PDP L6 Exposure (Exhibition)

I feel pleased with the way I have tackled the challenge I set myself for this exhibition project. I have pushed many of the boundaries of my making comfort zone over the past five months, making larger scale and more ambitious work than ever before and leaving the expressive qualities of the malleable clay instead of removing the traces of process like I had previously.  Writing my dissertation on the relationship between ceramics and time was a huge influence on my practice. Through analysing artworks by three contemporary ceramic artists I identified different ways in which we experience time when making or viewing art, for example waiting, anticipating and recognising traces from the past. This led me to challenge the linear method of making I was using previously and try working in a more cyclical, improvised way, responding instinctively to the nuances of each individual form.

I came up against lots of difficulties during these past terms. Early on I struggled to control the larger clay pieces, both on the wheel and when building with them. By now though, I have developed skill and confidence in throwing with larger quantities on the wheel and have a tacit knowledge of when the clay is ready to be constructed with. I experimented with using heat guns at the beginning but discovered that although the clay was drier to touch, it was not necessarily strong, so I decided patience was the best way of ensuring the walls of my vessels were the same dryness throughout.

Inspired too by artists like Gareth Mason and Peter Voulkos whose methods of making are almost like a performance with such bravura and risk of collapse, I hoped though a cyclical process of deconstruction and reconstruction I could create a sense of stratified time. I have come to think of the fractured nature of the pots as a series of snapshots of actions in the making process, like a college by Picasso or Braque. In retrospect, one way I could have more successfully realised this vision is if I had worked in a closer way to Mason, taking parts from one vessel and incorporating them into another to make a new piece rather than keeping them separate. It was suggested to me that this would reflect the way we interact with other humans, a trace of an interaction with another person is left in our mind afterwards and plays a role in forging our identity.

Visits to potters also influenced my thinking. Last term’s visit to the Leach pottery and then trips to meet Jason Braham and Jack Welbourne this year (two potters working in the country potter tradition) made me begin to think about the role of the potter in today’s society and the confused role they play now that it can be argued potters are no longer needed to make functional objects. Reading The Ceramics Reader and visiting shows such as Collect in London made me much more aware of the amorphous role of ceramics in the art world today and as a result my work attempts to bravely defy classification, blurring boundaries between contemporary craft, pottery and art, not quite obeying the rules that define value through skill and neither subscribing to the cult of sloppy craft.

Contextualising Practice:

Gallery Context
The Role of the Potter
Photoshoot / Thinking Titles
Corridor Crit / External Examiner
Visit to One Wall Studio/Tradition and Modernism


Process Video

Above is the process video I created on Premier Pro for our Research and Development brief. It documents my method of hand-building with pieces made on the wheel.

Gallery Context

In order to think about where my work would fit it helps to think about two things. Firstly, where do people who make work similar to mine place their pieces? Secondly, considering the context of my work and how it derives from British pottery traditions, where does it make sense to show it?

Starting by looking at Cardiff to begin with, there are many opportunities for me to have work on display, although at this point in order to fill the kinds of spaces they have at Arcade Campfa and BayArt, it would make sense to get a group of peoples work together. My degree show work is sculptural and suited better to a fine art/contemporary craft gallery context than a makers market, but its intended layers of metaphor twinned with the objects being ceramic vessels makes them quite flexible. While the work could be showcased in Craft in the Bay as a way of bringing to attention material processes and alchemy, it could just as easily be curated to sit beside a body of other three dimensional work or even accompany two dimensional pieces in a space like Arcade Campfa.

I have spoken to John Bennett from the Ceramics MA about the possibility of us putting on a show at one of these venues since we both work in a similar way deconstructing thrown vessels but with different goals and inspirations in mind. I really think my work would be well suited to display beside someone who works with collage too for example James Green’s whimsical creations. There is humour to both our work and a remaking of something new from the old. Albany Gallery also occasionally showcases guest makers working in ceramics and Made gallery put on exhibitions too (their smaller, more intimate space might be better suited to my work which references the domestic).

I don’t think my exhibition work would suit a museum shop. The vessels work better together in a kind of installation and their strength comes from their differences beside each other. I think I would like to see my work in the ceramic gallery at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Having parts of the university ceramics collection in the background – Leach, Hamada and Pleydell-Bouverie would provide an interesting juxtaposition to my work. Parallels could be drawn between glazes and form. It might even be more interesting if pieces from the collection were placed immediately beside my work, like in the Ken Stradling collaboration so that the work becomes more of a contemporary installation with ‘found’ or ‘readymade’ objects. The Philip Eglin and Robyn Cove exhibitions in Aberystwyth did something similar.

Aberystwyth Arts Centre ceramics gallery

Looking further afield, I was very drawn to the work at Contemporary Applied Arts in London. While you must be an established maker to become a member, there are many members working in a similar way to me with expressive vessels who are CAA members – Dylan Bowen, Akiko Hirai, Sandy Brown, Gareth Mason and Takeshi Yasuda so my more ‘complete’ vessels might fit in there. I also think a space like the upstairs gallery in the Corvi Mora where I saw Sam Bakewell’s work and where they often hold group exhibitions of ceramic artists working with the vessel would be an interesting place to exhibit.

Arcade Campfa, Cardiff

While the work is suited for white walled gallery spaces, I really enjoy how the sculptures look beside the concrete walls in the CSAD foyer space. The details that draw attention to the materiality of my vessels also draw attention to the beauty of details in the surrounding architecture – cracks and fissures in the concrete, holes in the walls… Perhaps the work would be well suited to an industrial space, I’m thinking of somewhere like the renovated boiler plant turned contemporary art gallery Röda Sten in Gothenburg. It would be interesting to see the work in such a huge space, I expect it would look diminutive and lost, perhaps precious like jewellery or maybe just like an abandoned picnic in the park, the warm and domestic eclipsed by the cold, impersonal industrial.


Image sources: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=aberystwyth+ceramics+collection&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjyzqygxpjiAhVs1-AKHWkTBjgQ_AUIDigB&biw=1366&bih=625#imgrc=1FMR2e3MHk83CM:



The Role of the Potter

While I make objects that explore the expressive nature of the material of clay, breaking the rules of traditional wheel-thrown pottery, by choosing to make vessels I am placing myself in a centuries old tradition of making clay pots. My glazes and forms reference back particularly to Western traditions in the past few hundred years – the Leachean fusion of Eastern and European aesthetics, the classic forms of cider jars, harvest jugs and art nouveau vases and on the other side of the sea more recently, the macho, violent, destructive nature of works by Jackson Pollock and Peter Voulkos.

I am particularly interested in the idea of the ‘country potter’, a role which at one time would have been necessary for society but now with the mass-production of tableware becomes a synonym of sorts for the ‘British dream’ of moving to the countryside and living slowly at one with nature. The role of the potter today is perhaps more as a wellbeing guru, a reminder for us to return to our roots, respect the materials in the world around us and respect slowness too, in the form of the patience it takes to learn skill as well as the presence of mind we attain when interacting with objects made lovingly by hand.

My own work seeks to take inspiration from these traditions and complicate things, by removing the work from its functionality and placing the pieces on legs to remove their stable, humble nature as domestic objects. By fracturing the familiar ‘pot’ forms, they become more and more amorphous, the focus shifts increasingly from the ‘pot’ and form to the clay and material. Similarly the idea of the ‘potter’ for me has been amorphous and shifting during my time at university. The desire to encourage mindfulness and celebrate nature through making objects by hand sits at direct odds with the environmental impact of making ceramics, digging clay from the ground, mining for precious minerals and using up finite resources of gas or burning wood for firings.

These narratives surrounding the potter interest me and therefore I have attempted to situate my work in the overlapping region of the venn diagram between fine art and craft, on the outside looking in. The vessels for my exhibition sit on a scale between the almost intact jar form with a functioning lid at one end and a piece which can almost longer be called a vessel at the other, its base twisted out, walls slashed and punctured. Collectively they pieces work like a tug of war, jostling amongst themselves for superiority, some asserting that it is the virtuous nature of the humble pot which is best, others that it is the mysterious nature of sculpture.

Jo Taylor very ardently situates her work within the field of sculpture, even going so far as to join the Royal Society of Sculptors, and despite using a very similar technique to her of joining together thrown sections, because I make vessels it feels slightly uncomfortable for me to call mine sculptures. The additions of the legs moving them away from the domestic realm has swayed me somewhat but I still feel that because my work is so rooted in tradition, process and involves skill (even if I sometimes implement that skill in a sloppy way) it has much more in common with contemporary craft. Through the vessel form the viewer can trace back the objects to the simple rituals of everyday life.



Building the Plinth

20190505_175735 (583x800)I hoped to build my plinth at home in North Wales over the Easter holiday, thinking that having family around to help would lessen the stress of building my first construction in wood. As it turned out, the plinth I had in mind would be too long to fit in the car boot (rookie error) but luckily there was still time to order materials to CSAD. Having planned out compositions before the holiday, I came up with the design on the right to begin with, an upside down U shaped structure with hollow legs, a cross between a white plinth and a high table. I had trouble figuring out how the legs would attach to the top however. On a visit to Huws Gray building suppliers I came across the cross sectioned 4.3cm lengths of wood which I thought would make much more graceful legs.

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20190430_141434 (600x800)As a result I adapted my design to the one above, a rectangular box with 15mm MDF board on top. Nigel suggested I would need supporting struts around the middle to support the weight on top but thinking this would disrupt the minimal aesthetic of the ‘ghost plinth’ I compromised instead by decreasing the length 30cm to 140cm (which as it turns out, is more than enough space). I used half-lap joints on the corners, like a canvas structure to strengthen the shape, cutting these on the bandsaw and joining them together with two 100mm screws in each. The MDF top was stuck down with a nail gun. I didn’t use glue for the leg joints which means the plinth can be taken apart, transported and re-assembled for other exhibitions, really handy!

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Plinth ready to be painted white

The biggest worry was that after assembling the structure was very wobbly. Thankfully this was mainly to do with the timber being warped rather than my own shoddy building technique. Next time I would drill the countersink holes deeper since lots of my screws sit proud of the surface and this made it hard to cover then over with polyfilla and paint. I’m glad I left a centimetre ledge around the edges, the shadow underneath creates a nice sense of lift for the top which will frame my pieces. I’m very pleased with my design overall too. I wanted my pieces high up but a big narrow conventional plinth would look like a wall, bulky and jarring in a space which is light and airy. Hopefully there will be some visual dot the dots between the extruded forms in my work and the square cross-section frame. The bars across the bottom are great too, they stop the structure looking too much like a table while also adding strength and stopping people getting too close to the plinth.

My plinths are also partly inspired by coming across the work of American artist and professor Peter Christian Johnson on Instagram. The plinths that have been made for his ‘Acts of Contrition’ series are beautiful but complicated architectural-looking assemblages of square cross-sectioned wood. Having looked further into these and looking back at my own design I realise I could have been far more playful with the structure, creating shelves of different height on which vessels could sit. The plinth itself becomes a container in some way then, carrying on the thread of the vessel theme into the whole of the composition itself. Having no experience of building with wood this was beyond my capability but now I have some knowledge of the jigsaw puzzle that is building a piece of furniture, I can be braver with my plinth designs in the future.

Image sources: http://www.peterchristianjohnson.com/


Photoshoot / Thinking Titles

Not happy with the previous photographs I took of my work in the photography studio, the light being too dramatic and the darker colours of some of the glazes not standing out against the dark background, I decided yesterday to stage a photo shoot in the concrete and glass walled exhibition space of the CSAD foyer, with much more successful results. Being more diffused the light didn’t bounce too harshly off the surfaces from one direction like before. Uploading the new photos to my website this afternoon I realised I’m lacking details about each of the pieces, firstly their dimensions and secondly, the pieces don’t yet have names. While this isn’t crucial to my degree, it will help if I want to use the images for other purposes later on.

Over Easter I visited Kate Haywood’s exhibition ‘Traces’ as part of The Language of Clay at Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s ceramics gallery. The mysterious and delicate porcelain pieces, highlighted in places by flashes of blue, green or pink glaze with details gilded in bright gold leaf, hint towards function but leave us guessing. Coloured ropes like curtain tassels are attached to some of the pieces, suggesting they are somehow to be hung or worn on the body. The visual link to jewellery pieces is not surprising considering Kate’s background in jewellery design.

One of the things I particularly liked about this collection is the choice of names given to the individual pieces. The names could have come straight out of Douglas Adams’ The Meaning of Lif they sound at the same time so bizarre and familiar. Gads, Lidden, Peggle and Cora are just some of the examples. Others, such as ‘Shirr’ seen below with a gold covered brush model sitting on top of it, have links to the visual object. To shirr is to gather fabric into parallel rows and the sculpture shows porcelain carved into a mimic of gathered fabric. Dalloop is more of a mystery as there is no record of it in the dictionary but it still conjures up the idea of a ‘ye olde’ tool or utensil of some kind. Seeing the objects laid out as they were in the glass cabinets reminded me of the objects on display at the Viking Ship museum in Oslo, pieces of broken equipment and jewellery, often with extremely detailed and intricate carvings, sometimes gold and often difficult to figure out how they would have been worn or used without reading the museum guide. Detached from time and context the everyday objects we use today would similarly be objects of mystery – paperclips, screwdrivers and washing-up sponges all require a network of other things around them on which they depend for us to understand their function.

In a similar way to Haywood’s work my vessels also bring with them an expectation of function with their familiar utilitarian forms of jugs, cider jars, vases and a teapot as well as the mysterious legs some of them sit upon, connecting them to cooking tripods and architecture. In other ways our work is very different however. Key to my own sculptures is the contrasts in processes involved in the making, a play between the flowing, undulating thrown forms and the harsh, clean lines of the extruded shapes that pierce through them. The fight against gravity during the making process is also illustrated through the slumping clay walls, warped supports and pooling glazes. Haywood’s sculptures are so meticulously carved, to some extent you forget they are made from clay. There is though, an intimacy to both our work I feel, to hers because of the small, pocket sized scale and because the objects are placed so carefully together. Each piece is unique too which suggests a kind of personalisation. I think mine are personal in the way they are cut and put back together. When things break that we don’t particularly like, we throw them away to get a better one, but when things important to us break, we fix them.

Having considered these things, what then should I call my sculptures? Giving them individual names moves them even further away from the traditions of Leachian pottery and traditional craft they are references of, placing them much more in the sphere of fine art objects. Since the underlying mission of my degree show project has been to understand the vessel through a cyclic process of dissection and repetition, it could be fun to choose for each one a title that’s a synonym for vessel or container. There are over 50 Swedish words for snow, and the English language has similar gradients of meaning I could use ‘receptacle’ to ‘bin’…

Above: Images of Kate Haywood ‘Traces’ at Aber Arts Centre.

On Curation

The photos in this blog post aren’t the best quality but they give an idea of the way I have been experimenting with the placement of my objects. After realising the vessels look best clustered (where they can appear to communicate with one another) and wary of making a sea of plinths, I moved away from my individual ‘Ranti Bam’ style plinths  and decided I would have one long plinth instead.

I spent some time playing around with MA graduate Anne’s abandoned plinth which has been used in the photos below. Being very long and narrow (over 2m long) it meant I could only assemble my vessels linearly. At first I liked this idea as it would highlight the silhouettes of the pieces and could perhaps resemble an assembly line or a workshop shelf, creating an unusual juxtaposition between the links of the forms to mass-produced tableware and their fractured, unfinished nature. A linear narrative also has connotations of growth and progression and these vessels appear very much to be collapsing or growing in some state of flux. The linear plinth also reminds me of a previous post looking at an Adam Silverman exhibtion. 

There is a danger with such a thick sided plinth as this one though, that it can stand out too boldly and a few people have commented on how, supporting my objects this plinth starts to look like the monolith from Space Odyssey. While Silverman’s installation is referencing the architecture of the gallery space it is in, his vessels almost disappearing into their monochrome environment, I want my vessels to be the vocal point and I want them to exude a kind of lightness and sense of humour. A bulky plinth such as this in a subtle shade of grey is too serious for my intentions.

Next, finding a shorter, wider white plinth, I tried creating compositions with more depth of field. Initially I thought the first image here was too clustered and the second too sparse, but in hindsight a closer clustering adds dynamism and movement to the group. Some appear to be leaning in, eavesdropping on conversations, some tiptoe carefully, some stand shy and precarious and others remove themselves from the group, standing apart independently, the differences are more pronounced. I didn’t intend my vessels to be so anthropomorphic but it seems inevitable that pots should remind us of people. Some of the marks I made even unintentionally resemble faces.

It is strange to think that each one began life as two bowls of roughly the same shape and weight. Each one then almost becomes an ode to the making of that particular form, depending on my emotions at the time, the particular way a thrown section slumped after cutting and on the weight of the walls and the drying speed. If they were poems they would each have the same integral structure but their contents would set them apart.

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Blog Map of Research and Development Progress

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1. September 2018 (RESEARCH) L6 Characteristics of Practice
I begin early on in Term 1 defining some of the concrete pillars of my practice. I want to make vessels for one. A vessel is the original abstract form and its familiarity means I can imbue it with metaphors and layers of meaning while still being accessible to viewers. I also identify traces and memory of place as significant to my practice. I think I want to make functional, wheel-thrown forms decorated in ash glazes, utilising weeds and plant waste in Cardiff. In the months afterwards I will hone in on these ideas, realising it is the capability of clay to hold traces and memory that I am particularly interested in as well as the time of making.

2. October 2018 (RESEARCH) Sensory Geographer, Kinetic Poet
A month later I begin to understand more why making vessels is important to me. While my work so far has defied boundaries of fine art, craft and design, it becomes important to me to root my practice in this tradition of pottery since I want to especially feel connected to the tradition of clay in the UK, reaching back to Leach and Hamada who had such an influence on the development of ceramics in this country. While I admire the work of potters working in the country pottery tradition – Leach and his disciples including Batterham and Pleydell-Bouverie and contemporary potters like Jack Welbourne and Charlie Collier who have adopted these values, I don’t feel satisfied making functional work in this way. I find Leach’s potter’s book dictatorial and I connect with De Waal’s description of the passive-aggressively humble pot. I feel pots made with such a nostalgic aura can lack a sense of humour and so I want to rebel against this paradigm of ceramic virtue. A quote by Alison Britton about it being necessary to go beyond technical skill to make work relevant to today’s world strikes me as pertinent.

3. November 2018 (PROCESS) Gas Firing Gallery
Feeling a bit lost, I decide that in order to understand clearly how I feel about traditional pots I first need to embrace them and become familiar with the processes involved. I adopt the stance of ‘know thine enemy’. Skill is important to me still because it teaches things that I think are good such as patience and commitment, remedies to our culture of speed where sloppy craft is prevalent. Over this first term I focus on improving my throwing skills so I am confident to take bolder risks as well as learning how to fire the reduction kiln and developing a range of reduction glazes based on traditional shinos and ash glazes. I decide not to focus solely on ash since it is difficult to get it in enough quantity and results vary dramatically depending on the type of wood in the mix.

4. Dec 2018 (RESEARCH) – PDP L6 Term 1 The Gesamtkunstwerk Bowl
Having written the main body of my dissertation at this point I have much more knowledge about the relationship between ceramics and time and its importance to my making (my thesis is titled ‘re-defining the experience of time in contemporary ceramics’). I am no longer confined to the indeterminate idea of ‘slow art’ and creating a relationship between an object and viewer which draws attention to the present moment. I frame my thesis argument through examining works by three contemporary artists in relation to time – Phoebe Cummings and her raw clay installations anticipating collapse in a future time, Keith Harrison’s performative firings demonstrating transformation in the present and causing temporal anxiety and Alexander Engelfriet’s practice exploring the preservation of traces made in the past. As a result I feel liberated to move away from the functional vessels of the bowl project and explore the layering of time and traces in my vessels in a different way – through building up and breaking down the vessel in a repetitive, continuous duration through time, working in iterative response to past moments.

5. Jan 2019 (RESEARCH) Statement of Intent for Exhibition Module 
I decide to return to a process I have used in the past, of hand-building with thrown forms to juxtapose two modes of time. I like how thrown forms capture the tension, speed and movement in the process of throwing but I also enjoy the breaking of this tension and creating new rhythms by slicing the vessels and sticking them back together in a new configuration. This process would not be possible without the skills I developed in the previous months in order to control and manipulate the clay. My vessels still feel too safe and I begin to look to artist/stuntmen like Peter Voulkos for inspiration. I begin to consider more the time of actions and making as a dance of choreographed or improvised movements.

6. Jan 2019 (RESEARCH) Gareth Mason / Mudfondler
In the same vein as Voulkos is contemporary potter Gareth Mason who I first heard of at the 2015 ICF where he was demonstrating. I found Mason’s method of working resonated with me since he sometimes works on a single piece for years, firing, re-firing, breaking apart, sticking together and re-firing pieces until he arrives at a piece which can be considered completed. Mason works especially with subverting our ideas of beauty, working in particular with eastern celadons, copper reds and traditional korean, chinese and japanese vase forms, smearing sections of the delicately thrown porcelain vessels in darker, earthier clays which fracture and bubble. He is interested in a sensous beauty rather than the refined, oculacentric beauty of the past. He creates sculptures which make the traditional korean moon jars resemble the dull relationship of Edgar and Catherine while his own are the passionate, destructive and toxic relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff, chained to nature and the dangers of the wild.

7. Jan 2019 (PROCESS) Building Bigger
I struggle with the tricky process of building with and altering thrown forms. I learn to work on pieces slowly over days, covering the pots in bin bags to balance out the dryness of the different sections. I experiment intuitively and spontaneously with mark-making, developing a vocabulary of marks which include slicing, squeezing, patching, punching, drawing on and cutting sections out of the clay.

8. Feb 2019 (PROCESS) Extruding and Throwing Combined/Adam Silverman
Following on from John Clarkson’s lectures on the bases of pots being ceramic ‘parergons’ and how the grounded nature of pots makes then feel safe and humble, I begin experimenting with extrusions alongside thrown forms. I begin intending to make extruded legs and frames for the thrown sculptures as plinths to elevate the status of the humble vessel but later use the extruded sections stuck on or pierced into the thrown pots. In retrospect, this is something I would like to push further in the future since I still feel I was too precious with my pieces. They took time to make and the pressure of an upcoming show meant I felt each one had to succeed so I didn’t quite push them to the edge of destruction. Later I returned to making extruded legs for my vessels to sit on, feeling the two vocabularies of shape (precise extrusions and fluid throwing) was too jarring.

9. March 2019 (PROCESS) New Glazes for Fractured Vessels
I realise I am a maker who prioritises form over surface. Unlike Gareth Mason, my sculptures are uniformly glazed so as to highlight the marks and traces in the clay. I struggle with deciding how to glaze my pieces before realising it makes the most sense to draw from my previous reduction firing knowledge and glaze the work in shinos, tenmokus and ash glazes which reference back to the standard ware at the Leach Pottery in St Ives. The familiar, domestic glazes are unexpected on such unorthodox and sculptural forms.

10. March 2019 (PROCESS) Corridor Crit / External Examiner
I can begin to identify the small details that make one of my vessels work and start imposing restrictions on my making after so much freedom previously. Minimising choice can be liberating.

Visit to One Wall Studio/Tradition and Modernism

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been to visit various artist studios in Cardiff with the hope to get a better impression of the Cardiff art/ceramics scene in preparation for after graduation. One of these was One Wall studio, a ceramics workshop in Adamsdown set up by Jack Welbourne and Arthur Goodfellow in 2017, both graduates of the ceramics course at CSAD. The upstairs of the industrial unit building houses an exhibition space while downstairs is the workshop with shimpo wheels for pottery classes. Jack showed us the kick-wheel he works on that sits in the corner, explaining that he built it while still at university. His pots are functional, reduction fired stoneware, intuitive rather than designed to be precise and following in the rich tradition of British country pottery and the likes of Leach and Batterham. He uses local clays and wood-ash on a rich, coarse clay body, the ashes with additions of different feldspars to give them subtly different surface textures. It’s fascinating to see someone working almost as the archetype of a country potter in such an urban setting.

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Pots by Jack Welbourne

Interestingly Jack doesn’t sign his work which raises the question of why do I sign my own pieces? Shoji Hamada famously never signed his pots believing instead that the work was signed by the nuances of each individual maker’s hand at the different stages of the making process. Is it romantic to put your work out into the world as the product of an ‘unknown craftsman?’. I have begun this year to sign and date my sculptural pieces, partly as a way to keep track of when I made things for myself, partly out of pride and partly out of a hope to one day help future educators in ceramics. It’s of great interest to me that many younger potters like Jack and Wichford Potter Charlie Collier insist on making a living in the tradition of country pottery today. Rather than fully committing to a life of making vessels in this way, I feel like I prefer to peek in to this way of life and making from the outside, subverting this British/Eastern tradition by making forms that reference it but are distinctly function-less and sculptural while still not quite crossing the line into sloppy craft. Reading Leach’s potters book feels to me a bit dictatorial, as if there is a correct beauty, aesthetic and taste.

I really enjoyed reading this article I found today (below). It’s a few years old but I think still relevant and although designed to entertain more than to really critique contemporary craft, it raises the interesting point that ‘The serious modern potter is a priest of a nobler, simpler way of life’  but that the result of this is that modernist ceramics inspired by Hans Coper and Lucie Rie is dull because it has a ‘holier-than-thou morality, sexless artistic restraint, and oatmeal puritanism.’ It reminded me of Grant Gibson’s interview with Edmund de Waal for the Material Matters podcast on porcelain in which de Waal talks about ‘needy’ pots, pots which are so humble they are almost passive aggressive in their modesty. I love what these humble pots stand for, of quietness, mindfulness and introspection but equally I can find this minimalist aesthetic lacking humour, and their seriousness can be alienating. I appreciate a Morandi though as much as a Picasso painted jug and I feel my own work is an attempt to balance on a precipice between the dull and the excessive, the safe and the chaotic and fractured.

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Ash glazed vessel by myself

Link to article: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2015/nov/05/modern-pottery-leeds-bbc-the-great-pottery-throw-down


Billy Adams Demonstration

On Saturday we were lucky to have potter and Made by Hand pottery showdown compère Billy Adams come to demonstrate at a South Wales Potters event at CSAD. Billy has a fascinating process of making which involves layering different kinds of clay as well as firing multiple times, starting with a bisque before a glaze firing at 1260C then lower and lower glaze firings each time before finishing with a lustre at about 750C.

I especially liked his resourcefulness in the way he doesn’t throw any pots away even if they are not successful. Instead, he re-glazes and re-fires them to the point of cracking, preheating the already glazed work to 200C before re-applying the glaze so it adheres to the surface. I had a glaze disaster with my large green vessel where the glaze flakes off but I wonder if I could peel off all the gaze which chips then re-fire it with a different surface?

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Billy Adams. Image: foundandseek.co.uk

Billy also spoke of how he ends up with lots of offcuts of clay on his table while making, much like myself. He showed us a dampbox he has had for years which keeps the clay damp permanently. It’s a lidded plastic box with plaster poured into the base which keeps the moisture trapped so the clay can be reused. Another point he raised was the importance of having smooth, clean bases on the pots so that they don’t scratch surfaces. He suggested using silicon carbide with water and washing up liquid to smooth the bases.

I feel many of the questions which are relevant to Billy are also important to myself since we both work with the sculptural vessel, using thrown sections (although he hand-builds up most of his). He often plays with how much you can show of the inside of the vessel while still keeping it as a vessel as well as where the openings should be situated, on top, on the side…

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Rock-a-billy jug Billy Adams. Image: http://www.ceramics-aberystwyth.com

Taking part in different exhibitions has pushed his work in different directions. An arts council grant allowed him to experiment with casting his vessels in bronze. The way he felt distanced from these objects made him realise that the colour and texture is what makes his forms more than the shape. Another exhibition required him to make work to fit in small, portable boxes so needed him to make miniature versions of his pots. Doing this, the marks became more pronounced and any mistakes were amplified. Each gesture becomes crucial to the overall form. It could be a useful and quick exercise to see what happens if I try and make my sculptural vessels on a small scale, giving them a greater connection to tableware with their scale.

Finally, he advised that a potter have a couple of base glazes that they know like the back of their hand, understanding how to adjust their viscosity, colour, dryness/shininess and knowing how the glaze looks on different clays, at different temperatures.