These two still life compositions were inspired by seeing Chloe Peytermann’s ‘atolls’ at Collect earlier this year. I layered coloured slips and leftover glazes thickly on top which created bubbling, marbled surface colours. The thrown bottle forms on top reference vessels but are not containers in themselves. I’d like to make similar compositions in porcelain with bottles on top referencing the cheeky ‘wonky wine bottles’ illustrations I did for Dylanwad Da’s recipe book a few years ago.
The bottles in my drawings below look a bit like little people, crowds gathered together in conversation on floating ceramic icebergs. I like the idea of playing with function – although the small bottles might be able to be used, they will be secured together to a base which makes them impractical. The upside down thrown forms act as plinths or tables on top of which other objects can be displayed.
I collected together these 10 images as a starting point for thinking about this year’s final project – a centrepiece for a table.
Since we’ve just returned from a week in France, I immediately began thinking of how sharing meals around the dining table there each night bought us together as a ceramics family. Nearly every evening meal was followed by games around the table, especially ‘Werewolves’ – could the centrepiece incorporate a game in some way? Perhaps the narrative of the game ‘Werewolves’ could be displayed or the object could hold a pack of cards… This first photo was taken using the Theta S app and a 360 degree camera. Depending on where you sit at the table, the centrepiece will appear slightly different; perhaps I could play with optical illusion.
I found this piece by Ian Godfrey when we visited the ceramics collection at the V&A and love the little quirky drawers that remind me of an advent calendar. Fortune cookies or cards could be held in the drawers of my centrepiece for dinner guests so it becomes interactive. Maybe the drawers could be filled with unusual objects and after each meal the guests are challenged to pick some at random and make a story up about them. I want my centrepiece to be fun.
Kerplunk – I remember this game from my childhood. Could it be made in clay? The sticks and marbles could be slipcast…
After looking at Lisa Krigel’s work I’ve been keen to explore how thrown forms can stack, which could be another possible starting point. I’ve been in the kitchen photographing our dirty dishes and the asymmetrical compositions that can be made with these everyday objects are pretty exciting. Could I make a beautiful object inspired by these items in their dirty, rejected state? The cycle that kitchen utensils go through could be something to explore – they are used, become dirty, then washed and cleaned again to be used. You would never find dirty pans on display in the centre of a table at the start of a meal, so the idea of a beautiful centrepiece inspired by them seems fun. I like the small details like the lip in the glass measuring jug in the photos. As a starting point for the project I plan to see what other compositions I can make in the kitchen and sketch them from different angles.
I want to develop my throwing skills during this project but am particularly interested in artists who use the wheel in unconventional ways. The artists above have hand constructed thrown sections to make flowing sculptures that demonstrate the circular motion of the wheel.
I love Gareth Mason’s expressive use of glazes. Another potter who throws but distorts the thrown form. Abstract surfaces really show off the material qualities of clay and glaze and the gold might hark back to the opulence of antique centrepieces. I could get lost in the rich texture and abstract landscape of a centrepiece with this kind of surface for a long time.
Could my centrepiece be a kiln? I was disappointed we didn’t get to fire our kilns in France but with more time I would have designed and built a more complex design. Objects could be fired inside then attached on in some way so they become part if the finished piece. The process and result then become one and could serve as a conversation sparker at the dinner table.
Last week’s constellation day on Thursday we took to Llandaff fields, braving the raging Storm Doris and the threat of rain to create indexical drawings. Indexical drawings record that something has happened and document the activity involved rather than being ‘icons’- resembling the thing they are drawings of or being conventional symbols like music notation. It could be argued a piece of sheet music is a drawing of music but we know it has no relation to the way we experience music, it is just symbolic.
The road to the park was scattered with broken branches, victims of the storm the night before and the trees above us swayed precariously. However, we decided to use the blustery weather to our advantage, harnessing the power of the wind to create a drawing that would be impossible to capture on a clam day. Our group of four gathered together our tools – some old violin strings to tie things together, brightly coloured sharpies to draw with and sketchbooks to draw on. We were attracted to the movement of the trees swaying but how could we capture this energy and activity when the branches were meters above us? In one corner of the field we spotted a sapling, about four feet tall and decided to use this tree for our exercise. We tied a couple of marker pens to a swinging branch, held a sheet of paper underneath then let nature do its work.
The image below shows the results of the branch’s movement over 10 minutes. As the wind blew the plant, the sharpies swayed over the paper in a random pattern, stopping and starting, tapping here and there then sweeping over in long calligraphic lines like a miniature Jackson Pollock. What is the result? A collaboration between uncontrollable natural forces and human intervention? A drawing of what wind looks like?
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson made a fascinating series of kinetic drawings called ‘Connecting cross country with a line’ (2013) in which a drawing machine drew’journeys’ between train stations. An ink coated ball rolled around a sheet of paper, documenting the topography of the country as the train winded and juddered. The varying darkness of lines as the ink runs out is beautiful.
The randomness of line quality in both our work and Eliasson’s reminded me of a workshop I took part in a few years ago with artist Zoe Robertson. We set off machines that vibrated, filled with felt pens onto a sheet of paper and they created abstract patterns of coloured lines, pooling where the robots got stuck and forming dotted, tentative lines where the pens weren’t laid flat.
These unconventional methods of drawing are exciting and I like their move away from dependence on human agency to create them. I think it’s the same reason I like the unexpected results of raku and saggar firing. The lack of control makes the outcome feel like more of a collaboration between myself and the forces of nature rather than forcing materials to my will.
This week’s subject based field focus was on narrative and metaphor in drawing.
We drew inspiration from last week’s exercise of drawing our individual pathways through the university and the way these lines crossed and intersected when laid on top of one another. This, we thought, was symbolic of the way our lives are woven together like individual threads in a messy ball of yarn. The pathways through the building could be metaphors for our journeys through life, full of twists, turns and unexpected encounters. We considered how all of us group members were like converging lines at this point in time, although for some of us, our lines had crossed previously, sometimes with us being aware and sometimes without.
Originally we wanted to use tracing paper to layer line journeys in different colours but decided the effect would work just as well by drawing them all together on a large sheet of paper using different colour sharpies. It was a really fun activity to do because we found ourselves trying to devise storylines for the characters whose ‘life lines’ we drew. A black line for a reclusive character who’s only interaction is with the shopkeeper on the corner street who he meets on the rare occasions he leaves the house. A complicated tangle of lines for a couple having an affair. The parallel lines of two siblings growing up together then gradually going their separate ways. The undulating lines suggest the ups and downs of life. The physical activity of drawing on such a large sheet of paper required us to climb over it and lean in awkward positions a bit like when playing Twister – the game itself a kind of metaphor for entanglement and the crossing of lives.
In last weeks subject based field we wanted to explore the different ways members of our group would document a journey through the university building.
We each took a large sheet of paper and a marker pen then went on individual unpremeditated journeys through the building, documenting our experience with a continuous line. It’s fascinating to see the differences in how we’ve recorded going down the stairs – Jasper shows them in bold zig zags as if he was bouncing down them at speed, Lucy’s are almost like sound waves and mine are more like traditional drawings of stairs, documenting each one individually.
The sun shape on mine is where I crossed lines with Lucy while concentric circles show the seconds I counted waiting for the lift to arrive. This idea stemmed from Phoebe’s suggestion to use concentric lines to document time passing in the pre-reflexive drawing exercise. I also attempted to document sounds as I sat outside the ceramics workshop, listening to passing footsteps and voices.
Originally we wanted to draw these lines on tracing paper and lay them on top of one another but since we couldn’t find any we decided to improvise and copy the journeys onto one sheet. To make it more interesting we decided we would each copy the other’s line as accurately as possible which gave us an insight into how the other drew the journey. The result is a kind of map of the building but one which shows what it feels like to move through the space. It would be fun to get others to try to use these maps as a guide and see if they can be followed. Our task achieved the aim of recording journeys in an abstract way, using a series of symbols which could be further explained with some kind of key.
We began our subject field with an exercise in creative strategies. Our first task was the explore the act of interacting, attempting to capture the sense-scape of CSAD building. We spent 20 mins collecting the following:
5 sounds: The automated female voice of the lift, the rhythmic tapping of a person running up and down stairs, the deep muffled tone of a voice through a huge paper cone in the fine art department, the soft tinkling of running tap water and the eerie muffled echoes that filter through to the top of the flight of stairs.
5 movements: The sliding open and closed of the automatic doors, the effect this movement causes on a piece of thread hanging off Carwyn Evans’s installation ‘Pader’ in the foyer, the wave-like movement of captured rainwater on the bench outside, the rustling of a plant being shaken, the rotating motion of an empty drinks can being spun.
5 impressions: Dents and creases left on the sofas downstairs where people have sat, fingerprints leaving a greasy film on the doors of the lift, paint marking a table, shadows casting letters on the bench outside, the messy marks left on the blackboard where writing has been rubbed away.
5 points of transition: The threshold where outside becomes inside, the change of the position of shadows throughout the day-transition of light and shade, the change of texture from carpeted to hard floor in the reception area, the kilns- irreversible chemical transformation of clay to ceramic, the heart space- a place where conversations with others can lead to a development of ideas.
Next we were challenged to test out ways in which drawing (an interaction between one thing and another) leaves evidence of that interaction behind and what that tells us about ‘something’. We decided to go downstairs to the forecourt of the building where we had spent lots of time gathering inspiration for the previous task. Here the movement of the automatic doors acted as an interface between outside and inside. As a way to document sounds other than on a phone, Jasper had been drawing continuous lines of how the sounds around the building felt. We decided to follow on from this idea by tracking the lines made by people as they leave and enter the CSAD building, by using coloured chalk to draw around Jasper and Lucy’s feet as they walked.
Next they each tried to walk ‘in the other’s footsteps’. This made me think of the Chartism project ‘In their footsteps’ I’ve been involved with and the shoes we made. Shoes hold many interesting connotations as do footprints: ones made by a shoe are evocative of detective mysteries and yet footprints in sand are considered romantic.
We filmed these walks then thought more about the way we all enter and leave the building and the lines of movement we repeat every day. We considered too of the way lines of footprints could be mapped out as people go to use the smoking area, moving to the outskirts of the forecourt. It would be possible to record how long people stood for by drawing consecutive lines around feet in different colours to signal the passing of time. This could result in a map of lines showing the interaction of students and staff with their environment over time. What patterns of behaviour would this reveal?
We noticed that walking in someone else’s footsteps was awkward – often they were too big or small which resulted in a disjointed, silly style of walking, a bit like a Monty Python sketch. Thinking of the imaginative ways our body could interact with the environment as we entered the building, we drew a sort of hopscotch in chalk leading towards the entrance. Wouldn’t it be much more fun to hopscotch into college every morning?
Next we planned to draw as we moved through the building, creating a kind of map of our experience as we moved through the environment. Instead, because we had so little time and were interested to use the large sheets of tracing paper, Phoebe suggested pressing the paper against each other’s faces and drawing portraits though it. This was fun to do and when laid on top of one another the images became ghostly collages of faces that remind me of the Turin shroud. To get better definition we’d like to photograph these faces with a lightbox underneath. They might speak of the transition of time and the way our faces change as we age. The tracing paper acts as an interface between the one being drawn and the one drawing. As well as being drawn the person is also in a way being drawn ‘on’.
In today’s print workshop we decorated manufactured fired ceramic tiles. First the tiles were wiped with mentholated spirits to remove dirt and grease. On this first one I used open stock decals of chickens and red rectangles which are applied by soaking the cut shape in warm water for a few minutes then flattening them down on the tile’s surface, using a rubber kidney to remove excess water. A red onglaze powder was mixed with universal water based medium and then painted on and scratched through.
For the next tile, I tried a different technique, rolling out printing medium onto a sheet of acetate in an even layer. The plastic was taped onto a glass board for support. Next I placed the coated acetate face down on my tile’s surface, placed a sheet of paper on top and drew onto it. The printing medium stuck to the tile wherever I pressed my pen. Finally I dusted powdered onglazes on top with cotton wool, working from the darkest to lightest colour. The result is a very crisp line but with a sensitive quality because it responds to how hard I press.
I liked the effect of line quality when painting the onglaze then scratching through so decided to experiment with spontaneous patterns on this next tile. I also like the different colour intestines and the way the glaze pools on the shiny surface. Drawing directly using the printing medium made the lines look contrived and flat in comparison.
Chris Taylor is a British ceramic artist who’s work I find stunning. His terracotta vessel forms are decorated with layers of slip, underglaze prints, decals and lustre in bright, cheerful colours and floral patterns. I like how busy the surfaces of the forms are with layers like peeling wallpaper and I’d like to experiment with using decals, underglazes and onglazes to a similar effect.