Interview: Carlo Briscoe from Reptile Tiles

Our Featured Makers for March – May 2016 are Carlo Briscoe and Ed Dunn from Reptile Tiles in Carmarthenshire. We went to visit Carlo with our volunteer, Rachel Vater to see her beautiful home and studio. We wanted to find out a little more about the company she has run with her husband Ed in the old butter works (Gwaith Menyn) since 1988.

 

Q. Where do you look for inspiration? Do you look purely for visuals or do other things influence you too?

A: I get most of my inspiration through visits to museums, old ceramics and embroidery. I find Pinterest an amazing source of inspiration and it’s great for discovering new artists as well as ones that I had perhaps forgotten about. We’re heading to Liverpool soon so we’ll probably visit the museum there. We’ve spent some time in Portugal and that’s actually one of the main influences in my work – we’ve been to the Tile Museum in Lisbon ( National Azulejo Museum) and Fronteira Palace is an absolute must. Fronteira has had the biggest influence on my work, especially with the colours.

Q. Do you listen to music in the studio? What’s your current favourite?

A: I love music so there’s usually something on in the background while I’m working. Both Ed (Carlo’s husband) and I have a great appreciation of music and we’re heading to see Joanna Newsom play in Liverpool in March. She sings and plays the harp and it’s very beautiful.

Q. What has been your most interesting commission?

A: The most interesting was probably with Waitrose, who we worked with for roughly 9 years. We had been designing and making the murals behind the meat and fish counters as well as for their cafes. We were then asked if we could do a large panel for their Kings Road store in Chelsea. It ended up being 27 meters long!

Q. How do you find navigating the business side of art?

A: It doesn’t come naturally to me, like a lot of creative people – we prefer to be in the studio making! It’s an essential part of life as a self employed craftsperson though, so I have learned to embrace it.

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Q. You have both created a very successful business in Reptile, what has been the hardest obstacle to overcome?

A: I don’t think there’s one particular obstacle. With starting your own business, there are always going to be sacrifices and what-not. The business side of things will always be an obstacle of sorts. Deciding to leave London certainly had drawbacks, we have probably had less turnover of commercial work, however, we would never have had the same quality of life in London as we do here in west Wales. We work constantly, so there hasn’t been much time for holidays and this is our livelihood, so it’s what we will be doing for the foreseeable future. The internet has helped, the beauty of it is that clients can source work from anywhere in the world, it has definitely helped us to survive in the current age. Living in the west can make it difficult to be at the front of architects and interior designers minds when they are commissioning; and it’s a long way to travel to London or the big cities for meetings.

Q. Has/In what way your background in fine art contributed to Reptile?

A: I don’t really think it’s had an overt affect on my style per se, but just that immersion in art and art history has inevitably affected my work. Ed is still very much fine art, his style is very realistic.

Q. How would you describe your style?

A: Naive, humorous, people always smile when they see the work. I am heavily influenced by Portuguese tiles and ceramics. As previously mentioned Fronteira Palace has had a profound effect on me and so on my work. I would also say there is a suggestion of narrative to my work. I prefer illustrative pottery and ceramics rather than the abstract or minimalist styles of some contemporary makers. I really enjoy the ceramics of Vicky Lindo, there’s a folk style to her work.

Q. How do you approach starting a new project? Do you work in a sketchbook?

A: Sometimes I’ll work in a sketchbook but I find it slightly restricting. I mostly work on scraps of paper. Because of the nature of my drawings, it’s always best to capture the ‘character’ in a quick drawing. It’s not always so easy to then recreate that ‘character’ on a tile. I quite often work on a series all at once so that I can get in the flow and keep the style consistent.

Q. Do you have any plans for 2016, any shows/exhibitions? If so, can you tell us where and when please.

A: I got back into doing trade shows last year and I really enjoyed it. I went to Ceramics in the City at the Geffrye Museum and Made by Hand in Cardiff. It gave me a huge boost of motivation so I have applied to do them again this year as well as the Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey in June.

Q. What is your dream/ultimate commission?

A: For there to be no brief, to be given a free rein on what to do. I must say, I’ve always fancied doing a mosaic commission.

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Click here for more images of Carlo’s house and studio

We’ve also invited Carlo to be the guest pinner on our Pinterest page until May.

Carlo and Ed’s work is available to buy in the gallery.

 

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