Cumber returned to making ceramics when she was 57 after a gap of nearly 30 years and after suffering a severe negative mental health crisis. During that time she had become a mother, worked to support a family and was denied the time, space and freedom (financially and mentally) to pursue any type of meaningful creative practice.
The ceramic work that she started to produce, after not making work for 30 years, and which she is continuing to develop currently, is a visual navigation of her life and of her life’s experiences. Cumber’s ceramics describe and communicate how she is resolving and rationalising her emotions and inner conflicts and how she deals, reacts and responds to her lived existence. The work, like huge oversized domestic vessels, expresses bold personal and intimate statements, like confessional advertisements, that she proudly shouts out loud and shares with an audience of viewers and observers. At its core, her work reverses the hierarchy of shame and hiding from others the complexities, emotional difficulties, pain and challenges of life to become a platform for acknowledging, accepting and celebrating these emotions as part of the richness and depth of life.
When she describes my work she thinks about honesty, as she knows she doesn’t need to hide anymore or make an impression on anyone or feel shame or embarrassment about her emotions and reflections on her life and what she feels. She can just tell it how it is, and that honesty has appeal and truth to it and so she has given herself permission at long last to accept and to communicate who she really is to others. In doing this Cumber’s work calls to all of us and in response we thank her for her honesty and find comfort in her words which so many of us feel but cannot say out loud.
All Cumber’s work is hand built from stoneware clay which is then painted with slips, underglazes and oxides before being fired and glazed.