ARTIST INTERVIEW- Maria Donnai
• Could you introduce yourself and your practice?
My name is Maria Donnai. I am currently studying towards an MA in Creative Practice at Hull College. I mainly work with porcelain to create pieces that are inspired by the skeletal structure of birds. I am particularly interested in birds that are now extinct and like to create work that highlights the fragility of the species. Through my art I hope to encourage people to consider the accelerating rate of species extinction.
Your works are so beautifully detailed, there must be a lot of time involved in making the work, can you describe your creative process?
The process of making the porcelain pieces is quite time-consuming. I enjoy focusing on the details and carving each piece by hand. They are all quite small and fragile, designed to be held in the palm of the hand which encourages a feeling of protectiveness and an awareness of the fragility of life. Once carved, I refine the piece to make it as smooth and thin as possible. After bisque firing, I sand any rough areas before it is fired again at a higher temperature. I then repeat the process of sanding using a diamond pad and wax and polish to give a subtle shine. I sometimes think I’ve sanded my fingerprints off completely by the end of the process!
I am really drawn to your piece ‘Fragment 2’ ,what was the inspiration behind it?
Fragment 2 developed as I realised that most of my work is inspired by fragments or little pieces of bone that are broken or damaged in some way. I was looking at a tiny, crushed bird skull and decided to try making pieces that reminded me of that but have been altered in some way.
What brought you to working with porcelain?
The first 3D or sculpting work that I tried was about 3 years ago and I was using basic white clay. As my skills developed, I found that I wanted to get more detail into them and try and replicate the fragility of bone. The whiteness of porcelain seems to do that – it doesn’t need glazing which is good for me as I don’t enjoy that process at all.
How do you decide the size of your pieces, how important is scale to you?
Funnily enough, I originally restricted myself to making small pieces as I travel everywhere by bicycle and I needed to make work that is easy to transport. I also like to focus on details – even in my drawing – and this works better on small pieces. With the bone fragments it is important to me that people can hold them, so the scale is now something that I consider to be an important part of the work.
Who are some of your favourite contemporary artists at the moment?
There are so many good contemporary artists it’s hard to pick favourites – I suppose at the moment I’m looking at work by Maggie Barnes, Emma Rogers, Claire Jackson and Henry Moore. I love natural history museums and contemporary taxidermy artists like Ellie Coleman, Angela Singer and Jazmine Miles-Long are amazing.