Woodwork artist Amy Isles Freeman first found satisfaction in the functionality of her creations, but the “hedonistic, colourful allure of art for the sake of art” soon pulled her towards painting too. The result: wonderful hand-turned and hand-painted vessels that are both utilitarian and delightfully decorative in a signature graphic, illustrative style that celebrates female sexuality, using motifs of flowers, birds and women with long, flowing hair. The bold, brightly varnished exteriors of her vessels contrast with their plain, smoothly oiled inner surface – from cups (£85) to large bowls (£225).
The process starts with sourcing timber from yards across southwest England; she prefers to use beech as “it tends to behave itself. It has relatively few knots, clean markings and a warm colour. I can’t use any wood that has anything remarkably beautiful about it, however, as it’s just too sacrilegious to paint over half of it.” Freeman’s lathe is housed in an old piggery on a farm in Cornwall, where all the wood turning is done, but she paints her creations at her studio near Brighton. And while her ready-made creations can now be found in the likes of Liberty, the designer-maker relishes working to commission (from £150).
In fact, the artist’s success started with a commission: a bird bowl for a family friend’s daughter, which was noticed on Instagram by the London Design Fair. Bespoke projects are often bowls – from one depicting the sea to a response to an embroidery by the client’s mother, who had recently passed away – but have included stools (a collaboration with Cornwall-based furniture company Mark Product), a tiger-adorned jewellery box and a hanging plate, to be used as a suspended fruit bowl.
It’s fitting, says Freeman, that she is often asked to make bowls for lovers, as well as wedding gifts. “So much love is poured into my work, which explores themes of freedom and joy,” she explains. “Since art school I have been immersed in feminist art, but I realised that anger could be trumped by celebration. I want to elicit smiles and laughter.”