Visit to Jason Braham and Steve Harrison

Last Saturday I took the opportunity to visit the potter Jason Braham whose studio is located outside Llandrindod Wells in mid Wales. I first saw Jason’s salt fired functional ware at Ceramic Art Wales a few years back and had originally hoped to pay him a visit before going to study abroad. Like many potters who still make traditional country pottery, he lives out in the middle of the countryside as far away as possible from cities, a location difficult to access unless you have your own four by four. I was rewarded for my efforts though by a warm welcome and Jason’s generous and enthusiastic desire to share his knowledge and passion for pottery.

Behind the house is a roofed structure which contains the two kilns. Back to back, a curved chambered bisque/conventional glaze kiln and the salt kiln share the same chimney which can be blocked off with a sliding kiln shelf depending on the firing. Until recently Jason didn’t bisque the work before glaze firing. At the early stages of the firing wood is used which builds up a small layer of ash inside the kiln but after about 650C oil is the main fuel instead. Salt (16 pounds/ 7kg in total) is introduced into the kiln from 1260C and pushed in through the side with a long metal tray and a rod to push.

The salt kiln especially has warped and bulged from years of firing so that every time the entrance is bricked up it needs different sized bricks cut at the top. This is a problem I’m familiar with having struggled to seal he door of the wood kiln at Nääs. Jason suggested that the problem could be fixed if springs had been added to the metal frame rods in the construction of the kiln to allow some room for movement. Signs of wear too can be seen in the large quantity of broken kiln shelves lying around. Over time the inside of the kiln gets eaten away by the salt leaving a thick layer of glaze coating the inside walls. This salt affects the kiln shelves too so that after six or seven firings they become brittle and crumble apart. The kiln chamber’s inside walls too had to be propped up with flying buttresses to avoid collapse. Salt firing isn’t perhaps then the most economical way to make ceramics, especially as beginner, but there’s no doubt the orange-peel texture achieved by this method has a unique beauty.

The studio space is housed in a long wooden shed, kept warm from a log burner at the centre. Lining one end is a collection of wheels, one which Jason built himself is based on a traditional Leach style frame with an old heavy printing press flywheel acting as momentum wheel on the base. Jason explains how he enjoys turning on kick wheel’s like this, challenging himself to complete the turning of a section before the momentum runs out so the forms feels more fluid. He advises that unlike in his studio, the glazing and making spaces should be separated so it’s easier to keep the space tidy when holding workshops.

Our last stop off was the showroom. Here you can see the rewarding results of the months of hard work –  jugs, tankards, yunomi, casserole dishes, espresso mugs, plates, footed bowls, bowls without feet, butter dishes, utensil pots and so on in range’s subtle colour scheme of blue-backs, ash greens and tan with some tenmoku and tea-dusts scattered in between. Richard Batterham style, some of the outer rims of the lids have been left without glaze and a thin red iron oxide wash brushed over to encourage a toasted look. It’s clear Jason has been very much inspired by Batterham’s work. There is a collection of the pots in the kitchen and he speaks highly of the DVD ‘Richard Batterham – Master Potter’ produced by the Joanna Bird Foundation which I’m currently trying to get my hands on. I too have been drawn to Batterham’s gorgeously balanced vessels with their lines of blue-green glaze and toasted, unglazed clay in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre collection. Similar to our visiting potter Stefan Andersson at HDK and Phil Rogers glaze recipes,  Braham uses a glaze recipe with the proportions 2:2:1 for many of his glazes, using the three glaze ingredients of a feldspar (usually potash), hyplas 71 ball clay and mixed wood ash. To encourage bursts of iron in the body sometimes rust has been sieved and added to the clay. The stoneware clay is often a French clay from close to La Borne which is also favoured by Micki Schloessingk.

In the afternoon we paid a visit to another salt firing potter working in the area called Steve Harrison. Unlike Jason, Steve sells his work exclusively in Japan and lives most of the year making his work in London, coming down to mid-Wales only to fire. This set-up is common it seems, Deiniol Williams is a wood-firing potter who makes all his work in Yorkshire and returns to his family farm in west Wales to fire work a few times a year. Steve had just unpacked the contents of his last firing when we arrived, his wife Julia was rubbing off the wadding that has glued itself stubbornly to the bases of the pots with carborundum stones. 

Steve, who was taught by Emmanuel Cooper, has devised an ingenious way of combining stoneware and porcelain, making delicate vessels with intricate handles and sprigs attached. While both potters salt fire, Steve’s method is a bit different to Jason’s as he uses a funnel which he calls a hopper though which the salt flows down a tube into the gas flame and instantly volatilises. Both potters appear to start putting in salt at about 1260C, at this point the glaze is fluid enough to be affected by it. Steve soaks are longer though, two hours usually instead of Jason’s half hour or so. It’s clear that Steve and Jason are part of a community of potters (including Phil Rogers) who have chose to situate themselves in this particular part of the country, working with similar processes but very different results. While Jason spent most of his career as a teacher and continues to invite groups to his studio for workshops, Steve’s focus since leaving art school was very much about pushing his work to a technical perfection and trying to make a living solely as a potter. Thinking about different kinds of websites in yesterday’s professional practice session we have two very different examples here – Jason’s as a shop and showcase for his  enthusiasm to share skills and knowledge, and Steve’s as a very visual, interactive kind of gallery catalogue. I’m extremely grateful to both for their time and I hope I get the opportunity to try salt-firing one day. I’m still very drawn to learning about traditional firing methods and hope one day to build my own kiln.

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Potter’s websites links:

https://www.jasonbraham.com/

http://www.steveharrison.co.uk/

 

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Answers on a Postcard

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The Answers on a Postcard exhibition is a collaborative project between ceramics courses in Wales, Iceland, Ireland and Sweden with the idea being that the postcards we make in some way represent the country from which the objects are being posted. My submissions arose from a process of making which is relatively new to me – throwing and altering the thrown sections, destroying, re-inventing and re-building forms. The process illustrates my own turning inside out of and re-defining my own definition of what it means to make pots. Working previously with functional ware, I am trying to contain traces and references to this tradition but also questioning the values of this tradition and skill in the contemporary craft world.

In a wider sense, my shift in process and attitude towards making stems from my six months abroad in Gothenburg where, living away from the culture I was familiar with, I began to redefine what it means to be Welsh. My relationship with this country where I was born and grew up has always felt complicated. Bad memories of Eisteddfodau as a child and the isolation of growing up in a tiny Welsh village where everyone went to church as well as my disinterest in rugby give my a confused Welsh identity. I am proud to be from Wales but as a fluent welsh speaker without an accent my identity feels distorted from what is expected of me.

My identity as a Welsh person is still shifting constantly as I grow older. With Brexit on the horizon as well comes a new definition of what it means to be British. My fractured, torn and warped postcards reflect these ideas about Welsh identity. Rather than giving answers, these postcards perhaps raise more questions and uncertainties. High-fired to 1280C, past it’s optimal firing temperature, is the terracotta stronger or more brittle?

 

Makers Markets

This term I’ve taken part for the first time in a number of makers markets. The first of these was with Nam at Tiny Rebel’s Autumn Makers Market in Cardiff town centre (Nov 25th), the second was at CSAD’s School of Management as part of the fundraising for our degree show catalogue with the rest of the course (Dec 5th), and the third was last Saturday at the Cardiff Quakers Meeting room organised by Hannah (Dec 8th).

Carlota, a graduate from the CSAD fine art course had set up the autumn makers market at Tiny Rebel. It was a successful day and exciting to see the public engaging with the work. Sharing a table with Nam and her co-worker Richard my first time helped calm my nerves. There was lots to remember – boxes to display the work on, a cash float, scissors, sellotape, bubblewrap, paper bags, business cards, price tags…I was worried I would forget something. The venue itself was cosy and not very big although unfortunately Tiny Rebel weren’t able to advertise outside their premises except through social media so most of the visitors had heard about the market online or through word of mouth.
I felt that my work (a mixture of different sized functional stoneware storage jars and bowls) was in the higher price range for this kind of event. Most people appeared to be buying things that were £10 or less, especially stickers and cards. My jars ranged from £26 to £60 while the bowls were £15 to £30, prices I had decided on after a last-minute tutorial with Natasha the week before. I’m happy with the prices I’ve chosen and so far the public seem to agree that the prices are justified.

Richard’s work sold well and while it was also ceramic, he buys in bisque ware which he decorates with brightly coloured splattered glaze and overglaze, meaning he can afford to price his mugs at £10 while mine were going for £26. For a ceramics student outsourcing in this way feels almost like cheating but then I’m reminded that even Bernard Leach probably didn’t make most of his own pots, although he decorated them. It was a little disheartening to see that the public seemed to see no difference between ceramics which had been handmade from a lump of clay and ceramics which had been decorated but not made by the artist. It made me think about how much of my work I would be happy to outsource either to industrial manufacturers or other makers.
I suppose I already outsource the processing of the clay and glaze materials, I’m also happy to use tools that I’ve bought or that have been made by others. The enjoyment I get from the process of throwing and control over the form is too much for me to compromise though.

The Quaker’s Market this weekend was a little different – a three hour market over lunch time instead of a whole day. We were made to feel very welcome in the ground floor meeting room and regularly supplied with mince pies, tea and hot mulled apple. I had positive feedback about my work although again I felt my work was the highest priced of everything in the room. Rather than art college graduates and craftspeople this was more of a second-hand shop with an Avon sale and a few craftspeople. I managed to make over £200 from these two markets but in order to work out if these kinds of events can be lucrative I need to work out how much I’m spending on materials, firing, transport costs, business cards, wrapping etc. I hope to take part in more makers markets in the new year but with smaller, cheaper items such as eggcups, plates, lemon juicers and plant pots. I had visitors asking me if I made vases and jugs too so perhaps adapting my products to the desire of the public can encourage me to try out new forms.

Our collaborative mug sale at the CSAD Christmas Market was organised through the Centre for Entrepreneurship. Yixia and I liaised with Giorgia to secure a couple of tables and I put together a rota so we would have students manning the stall add day. Luckily none of the makers markets have required me to pay to be there (Richard paid our £15 for the Tiny Rebel stand and the Quakers only suggested a donation of 10%) but I realise that usually the cost of the tradestand would need to be deducted from the overall profit.
I lowered the price of my mugs from £26 to £18 since this market is aimed at students. A number of us from L6 had made mugs for the sale and we made a total of about £130 from the day. Unfortunately we hadn’t realised we would have also been allowed to sell on the Friday of that week too so that’s something to look out for in future.

 

Sandy Brown and The Leach Pottery

On the 8th of October our final year BA Ceramics group took the bus down to Cornwall where we stayed overnight at the Penzance YHA. The purpose of the trip was to introduce us to St Ives and the surrounding area – a part of the UK which has been attracting artists to its beautiful coastline and unique light for hundreds of years. The vibrant community of artists on these shores have included Barbara Hepworth and even JMW Turner chose to paint here.

On our journey down we stopped off at the village of Appledore in Devon to visit the studio of Sandy Brown, a contemporary ceramic artist. Sandy’s brightly coloured, expressive ceramic forms range from domestic tableware to monumental abstract sculptures and ceramic chairs to be sat on. She showed us her current commission – an exploration of surface textures and colours on giant wall tiles and explained how she fires them standing up to prevent warping. There is a child-like joy to her making and an emphasis on playfulness and an abandonment of self-consciousness over precision and neatness. Interestingly, the high energy surfaces which have become characteristic of her work came about after she tried wood firing. The random and vibrant surface qualities you achieve from this kind of action-packed firing made her want to recreate similar effects but with the colours and patterns coming from her own actions instead of the kiln’s. Ironically, she wanted control over the randomness.

When asked if the landscape influenced her work she said that it wasn’t important, and that her memory of being in Australia and the vividness of the natural landscape there was more of an inspiration. However, she explained that she was drawn to being near water and spoke about the importance of stillness in her practice – not starting a piece of work unless she felt still and centred in her mind. Her colourful pieces don’t immediately strike you as to do with restraint, stillness and tranquillity as she suggests in her exhibition guide to Still Point, they lean more towards Jackson Pollock’s action paintings. However there’s a lot to be said about feeling in the right calm and ready mindset before beginning a piece of work. Speaking to porcelain artist Alison Graham at this year’s Made in Roath, she explained that yoga and breathing exercises help her get into a positive frame of mind for making. There’s a lot I can learn here as I often find myself battling against the clay when I’m in a frustrated or stressed mood and only making things worse when it doesn’t work.

Our second visit in Cornwall was to the Leach Pottery which was founded in 1920 by Leach and Hamada. Roelof Uys, head pottery at the Leach today showed us around and explained that about 20,000 pots are made on site every year, a third of which are sold in the shop there. The others go to a group of about 30 wholesalers including David Mellor who sell a selection of craft pottery and woodware by the likes of Svend Bayer and John Leach.

Apprenticeships at the Leach pottery are also sponsored by Sea Salt Cornwall, a local clothing company. As a beginner apprentice you are expected to make 600 eggcups on a kick wheel before you are allowed to progress on to other forms and an electric wheel. Roelof explained that pots don’t really sing until you learn how to make slowly. A kick wheel encourages this as you are forced to conserve energy, resulting in larger, more expressive throwing rings and a fluidity of movement. Tools he also explained, are not particularly important in the leach tradition – hands are all you need. In a more controlled way, it is the expressiveness that springs from spontaneity and freedom that the workers at the Leach are trying to capture in their own way, just like in Sandy’s work.  As Bernard Leach said in his essay ‘Towards a Standard’ ‘It is the uniformity of perfection that kills’.

The colour palette of the standard ware however is a lot more muted – an ash, dolomite and tenmoku glaze are used on most domestic vessels. Sandy, growing up with the Leach tradition taught to her as gospel, rebelled against tradition and started using brightly bough commercial glazes to challenge what was accepted as being in good taste at the time. For myself however, having never being taught glaze chemistry until university and coming from a secondary school where we only had the option of a few primary coloured shop bought glazes in gaudy colours, the Leach tradition glazes hold a charm and beautiful subtlety which I’d never encountered before.

Kiln Building with Joe Finch

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DAY 1

I spent the weekend at the home of jeweller and ceramic artist Linda Unsworth (Pampeliska) in the Preselli hills where a group of us had got together under the leadership of potter and expert kiln builder Joe Finch to build Linda a small wood kiln in the garden.

We began with a flat concrete base into which holes had been drilled to let the moisture escape. It’s also possible to build onto a base of hollow concrete blocks with insluating blanket over the top. Firebricks had been laid out on top of the concrete in the shape of the kiln’s base and we built up onto this one layer at a time, photographing each layer. On the outer brick layer were light insulating bricks and heavier firebricks on the inside wall against where the flames will be. The chimney was built in a more aesthetic red reclaimed firebrick.

Joe’s kiln design is five bricks across and four wide and he’d built a model from Lego to guide us. Joe advises working out the size of the kiln you want after deciding how many kiln shelves you want to fit inside. The two chambers either side are fireboxes into which the wood will be fed through two openings at the front creating a ‘fast fire’ down draft style of kiln – the chamber in the middle will pull the flames back down and out the chimney. You can see in the photo that the second layer of bricks is pushed out slightly in the firebox to create a ledge. This is for the perforated brick layer to sit on. The idea is that the embers from the logs burning on the firebars above will drop down onto these and the oxygen through the holes will help combust them, meaning you don’t have to rake out the embers so often like in other kilns. In the chimney you can see a space where the bricks are missing – this is where the damper will be placed and bricks can be pulled out here to create reduction.

As the kiln got taller we added the firebars – hollow tubes of refractory fireclay onto which the logs will be placed. These need to be loose enough so they can be pulled out and replaced if needed. We continued to build up the bricks layer by layer, insulating on the outside and firebricks on the inside, sometimes having to saw bricks in half to fill in cracks and filling smaller gaps with gaskets of insulating ceramic fibre. Things became more complicated when we began the kiln chamber floor. We placed the flattest kiln shelves we could find on top of the fireboxes, leaving two gaps for the back for the flames to flow through and one at the front in the middle. We covered the flue to the chimney too.

Things picked up after this stage when the job got easier – we simply built the insulating bricks up in layers around the perimeter of the kiln chamber. Once the desired height was reached (about 2m high for the entire kiln) Linda painted numbers on the bricks that will make up the door using watered down red iron oxide. Joe then sawed out the door.

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DAY 2

We began Sunday morning by mixing up a mortar for the reclaimed molar bricks for the outside kiln cladding. This second layer of insulating bricks isn’t necessary but makes the kiln look more aesthetic. As a cheaper alternative it’s possible to cover the inner layer of bricks in insulating fibre then add a corrugated iron shell.

The mortar was a mixture of ball clay, sand, water and red iron oxide (the iron colours the mixture pink so it blends in better with the red bricks). The bricks were each soaked in water for a few seconds before building with so they absorbed the mortar better. Since the bricks were reclaimed we spent some time scraping the layer of old mortar off the surfaces before we could begin the next stage.

The cone spyholes in the back had to be adjusted for this second layer of bricks so we made new longer ones which can be pushed in at an angle. After completing one wall of outer layer we added the supporting angle irons on the outer corners and secured these together with a 12mm threaded rod (could use 5mm), then slid in horizontal ones between them.

The roof was constructed with three layers of insulating bricks cut at angles to make an arch. A D shaped wooden arc support frame was held up by planks underneath and we built the arches over the top, supported either side by bricks cut in half length-ways. Once the other outer walls have been completed the frame should be able to drop and slide out through the kiln entrance leaving a freestanding roof. Unfortunately by the end of the weekend we’d run out of the reclaimed bricks so we couldn’t complete the outer layer fully but Linda has promised to send photos of the finished kiln – I’m looking forward to see the results! More information about kiln building can be found in Joe’s book ‘Kiln Construction: A Brick by Brick Approach’.

Anagama Day 3-5: The Firing

The past three days have been spent at HDK’s kiln site at Nääs where we fired both the anagama (Mamagama) and Elinor (the smaller wood kiln).

Since Elin and I were scheduled for the first shift on Monday morning, we arrived on site around 6am and started up the anagama. We pulled out the bricks from the central air hole at the base and built a small brick box in which we set fire to some newspaper and placed dry kindling on top. We began by taking the temperature up at a slow pace, 25C per hour until reaching 100C, with the fire still mainly in the box outside the kiln. As a temperature gauge we used a pyrometer stuck through a crack in the door but later decided to place it in a hole in the kiln’s roof to get a more accurate reading of the inside temperature. We sealed the door with the daub we made last week, blocking out the bumble bee who was desperate to get inside despite the rising heat!

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Starting the firing
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Firing temperature schedule

After four hours we let another pair take over and we worked this way in shifts of four hours per team for the entire firing. Around 10am Elinor was started and taken up to temperature at a much faster rate. Reduction in Elinor took place on Monday afternoon when the kiln had reached 1000C. Creating a reduction atmosphere before this temperature means the clay can get reduced instead of the glazes which can cause it to trap carbon and turn a very dark colour which might be undesirable.
Sometimes when too many logs were fed in too quickly, black smoke started spewing out the chimney – a sign reduction was taking place, and we had to be more patient. It’s difficult to get the balance between allowing in enough oxygen for the flames and allowing in too much which starts the reduction process because the cold air blocks the flow.

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Feeding mamagama

When feeding logs into the kilns the temperature would fluctuate up and down a lot, sometimes peaking three times before finally decreasing for good. We were told to focus on the fire and not rely on the pyrometer though. It’s possible to hear when the kiln is ‘hungry’ again because the fire goes quiet and the crackling stops. We also used pyrometric cones placed at the front, middle and back of the kilns to check temperature. When the cones were bending unevenly e.g. if on the left side there were four standing and on the right five, we put in less wood and slowed down the temperature gain. Another way to check if the glazes are melting is to poke a stick in through one of the anagama’s peep holes and see if the pot’s surface is shiny enough to reflect off it, a technique I’ve used before when firing raku.

It’s important to make sure that the last logs have turned into embers before more have been added. Unless you do this you find yourself in a situation like we did early on Wednesday morning when the anagama would refuse to climb above 1220C. Looking into the airholes we realised that the embers were so high that they were blocking the oxygen flow into the kiln so the fire couldn’t grow. By pulling out logs and moving around the embers inside we fixed the problem, but the temperature dropped dramatically so we worried that we would be behind schedule. This could be fixed though by filling the door with long thin sticks sticking into the flames which raised the temperature.

In between shifts we took turns breaking down the logs with a hydraulic wood splitter and cutting some down even smaller with an axe. Smaller pieces of wood raise the temperature because they burn quicker but it’s best to use a mixture of thick and thin, long and short logs to get an even rise. When stoking the kiln, sometimes we would place two small logs crossed in the doorway to conserve heat.

Our fifth and final shift started at 6pm on Wednesday night. We kept the temperature around 1250C until 7pm when we topped at 1300C before bringing it back down to 1270C. We topped another 5 or so times before filling the kiln with as many long sticks as possible and sealing as many holes as possible in turns. This was probably the most stressful part of the firing because it needs to be done fast and the kiln is at its hottest. It was impossible to feed in logs for very long because your legs feel like they’re burning! It was necessary to wear welding goggles, scarves over our hair and mouths, long sleeves to cover arms and legs, sturdy boots and flameproof gloves. After sealing the gaps in the kiln with daub, cold water was poured all around the kiln to make sure none of the logs piled around it would catch fire once we left.

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The kiln in the evening sun, glowing at 1300C

 

Masayoshi Oya

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Top half Japanese inspired, bottom half Swedish aesthetics

As part of our theory course today where Dominique and I discussed the different approaches to our disciplines in Sweden and the UK, we were visited by Gothenburg based Japanese ceramic artist Masayoshi Oya. He explained that since moving to study in the city years ago, his way of working is a fusion of the aesthetics of the two countries. Oya explained that in Japan functional tableware has a higher status than ‘art objects’, which is radically contrary to the west. Since the times of the samurai the society’s approach has been that the most beauty can be found in objects made for ordinary people.

He also described the difference in how both countries expect an object to be viewed over time. The Japanese concept of wabi sabi as he explained it means pots are glazed with a matte surface so that they pick up marks and scratches with use as they age. These imperfections make them more beautiful. On the other hand, in the west we want our ceramic to stay the same over time, to always look as brand new as the day we bought it.

His comments about time reminded me of the Chiharu Shiota exhibition at Goteborgs konstmuseum in which thousands of individual threads have been stuck together showing that an immense amount of time and effort went into making the installations. Similarly to the wabi sabi aesthetic, time has become tangible. By being able to visualise the time taken ( or the age in the case of wabi sabi) we have a greater respect for the art.

Oya explained that his black stain on porcelain signature decoration is inspired by calligraphy and specifically, calligraphy as approached by someone in the west who is more interested in the way the ink breaks at the edges than creating the lines of a Japanese master calligrapher. He spoke of the way swedes like to stack their tableware and have everything matching whereas in Japan it’s more common to have mismatching vessels to serve food it. Rosa recommended a book called ‘A feast for the eyes: the Japanese art of food arrangement’ which discusses further the relationship between Japanese food and utensils from the Jomon period to the present.

Artist website: http://www.masayoshi-oya.com/

 

Images: http://ceramicartistsnow.com/2018/02/04/studio-oyama-swedish-pottery/
http://www.masayoshi-oya.com/index.php?/works/hei-nippon/

Object for Ken Stradling

For the third year in a row, second year ceramics at CSAD have been invited to create an exhibition at Bristol’s Ken Stradling collection by responding to objects from the collection. Unfortunately I don’t have the chance to return to see the collection for myself, but I’ve scoured the website and found a piece of design which captures my imagination – Eric Magnussen’s stainless steel ‘Vacuum jug’ (designed 1976).

In order to paraphrase the jug I’ve been playing at word association – space, double walled vessel, temperature, asymmetry, interaction, thermal, insulation…

       INSULATED
Origin: From the Latin ‘insula’ meaning ‘island’, connotation of protection.

I’ve decided to work with the idea of insulating. As a starting point I intend to buy spray insulation foam to create some forms and then make plaster press moulds of these to use. I’m thinking about islands, the space in between, emptiness and transition. I’ve heard the term ‘liminal space’ bandied around, maybe it’s time I dug deeper.

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Vacuum jug in the Ken Stradling Collection

HAPTIC Exhibition, Arcade Cardiff

A selection of my work is currently on show at Three Doors Up, Queens Arcade in Cardiff as part of ‘HAPTIC’ – a tactile exhibition of ceramics sculpture curated by my very talented friend and flatmate Heledd Evans. Proud to have my sculpture featured on the poster! If you’re in Cardiff, drop round to see what the ceramics students at CSAD have been up to! The show runs until the 24th of March.

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4 Top Tips for Studying Abroad in Sweden

What’s happening in your second week living in Gothenburg do I hear you ask? Well, with care not to turn this into a make-up blog, since I haven’t seen sun in so long, I’ve noticed my foundation has suddenly become five shades too orange for my skin. I’m having to choose each morning whether I’d rather look like Tim Burton’s corpse bride (a less sexy version) or an oompa loompa for the day. So important top tip #1 for students going abroad to study in Sweden – leave that match perfection at home. Bring lots of moisturiser though, if you’re anything like me, the change of climate will dry out your skin like crazy.
Top tip #2: Beware day 11. I’m not sure if this is just from my experience or if there’s some scientific reason behind the maths, but yesterday seemed to be a struggle for a lot of people who moved here on Monday last week. It felt like the day we’d been the most tired so far at our new university. So my advice is – take it easy. There are likely to be loads of social events to go to in the first few weeks including pub crawls, buddy group get togethers, info fairs, welcome receptions and so forth, but don’t feel pressure to go to everything that’s organised.
But when you do go to parties and get togethers keep in mind top tip #3: Make an effort to remember faces. Names are difficult, especially since you will be meeting students from across the world, many with names you’ll be unfamiliar with and have trouble pronouncing. But the amount of times in the past few days I’ve asked someone “Who are you then?” and they reply “What, we were at the pub together last week!” and it dawns on me that we had a long conversation only now they’re not wearing glasses or they have a different pink hat on, is a bit embarrassing.
And finally Top tip #4 is basic: Remember to bring all your important Erasmus documents to be signed by the host university. In my excitement to move abroad I may have got distracted researching where to find the best charity shops and somewhere along the line misplaced my learning agreement. Don’t do this. You need to get it signed ASAP in order to receive your monthly allowance from Erasmus. Gothenburg is an expensive city to live in!