NO.4 RACHAEL COCKER & ALI HEWSON: Up Our Street - 8 Holland Street's neighbours, near and far

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"We need each other. Much like we need the sun and we need the moon, we need the soil and we need the sky, we need some gloss and we need some grit.

 

Merry Christmas from UP OUR STREET, to yourS"

FOR THIS DECEMBER EDITION OF UP OUR STREET, WE ARE CELEBRATING FRIENDSHIP (WHILST BEING JOLLY...CAREFUL) BY EXPLORING THE LIVES OF ARTISTS RACHAEL COCKER AND ALI HEWSON…

 

As people and ceramicists, Rachael Cocker is polished where Ali Hewson is honed. This is apparent in their ceramics, and in their studios, as we discovered on a trip to Norfolk.

 

The trip was prompted by seeing on Instagram during lockdown that the artists were friends and delivered handmade baked goods to each-other; perfect, wholesome packages left on doorsteps. We were intrigued whether their well Instagrammed ‘artist residing in rural setting’ lives in reality had takeaway Hawaiian pizza tucked in the recycling, and Saturday night telly on record, and polyester jumpers in hidden cupboards. Spoiler: absolutely everything is as authentic and beautiful as it seems.

 

Rachael’s studio is in Great Yarmouth, in a 17th century house owned by Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. To get to Rachael’s one climbs a very narrow, dark, winding stairway but emerges at the top of the building into a bright studio space. There is such a natural lightness of touch to her space and work, with flowers arranged, hand-made cushions, Facebook marketplace furniture and floral illustrations peppering the otherwise white walls. Even her buckets storing her materials are labelled in calligraphic handwriting. It’s all so goddam appealing. But Rachael is not floating around in billowing dresses arranging flowers, she has a female power that understands how to polish and package her talent. What a talent she is - have you seen our advent calendar ?

 

Ali however is so humble and lowly lit, so of the earth, so well-tempered that she politely sits back. Ali literally touches, wades and feels through the soil mud-larking for 17th century delftware and slipware at weekends. Her ceramics reflect this in their earthy tones and textures, and their intentionally abstract historical references. She has a secret entry to the Thames in Wapping behind a pub that’s always abundant in slipware as that was standard then. The star pattern you see in her work is from a shard on one visit.

 

Ali thinks, and delves both figuratively and literally. Its deep and layered much like the earth from whence it came. One imagines Ali reading under candlelight until the early hours by a roaring fire. The other day I put a fire on my plasma screen...wasn’t the same.

 

Rachael and Ali ultimately, have made and achieved a beautiful life they could not have in the expensive hubbub of London. They would have and did also work in cafes and shops and beg for space in other peoples kilns. It is only in the new year that Ali is finally doing her ceramics full time. In this remote but authentic life they lead, they support each other with their own studios and their own kilns. Not in a braiding each other’s hair way, in a quiet ‘you got this’ unwavering, empowering way.

 

We need each other. Much like we need the sun and we need the moon, we need the soil and we need the sky, we need some gloss and we need some grit. Merry Christmas from UP OUR STREET, to yours. We got this, 2021. 8HS X

 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY OLLIE TOMLINSON

WRITTEN BY ALEX MASTERS

Studio
Portfolio
Thoughts

RACHAEL AND ALI COMPLETE THE SENTENCES ABOUT THEIR DAY...

 

 

I STARTED MY DAY BY…

Rachael: eating jam on toast. Along with the rest of the nation, I have been trying to perfect my sourdough. If i'm lucky I'll have some Ali Hewson toast - shes the best jam maker ever!

 

Ali: my cat is my alarm clock. I then have ginger tea and look at the garden to wake-up

AT LUNCH …

 

Rachael: In the summer I swim to refresh and wash the clay off my hands. In winter it's hard to leave, so I'll probably have computer time.

 

Ali: I'm not good at having a break, but I have been trying to go to the market in the centre of Norwich everyday. I usually bump into someone, which is always nice.

 

WHAT GETS ME THROUGH …

Rachael: the sunshine in my south facing studio, and the radio. I generally listen to radio 4 until theres a play, then I switch to a podcast. 

 

Ali: I'm often crying at a Modern Love podcast. Or I listen to some music - I like to listen to the same songs as I discover something new each time. At the moment its Bob Dylan's New Morning and If Dogs Run Free.



A DISTRACTION …

 

Rachael: I always start doing random experiments when I have a deadline.

 

Ali: It's not very poetic, but my phone. I'm trying to set boundaries with it!

 

I FAILED AT …

Rachael: ceramics are a big lesson in failure -  things warp, glazes change. I try to be gung ho and embrace these suprises.  

 

Ali: trying to do my studio work with my other jobs. I can't wait to solely focus on it from January.


A THOUGHT I HAD …

Rachael: day-dreaming about a summer holiday. I want to eat fresh tomatoes, cheeses and bread by the sea - Italy or Greece perhaps. 

 

Ali: I get distracted by the state of the world, I feel like the answers to big problems are obvious but we fail to enact them. 


A DREAM PROJECT …

 

Rachael: after this year I would like to collaborate with someone. I miss being physcially close to someone working through a creative project. Maybe a textile project would be fun.

 

Ali: I would love to buy a big rambling house and do it up myself. I would make my own encaustic tiles, and planters, my own kitchen...everything...a life's work!


TOMORROW...

Rachael: I'm working on my third batch of mugs with Lily Permaine

 

Ali: I'm very grateful for a full day in the studio packing orders!