Carol Farrow 1944-2012

Paperclay ‘implement’ by Carol Farrow


I received a mysterious parcel on my birthday last month marked ‘Fragile’.  Carefully unwrapping it I found a small shovel-shaped ‘implement’, in delicate chalky grey, which I immediately recognised as the work of Carol Farrow.  It was accompanied by a card which read: “I saw this and thought of you”.

This gift was sent by a special friend who I first met at City Lit during my time on the Ceramic Diploma.   It was an intensive and demanding two year course and many of the students forged friendships which have continued to the present day, founded on moral, practical and emotional support and a shared commitment to and passion for clay.

The friend who sent the package had recently been to a commemorative exhibition of Carol Farrow’s work at the Jointure Studios in Ditchling.  I assumed she had thought of me because it reminded her of a ceramic trowel I had made at the beginning of the diploma course. But then, on the telephone, she reminded me of the very enjoyable day we had spent together in Carol’s live / workspace in Catford one summer, learning how to make handcrafted paper and paperclay.

And it was, of course, Carol’s work – particularly the muted tones, embossed, scratched, punctured, lined and weathered-looking surfaces of her ‘abstract vessels’ – that first inspired and encouraged me to experiment with and begin using paperclay myself.

Carol was a pioneer when it came to using this material, combining paper pulp and clay to her own recipe.  It was a long and messy process which I lacked the patience for and ended up buying my materials instead in a ready to use form from clay suppliers. But it served Carol well and she produced not only wonderful vessels using this method but also handmade papers from cotton linter which were often transformed into large and boldly painted textured panels.

Very sadly Carol passed away early in 2012 after a short illness.  Not only was she a gifted artist  but she was also a respected educator who shared her skills and methods with a generous spirit.

So thank you Louise for such a thoughtful and unexpected ‘blast from the past’.  It is a beautiful piece which I am delighted to add to my small collection of ‘meaningful objects’ – all with individual stories and memories attached.