Mew Welch: Pot star
By Gareth Stevens
Many of our best loved music icons came to us via Art schools, but it is less usual that successful musicians find fresh passion for the visual arts later on in their career.
So who is Mew? She currently lives with her husband and a little dog in St Leonards, and together they share a space at Compendium Studios in the town. She is a former member of the band Elastica. Changing horses in the middle of the stream, she went on to study Fine Art at the University of Brighton and graduated with a first class honours degree in 2015.
Originally from Suffolk, Mew has touched down in various locations on the South coast before finally settling in St Leonards in 2017. After her time with Elastica she first left London for Devon where she lived on a dairy farm for nine years. Stopping off in Worthing, Saltdean and Rottingdean along the way, she says of her relocation to our town, “It was the best thing we ever did … we love it.”
She is inspired by the stark urban geometry of Brutalist architecture, concrete bunkers as well as the brightly coloured building blocks of childhood toys. Along with her passion for the ‘cut-outs’ of Henri Matisse, the text-based silk screen prints of Sister Corita Kent have been a huge influence on her current practice. It is rare to find an artist with such a disparate array of key influences. After all, what work do you produce when you are fired up by both Brutalist Architecture and the exuberant and fresh collages of Matisse in equal measure?
Mew also works in the costume departments of various film companies and has just completed work on the new Kingsman and Cruella movies. She has continued to work in music despite having put most of her emphasis on the visual arts and toured extensively with the band Piroshka in 2019. When I spoke to her on Zoom, she was just about to leave for nine months to work on costumes for the film Captain Marvel 2.
Ceramics is a recent departure for Mew. She says that ever since she was introduced to the process in primary school, it has been niggling at the back of her mind. Following a short practical course in St Leonards shortly after her arrival here, she has embarked on making bright and quirky ‘pots’ that are both functional and fun. In some senses it was a natural progression for her because, alongside her paintings, she has always loved constructing things, whether it be wooden sculptures or experimenting with forming concrete.
Mew likes to play with juxtaposing ephemeral signs and symbols from popular culture such as Acid House smiley faces with semi-functional coil built ceramic pots. She is the first to admit that she is no master ceramist but enthuses about the almost primal process of building something.
After becoming a member of Hastings’ Common Clay, she was introduced to the idea of using brightly coloured glazes and excitedly began to realize that her ceramic ‘palette’ could deviate wildly from the more traditional notion of earth colours.
Mew explains that she is drawn to the idea of splicing the ideas she had already developed in her painting with her nascent interest in ceramics. She describes the move away from rectangular canvases that her new works in clay have provided, as liberating.
These pots are a wonderful celebration of the ancient tradition of making clay vessels and disposable pop culture and iconography.
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