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Johanna Bolton

 insta: @johanna.bolton


I met Johanna through my old studio although we didn't see much of each other we follow each other on Instagram and have some shared interests so I'm always very excited about what she's up to.


You are currently in residence at Benson Sedgwick manufacturers and engineers specialising in metal. How do you think this has affected your practice and what have been the challenges you’ve faced in working with this material that can be somewhat unpredictable? 

In many ways I think of my practice as a kind of research, testing ideas and learning new things about matter and materiality through that meeting of mind-hand-material. 


I like the material to keep some agency, to allow space for interruptions and unexpected things to happen. Courting surprise. Normally, I work with soft materials like clay, which is very responsive to changes whilst working.


Working in metal sheet is very different, the rigidity means that there has to be a predetermined plan, accurate measurements and cuts. 


However, I seem to have spent most of my residency finding ways to work with metal so that it does become responsive to process… Not sure if this is a subversive streak or just awkward, but it seems I can’t help working in this way!


I started with bending lots of metal squares at individual angles and welding them together to form unpredictable helices. Next I cut the metal into thin strips so that it could be individually bent over my knee to create round bubble like formations. Now I’m working on a chaotic system of welded angles…..


What has it been like as an atmosphere to work in?


It is a fantastic playground for artists!! It is also a proper factory; huge space, very noisy and dirty - massive machines, overalls, lots of safety wear - the real deal!


I am free to use the scrap material so tend to start the day with a skip dive and drawing up plans…. I got my own work space and tools so it’s easy to get stuck in. I was, and in many ways still am, a total noob. Fortunately, the guys working there are really friendly and helpful! They are also absolutely amazing craftsmen, there’s a steady stream of incredible structures and sculptures being made. Always something interesting to look at.


I work completely independently, but get help if I need. They also very kindly come and lie to me about my welding looking better every now and then… 

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