Eight weeks into this first term I’ve succeeded in getting two loads of work fired in the little yellow gas kiln, although I haven’t quite been able to fill it myself yet and have relied on sharing space. I’ve been focusing so far on two simple forms – bowls for the Llantarnam Grange project, alongside jars which I began experimenting with over summer. Drawing from my experience of wood firing at HDK I am attempting to create a collection of classic/timeless and uncluttered shapes on which the activity of the glaze is brought to the foreground. Hopefully my exhibition statement for Llantarnam Grange can shed light on my thinking process:
Working with clay can teach us the value of patience, something which has become scarce and undervalued in our current society. The experience of time in relation to making is central to my practice. Through the stilling of clay as it slowly centres on the wheel-head, I enter into a different time zone where the material has control over my experience.
Throwing on the potter’s wheel becomes a method of quiet introspection where tensions in my subconscious manifest themselves in the finished vessels. I find a place of refuge in this sphere of stillness, a meditative zone reflected in the soft curves of the forms and subtlety of glaze.
My practice is characterised by the balance between imposing my own design on the clay and surrendering control to the vitality of materials. Rather than painting on patterns, I prefer to leave the surfaces of my pots at the mercy of the kiln. Flames from the reduction firing leave traces of the action and movement of the firing process in the form of flushes of colour and fluidity of running glaze.
As a result the vessel surfaces become as American writer Harold Rosenberg said of Abstract Expressionism: ‘not carriers of images but [carriers] of events’.
My intention originally was to undertake a technical in researching ash glazes however after a series of unsuccessful line blends and a realisation that brushing on the glazes resulted in patchy, unattractive finishes, I have decided to focus more broadly on the effects I can achieve in reduction with other types of glazes. I realised that the large quantities of ash I would need to glaze the amount of pots I had would be difficult to get. The unpredictability of ashes from different sources meant my tests would be largely pointless unless I had a singular plant source. Upon visiting the Leach Pottery I discovered that an ash glaze made from one type of plant ash can vary wildly in colour depending on whether the plant comes from a heavily mined area or not since pollutants in the ground can affect the chemistry. Although I embrace unpredictability to some extent in the way the glaze varies over the form with iron spotting from the clay body, pooling in the centres of bowls and crystallisation on the glaze, I want some idea of what the glaze will look like.
All the glazes above result from layering one or a couple of the five glazes below:
Potash Feldspar 19
Bone Ash 2.4
Ball Clay 6
Cornish Stone 15
China Clay 15
I had a lot of trouble with a Derek Emms red reduction glaze recipe. The heaviness of the copper carbonate meant the suspension was terrible and the sediment fell to the bottom immediately no matter how much I mixed the liquid. I tried dipping, pouring and layering but the red was very patchy still. Perhaps this was due to the atmosphere of the kiln being not reduced enough though.
Although I’m happy with the subtle qualities of these glazes so far, without the right light the quiet shades of green, blue, pink, purple and red can end up looking dull and grey. My next step will be to work with the same body (Reduction St Thomas) but applying a porcelain slip to the surface before bisque. Hopefully the colours will be a little more vibrant on a whiter surface. I’ve used a slip recipe from Jasper, adding 10% Potash Feldspar to porcelain to stop the slip cracking with shrinkage.
It might be useful next time I fire the measure how much the clay shrinks with each firing. – Measure Jars on the bisque shelf.
During my time in Sweden, being away from home led me to work with the themes of place and placelessness. I also found myself building on concepts about memory and space from the Port Eynon field module I did months before in which we worked with ideas of mythical and imaginary landscapes. For our ‘room and space’ module I worked in particular with the idea of ‘non-place’ as defined by French anthropologist ‘Marc Auge and became particularly interested in the spaces of transience in cities. Following tags such as ‘non-place’ and ‘imaginary cities’ on Instagram I stumbled across artist Sapphire Goss’s Eternity City project for Milton Keynes. The project developed over the summer of 2018 and culminated in September with a series of film installations projected onto the city’s architecture, showing plants from the ‘edgelands’ of the city as they decayed.
Inspired by this project and the work of ceramic artists using natural materials sourced from the landscape (in particular Adam Buick and Matthew Blakely) I want to work with the urban surroundings in Cardiff. I am interested in the city’s natural gardens such as roadside verges and overgrown areas of weeds beside parks and along the Taff trail. These spaces are deemed ugly and overgrown but through an in depth technical exploration of these overlooked, undesirable plants, I hope to emphasise the potential beauty in the overlooked. Having a father who is a botanist means I have grown up hearing about invasive species such as rhododendron and Japanese knotweed at the dinner table but also about the necessity for protecting rare species under SSSIs. Studying English literature at college I became familiar with the nature vs man opposition in literature (Andrew Marvell’s ‘The Mower Against Gardens’ pops to mind as does John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids and the musical Little Shop of Horrors.) I intend to root my work over the next three months in this ecological urban context.
While the overriding context of the work may be broad and drawing from many different sources, I intend to approach this project practically as a product designer. My focus for the next few months will be throwing a collection of functional tableware and improving my skills on the wheel through disciplined practice. My aim is to create a series of products with similar design characteristics in form and unified by the glazes sourced from these urban edgelands. I intend to have a mixture of traditional and non-traditional pots in this group of products. Traditional functional objects such as those discussed in Bernard Leach’s ‘A Potter’s Book’ and Michael Cardew’s ‘Pioneer Pottery’ will feature (such as storage jars and mugs) but I am also interested in making series of thrown utensils which are not so common. Ceramic cocktail shakers, butter, casserole dishes and other pots which are made up of more than one part are of particular interest to me. Since these items all have moving parts they continue with my interest in the first year of participatory ceramics and are objects which need to be touched and moved to be understood.
I hope by the end of these three months to have a large body of work with series of near-identical products and to have developed a range of around four stoneware reduction glazes which will then be used to decorate the body of work. I hope the work questions relationships between humans and our urban and natural landscapes. I like the idea of juxtaposing desirable, neat, functional objects with these city spaces we consider worthless, messy and unfunctional.
The first self -led project I ever did in clay was an exploration of my environment in North Wales and the qualities of form, materials, colour and texture I could find in my natural surroundings. I took a sketchbook and camera out on walks around my home in the mountains of Snowdonia, collecting earth and sheep wool to mix into the clay and seaweed, sheep poo, dead branches and lichen for saggar firing. My second taste of firing raw materials came with our summer project before the start of university when we collected clay from our local area to test.
Over the past couple of years I’ve drifted away from the use of my own dug up materials but I feel more and more drawn to the idea recently. Perhaps studying abroad, homesickness and my recent enquiries into non-space have made me even more keen to pursue work which explores a sense of place.
Above: Vessels from 2015 incorporating raw materials from my environment in rural North Wales.
While volunteering last year at Art in Clay, Hatfield House I felt particularly drawn to the work of Matthew Blakely (http://www.matthewblakely.co.uk) whose rock-glazed wood fired vessels are decorated with geological samples taken from all over the UK. When you buy a pot of his you also receive with it a CD documenting the journey of collecting the raw materials which make up that individual glaze.
Adam Buick (http://www.adambuick.com/) is another potter who works with the landscape, collecting natural materials and inspiration from the Pembrokeshire coast. On a visit to his studio last week he showed me an old corn grinder machine he uses to grind down his rocks before he mixes them with minerals such as Wollastonite to create line blends. He showed how he uses syringes to accurately measure the blend combinations. For some recently thrown porcelain moon jars he had incorporated the ground stone into the clay body itself. Both Adam and Matthew use simple, rounded forms as a kind of blank canvas for showing off the effects of these natural glazes.
I began to worry that returning to work with my own materials sourced from the landscape might be a big shift from the rest of my work at CSAD but I realise that much of my work has been concerned with memory and place and working in this way will only be a continuation of these themes. I want to follow up on a post about Katharine Pleydell Bouverie’s ash glazes –collecting my own ash to mix up has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I plan to get out the book ‘Natural Glazes: Collecting and Making’ by Miranda Forrest which I know we have at my local library.
Renata held a fun glaze workshop with us in which we made a glaze based on our date of birth. We randomly chose glaze materials to mix in proportion to the year, month and day we were born. By comparing each other’s glazes we could get a good idea of how each material behaves when fired.
My glaze was the result of mixing a high proportion of whiting with some dolomite and ball clay and a small amount of Wood ash. Fired to stoneware temperature the result is a very dry, matte and slightly flaky off -white/pale green glaze blending into pink lower down in a gradient effect. The ash has pooled in a shiny green line along the base where it has melted. It’s not suitable for functional ware because it hasn’t fully melted, but I’m excited to use it to decorate sculptural forms.
Whiting (calcium carbonate) acts as a flux and also creates matte effects (as does dolomite). Ball clay is a source of alumina and enhances glaze suspension. I want to make a series of glaze tests using the same four ingredients but changing their percentages so that I can get a better glaze fit.
UPDATE: After a couple of months the glaze has flaked off completely
Dwi di ddewis ysgrifennu post yn y Gymraeg am y tro cyntaf ers i mi gychwyn yn y brifysgol dros flwyddyn yn ôl, i weld sut mae’n teimlo i newid iaith wrth siarad am fy ngwaith.
Des i ar draws casgliad o waith cerameg Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie yn yr amgueddfa ‘Potteries’ yn Stoke, a syrthio mewn cariad hefo’i gwydreddau lludw. Roedd y gwydreddau mewn arlliwiau o las, gwyrdd a llwyd yn dibynnu ar ba fath o bren oedd wedi cael ei losgi. Yn y llyfrgell ffindiais ei rysait gwydredd lludw a chymysgais hwn hefo’r lludw oedd ar gael yn adran cerameg CSAD (dwi angen gofyn o ba goeden daeth hwn) Isod mae’r gwydredd sydd wedi cael ei danio i 1280C mewn gostyngiad.
Rysait gwydredd afloyw syml KPB:
Feldspar potash 40
China clay 10
Ball clay 10
(Mae ychwanegiad o 10 gwarts yn gwneud o’n llai afloyw)
Y canlyniad ydi gwydredd gwyrdd gwelw, naturiol. Fy mwriad yw casglu lludw o gyfres o brennau gwahanol a gweld sut mae’r lliw yn newid hefo bob un. Gallaf hefyd newid y feldspar i roi effaith gwahanol (mae’r post diwethaf yn profi hyn). Dwi ddim yn sicr sut i gasglu’r prennau, gallaf brynu nhw ar-lein ond bydd y prosiect yn fwy personol os gallaf gasglu’r pren fy hun.
Dwy bowlen crochenwaith caled (1950) Katharine PB yn amgueddfa Caerdydd
Casgliad Katharine PB yn yr amgueddfa Potteries
Dwi’n gobeithio defnyddio’r gwydreddau yma i addurno’r gyfres o jygiau dwi wedi taflu mewn clai white st Thomas. Gobeithiaf dysgu mwy am danio gostyngiad oherwydd bod y lliwiau yn fwy soffistigedig ac mae’r clai yn troi’n lliw hardd mewn awyrgylch isel mewn ocsigen. Dwi di ddod o hyd i lyfr ‘Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie: a Potter’s Life 1895-1985’ yn y llyfrgell sy’n cynnwys lluniau a ryseitiau gwydreddau wedi gwneud hefo lludw cedrwydd, cnau Ffrengig, drain, rhosyn a.y.b.. i grochenwaith caled. Er bod ei gwaith hi wedi cael ei danio hefo coed tan, dwi’n gobeithio cael effeithiau tebyg hefo tanio odyn nwy.