impact in the community. I eventually began teaching at The Way Home Odesa Charitable Foundation. I launched my own studio in central Odesa in 2015 from which I developed my own art and continued to support the charity until 2022, when I had to leave Ukraine due to the conflict.
In the spring of 2022, I was forced to leave my life in Ukraine and move to the safety of Germany, where I lived with a close friend. I started to work on new sculptures right away, using tools I was making myself and whatever supplies I could salvage. After a few very challenging months I launched a successful solo exhibition in Berlin at @voronagallery. I was also an active member of Studio Ukraine (collaboration of Ukrainian and European artists), with our works presented throughout 2022 at Haus der Statistics, Bundestag, Kunstlerhof Frohnau, museum of Berlin-Reinickendorf.
In the autumn of 2022, I decided to relocate to Whitstable, and from there to Margate in search of new collaborations with British artists and art spaces. I joined The Margate School and have continued to create works from my studio there.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on several projects currently. I'm preparing for my next exhibition at @voronagallery in Berlin from 10th February - 23rd March 2024, alongside other upcoming events in Europe around that time. In the nearer term, I continue in my role as a partner at Salon Gallery in Margate.
When you’re not practicing your craft, how do you spend your time?
Ceramic is my main medium, but I love to work with many natural materials. It's such a joy to learn how to use wood, metal, stone, glass and sand to create something new and unexpected. When I'm not at the studio, I'm often walking around Thanet and collecting small oddities and inspiration to incorporate into my work. I still haven't learned how to ride a bike, so walking is my only option for now :)
If you could name only one, what would be the highlight of your journey in ceramics?
It's hard to pick one! Probably, the moment when I realised that I can be a full-time artist for the rest of my life, and I would be able to provide for myself, grow in my field, and help others. But that realisation came before the war when I had my studio and network in Odesa, and now I'm starting from the beginning once again. As I continue to establish myself here, I am looking forward to experiencing this moment of realisation again.
What is your advice for someone looking to start out in your field?
I will give a very boring piece of advice I’m afraid! Be careful and don't neglect the safety rules. Working with glazes and clay can be very harmful for your health. Know what you're touching with your bare hands and be very careful around fumes. My number one safety tip would be don’t sniff anything in a ceramic studio – there are acids, heavy metals and all kinds of hazardous materials involved!
If you weren’t a ceramicist what do you think you would be?
A painter, a jeweler, a carpenter, many things...anything that involves creatively interpreting nature. Or maybe a geologist...I love rocks!
Do you have any exhibitions / workshops etc that people can get involved with?
During December, Salon in Margate will turn into an “Art Superstore”, with works from many artists on show throughout the festive season. Tim and I are organising this at the moment, and some of our works will be on show alongside some of the artists from Salon’s 10 previous exhibitions, and many other from the community!
Any last thoughts for our readers?
Don’t think about what fancy tools you might need to finish your idea...you can improvise and experiment along the way, and it will lead you to a better result.