Artist in Lockdown Series #7 - ALMUTH TEBBENHOFF

How has lockdown affected your routine and practice?

I have my studio in my house where I can work with clay so I can make clay sculptures, maquettes and I can work on paper. I had to abandon a marble sculpture which I had started in Italy in November last year and neither can I get to the forge in East Sussex where several new steel pieces are waiting to be completed. But since most of my planned exhibitions have been cancelled there is no great urgency to make more steel pieces for the moment.


What have you been working on today?

I am working on a series of ceramic wall planters, totally practical but with an aesthetic and fun edge of course. I trained as a potter in 1972-5 and I love hand building with clay. I live in London and I don’t have a large garden to grow lots of fresh vegetables, so I had this idea to build a vertical strawberry field up the wall behind my property. This is progressing nicely and the first 15 strawberry plants have gone into the planters.


What are you missing the most during isolation?

I miss the freedom to just go, drive, walk, fly anywhere, whenever I need or want to and I haven’t hugged my son and close friends for a while. Luckily I do have a husband otherwise I would be in trouble. I am a very tactile person and the sense of touch is essential for me.


What are you finding most challenging about lockdown?

Thoughts about the future. I have more time to think and I have been aware for some time that we have arrived at a crucial moment where important decisions have to be made to keep our earth habitable for humans. Our politicians are striving to get back to normal where normal means profiteering, plundering and destroying nature. This insanity leaves me helplessly worrying.


What are you doing to stay positive?

Making my vertical strawberry field. Then eating well and loving this Spring. Early last year I started foraging again which my mother had taught me, so now I have my secret places where I can find hogweed, wild garlic, ground elder, garlic mustard and burdock. I can walk, cycle or take a short drive to these places and harvest. Eating this wild food connects me to nature and keeps me sane.


What advice would you give to fellow artists?

Find a realistic project that is achievable and that makes your heart sing. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t a career enhancing project, it only has to make you happy while you do it.


Do you think art and the art world will look different when we re-emerge from


I hope so. It is so cruel and heartless that there is room for improvement. We’ll just have to keep the positive experiences, the caring for our neighbours and fellow humans. There are some wonderful stories emerging.


What have you been watching/reading/listening to during lockdown?

There is a wonderful program called Singing With Nightingales organised by The Nest Collective which is food for the soul. It started on Earth Day, 22nd April and continues until 7th May. Sam Lee the organiser has got it completely right bringing live recordings of nightingales singing in East Sussex together with musicians and poets in their various lockdowns. Reading Robert Macfarlane’s Underland and following him on Twitter is great too.

Seeing some great films on Netflix (such as Unorthodox) and catching up movies on the BFI, Mark Kermode’s recommendations. I am loving some of the world’s greatest films and there is a fine selection.


Have you been creative in the kitchen during lockdown? Any recommendations?

My husband has been doing the cooking. I do the foraging. I recommend an omelette with fresh herbs such as garlic mustard and wild garlic finely chopped. In fact we have been eating really well and much more consciously. I do miss feeding lots of people which I would normally do and I can’t get used to buying and cooking small portions.


Which artist (dead or alive) would you most like to be in isolation with and why? 

Lee Krasner. She was so effortlessly creative that I’d love to just be in her presence. Robert MacFarlane for the brilliant use of words and Rainer Maria Rilke for the depth and poetry. I would quite like a young Leonard Cohen for sex and music - if my husband wasn’t available…


If someone had told you in January that you’d need to stay at home for six weeks and there would be no exhibitions what do you think you would have said? 

Bring it on…. although I do want to have a fabulous exhibition soon.


Do you think lockdown will have an impact on your work?

It is giving me time to breathe and think, although I have always taken time for that, but just now there is no need to hurry which is wonderful and to have clean air and a lack of traffic. Excepting the excessive rates of dying there are a lot of positive aspects which we should bring through into the next phase. The art market puts such terrible demands on creativity by forcing competition and productivity way too far, which, I suppose, is by being so unregulatable, so I am enjoying this pause inordinately.

May 5, 2020