Our Tribe // Meet Our Makers // Abid Javed
In conversation with Abid Javed
During the recent lockdown we were contacted by Abid Javed with some images of his work, to see if we would be interested in stocking his hand built ceramics. It’s often difficult as we do get a lot of emails like this, and due to these volumes we often can’t pursue these interests. However with Abid’s work we knew that it was a perfect partnership, and so Abid produced a small collection for us. We chatted more to Abid to find out more about his ceramics, inspirations, and the contrasting nature of the work that is Abid’s day job.
Could you tell us a bit about your background - where you grew up and where you live now?
I was born in Hong Kong and spent most of my early childhood there. I also spent some time in Pakistan (Lahore) before moving to England (Manchester). Therefore, my background is a culmination of my time spent in those three places – picking up three different languages, three cultures. I am currently based in London, since the last 6 years or so.
How did you get into ceramics, and how long have you been making ceramics for?
My break in ceramics is rather non-traditional. I studied Biochemistry at university, with dabbling in painting and illustration on the side. During my PhD, I was looking at three-dimensional molecules – enamoured by the visual aspect of biology with an array of storylines. It compelled me to find a medium that would allow me to translate those storylines in 3D. In the time of 3D printers, I wanted to find something more intuitive. After looking at different options, I heard about Turning Earth through a friend and took up a short-course for beginners to learn ceramics (credit to Lily Pearmain and Bisila Noha). From there on, I devoted some time to establish a research & development approach to making ceramics. Almost two years to be exact. I also wanted to delve a little deeper into the relationship between a piece of ceramic and the visual experience it brings. You see, the field of ceramics is so vast and versatile that you can spend a lifetime getting to the nitty gritty of the various ways you can work in clay. Eventually there came a time where I found my happy place (sculptures and vessels), which then allowed me to work on developing projects to this day, using clay.
“My main source of inspiration is biology - I admire how nature makes it all look so seamless and simple, yet deep inside there is so much happening - simple forms, with intricate mechanics and dynamism inside. This philosophy is what I aim to achieve in my own work.”
You mentioned that your day job is biomedical research - can you tell us a bit about what that involves and how this affects your creative work?
Absolutely. I work as a post-doctoral research scientist in molecular biology at the Institute of Structure and Molecular Biology (UCL/Birkbeck College, London). My main project involves looking at how human viruses replicate their DNA in order to multiply in numbers and spread. Which is a very topical subject, given the Covid-19 pandemic. And in practice, I solve structures of molecules using microscopic images to understand various aspects of biology. I would say without a doubt; my ceramics practice is largely informed by my day job in molecular biology. I should also add that ceramics did become an antidote to the stress that comes with a scientific job – the freedom and mindfulness clay provided was a welcomed change.
What inspires you and your creative work, and what is your process?
Artistically, I admire the works of Jean Arp, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Pablo Picasso, to name a few. Special mentions to Kettle’s Yard (Cambridge) and my recent trip to South Korea for transforming the way I saw ceramics. I also draw references from my own heritage: Islamic arts – Arabic calligraphy and Islamic geometry. A combination of these inform my collections and my work. The ceramics I make are all hand-built. I like the connection I am able to make with clay – the ability to manipulate it, direct it, shape it until it becomes a body. Often, I sketch out my ideas before committing to a shape. Yet at times, I find myself sketching out as I form a shape in clay. When I form a shape, I use a combination of pinching, coiling and slabbing methods – together with my hands and tools. And I often leave my work raw, letting the clay body take centre-stage.
“Through my ‘molecular objects’, I want people to indulge in biological narratives like it’s the next episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians.”
You live in East London - where are your favourite places to visit in the area?
I do – in the humble yet extraordinary neighbourhood of Hackney. I love the marshes, which are a doorstep away and a God-send. During the past few months, I appreciated how lucky our neighbourhood is with access to a vast, natural greenspace. I am also a plant-person and therefore adore our local ‘Conservatory Archives’ shop which houses a range of plant species that you can put in your indoor living spaces. They also have an amazing café tucked in (with the delicious matcha cheesecake).
What are your hopes and future plans for Abid Javed ceramics?
My ceramics practice is in its infancy, with a long way to go. However, through my work, I hope to establish a dialogue between myself and the observer. Molecular biology for me is very much under-represented in our society and something people almost feel afraid to indulge in and talk about. I want to change that by allowing people to connect to the microscopic world we all live in, intuitively. Through my ‘molecular objects’, I want people to indulge in biological narratives like it’s the next episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians.
I am also enjoying collaborating with other creatives. I have been fortunate enough to connect with a few friends recently through collaborations and aim to pursue this further. With enough funds, I would also like to establish my own working studio, share my knowledge and experiences with opportunities to build narratives together.
Also, very recently, I re-connected with my roots in Islamic art. And I feel like I have only touched the surface of it. Stay tuned to see how that develops.
Ceramics from Abid Javed will be available in A New Tribe from July 2020