Shelagh Spear was born and brought up in Cornwall. Like many of her generation though she had to leave Cornwall to further her education, and was not encouraged to follow art as a career, but to acquire a “sensible” training.
Whilst out of the county she pursued art as a hobby. The most sustained period of five years was making sculpture at evening classes in Bath. The last three years of which her bronzes were selected for the R.W.A. Annual Exhibition. Sculpture has a life-long interest for Shelagh. Since completing her degree in studio ceramics in 2000, she has used clay as the medium for her artwork, which has become widely collected.
Her pieces have a timeless, narrative quality. Individual figures stand alone, deep in thought, or are joined by a cast of other participants – people, animals and birds. She says; ‘My works evidently influenced by old English ceramics and folk art from everywhere, but I especially love the figures drawn in medieval illustrated manuscripts. I hope that I manage to capture an echo of their spirit in my work.’ In keeping with her Cornish heritage, she uses clay dug and prepared in Cornwall. She fires to 1215°C.
She particularly enjoys the opportunity that clay offers for different surface finishes. They are not always predictable and opening the kiln door after firing still has power to confound or delight. Her pieces have areas of toasted clay next to a cream matt stone-like finish. Additional tonal contrast is sometimes provided by dark slipped areas dappled with small pools of glaze.