TENT London and the V&A

Last Friday we had the privilege of visiting the Tent London design fair in the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane as part of London Design Festival. The range of work on display and variety of techniques and materials used was remarkable. Some exhibiting designers hailed from as far afield as China; others showcased contemporary design from European countries like Portugal, Sweden and Denmark. I’ve picked three of my favourite makers from the show here:

Amy Isles Freeman

I immediately fell in love with Amy’s collection of hand turned and brightly painted wooden bowls. These beautiful, fun but also useful objects are decorated with an assortment of bold nudes, birds and leaves evocative of the paintings and paper cutouts of Henri Matisse and Mexican folk art. To check out more of her distinctive work visit http://www.amyislesfreeman.co.uk/.

dsc06018
Amy Isles Freeman bowls

Lauren Dickinson Clarke

There’s something slightly Monty Pythonesque (or certainly Alice in Wonderlandish) about this collection of illustrated fine bone china. I like the humour in the surreal imagery but also the elegance of the minimal use of colour (black, white and hand-gilded gold finish). All work is handmade in Stoke-on-Trent. For more info visit http://www.laurendickinsonclarke.com/.

dsc05978
The bizarre world of Lauren Dickinson Clarke

Melaine Muir

Melaine Muir was inspired by a traditional Japanese metalworking technique called ‘mokume-gane’ to invent her own process in which she fires polymer veneers. On display were a series of cylinders of different heights and widths decorated with a patchwork of earthy colours and patterns inspired by the seasons and the Scottish highlands in which she lives. Looking on her website it’s interesting to see that she usually uses this technique for brightly coloured statement jewellery. Take a look at http://www.melaniemuir.com/.

dsc05963
‘Coastal Fields’ and ‘High Pastures’ by Melanie Muir

On the return journey we stopped off at the V and A. The museum has a stunning collection of pottery, from early Islamic tiles, traditional aromatic earthenware from Mexico and South Korean plates decorated with transfer papers from copper plate etching, right through to 20th century studio potters like Bernard Leach then onward to the contemporary work of Akiyama Yo and Edmund de Vaal. There’s even Lucie Rie’s studio to see along with a film of her being interviewed by David Attenborough (in which he has to rescue her after she gets stuck in the kiln). I’ll have no shortage of inspiration for a long while to come.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I make my own clay

Welcome to the new blog! If all goes to plan this online journal will document my next three years of ceramic exploration and (hopefully) discovery as I embark on the BA Ceramics course at Cardiff Met University.  Join me as I voyage into the magical world of clay and attempt to find out more about this material which has been a source of wonder to humans since prehistoric times. The adventure begins…

*

This summer I was asked to source a sample of clay from the area I live in north west Wales, break it into grape sized lumps and let it dry thoroughly. Today I learnt the next step in the process – how to refine the clay.

20160928_125452_resized
I pounded down the dried clay lumps into a fine powder

I began by pounding the dry clay into a fine powder with a pestle and mortar (improvising with a rolling pin and washing up bowl – it does the job). Next I added the powder to a bowl of water and mixed thoroughly until I had a kind of sloppy mixture. It’s important to do these stages with adequate ventilation since the clay dust easily becomes airborne.

20160928_131802_resized
Mixing the clay and water

The next step was to pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve and push the clay through using a paint scraper, letting the liquid clay drop into the bowl below. On a plaster bat (n. a slab on which pottery is formed, dried or fired) I arranged four coils of pre-prepared clay into a rectangle and poured the slurry inside. The coils contain the clay while it’s in this liquid state otherwise it begins to flow off onto the floor (which we found out when some of the coils weren’t pressed down hard enough).

20160928_143509_resized
Sieving the clay – all the remaining grit is visible on top

As if by magic the plaster sucked up the moisture and within minutes I could scrape it off dry. Kneading came next to get it of even consistency throughout then I was left with a plastic ball of my very own dug up clay, cleaned of all the grit and pebbles that were merged in.

20160928_143825_resized
My sieved clay with a suspicious film of what looks like oil on top

I’m curious as to what gives my clay its distinctive dark green colour and what caused the film of black oil that formed on top of it in a liquid state. The next step will be to see how the clay fires at different temperatures!

20160928_153916_resized
My kneaded ball of refined clay in fetching khaki green