My work hovers between the figurative and the abstract – the idea that you’re free to choose the meaning of your work seems really profound to me. Freed from the way-marking of completely representational work, abstract/subjective painting and sculpting in clay means for me that the subject material comes from an inner life, even if often sparked by, or abstracted from, a view or a detail from the landscape around me in North Cornwall. In this method, I feel immediately very much at home and at liberty to paint and make from the deepest part of me, and simultaneously am almost overwhelmed each time I approach a canvas or clay.
I will often work on a series of sketches and studies to help me work out what its is that I have seen that has excited my attention, before deciding which material and format will work best. Just as a completely figurative painter strives to be true to an objective reality, so in abstract/subjective painting and making I am all the time trying to be completely honest with myself about the colours, shapes and textures I am laying down – whether they work, whether they feel right, and if when put together they “sing”.


Each clay piece is built by hand, and takes many hours to complete. First the form is built up using coils and slabs of clay; then it is patiently refined until the “right” curve is found. I rarely use glazes, working instead with just the clay itself, mixing it with oxides to produce muted, earthy colours. Finally the work is fired to 1240 degrees, and is frost-resistant.

Brief Biography

I have painted since I was small, but I started my career in the voluntary sector, including Voluntary Service Overseas in Papua New Guinea and Kenya. I worked in senior management for Oxfam, and in a series of voluntary organisations, as well as doing freelance work evaluating the effectiveness of development projects in Africa and Asia.
I turned seriously to painting in 1994. My formal art training was through the Open College of the Arts (courses in painting and drawing). I spent many years under the tutelage of Norman Rechter, a renowned European watercolourist.
I paint in watercolour, oils and acrylics, choosing the medium to suit the message. My work starts from landscape but leans towards the abstract. My work in clay is mainly stoneware, high-fired and often unglazed.
I fell in love with ceramics in 1999 and studied at Sunningwell School of Art and the Royal Forest of Dean College before moving to Cornwall and I still work as a potter alongside the painting.
I am a member of the Cornwall Watercolour Society, Bude Art Society, East Cornwall Society of Artists, Gwynngala and the Cornwall Ceramics and Glass Group. I have shown work in galleries and exhibitions through the South west and in Oxford and London.

Nicky May
Midsummer Cottage
Week St Mary
EX22 6UL

Phone: 01288 341662

Email: Email Address