My work this term has arisen very much out of my experience of wood and anagama firing while on Erasmus at HDK and the vitality in the way the glazes flashed, crystallised and took on a life of their own as a result of the flames in the kiln. My thinking about time in relation to making has been shaped by this experience and as a result I have switched from electric to reduction firing to encourage a livelier capturing of the duration of the firing process.
Feeling my approach last year was too conceptual and not process-based enough to satisfy me creatively I resolved to throw myself into a more of a production potter mode to develop my throwing further this term, however I feel at the moment that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction and my work doesn’t adequately illustrate my conceptual ideas. Musing along the lines of roundness as fullness or wholeness and therefore as a metaphor for happiness and a centeredness of form and mind, I’ve been working with juxtaposing forms of roundness for the bowl project to emphasise the round and humble nature of the bowl. I worked especially this term with jars (a cylindrical contrast to the bowl’s hemisphere) and found a lot of satisfaction in learning how to create fitting lids. I enjoy the extra dimension this interactivity gives to a vessel. Listening to Roelof talk about slowness on the kick-wheel at the Leach Pottery encouraged to me try working on one myself. I liked the way the jerkiness of this technique added character to the forms but I found the noisiness of the incessant creaking a big distraction and a constant marking of time that stopped me from reaching my meditative place of flow. It was a valuable exercise to make me more aware of the speed at which I throw and made me think about conserving energy in my actions.
Jon Clarkson’s Still life lectures have been valuable in making me think about my ideas in a wider context. I found parallels with my own work and Dutch still life painting in which the artist tries to explore an object or idea by painting its many different facets e.g. a lemon or a loaf of bread. One painting by Juan Sanchez de Cotan is an exploration of roundness by juxtaposing different vegetables. As a result of seeing this I have experimented with photographing my work as a collection in a still life but they don’t really succeed in highlighting roundness through juxtaposing ellipses, cylinders, hemispheres etc. possibly because the subject matter is too familiar and we can’t see the abstract shapes beyond that. If nothing else though it has been valuable to learn how to take professional photos on a DSLR camera for the first time in order to better promote my work on social media.
Researching the work of Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie I found a softness and gentleness in her ash glazed vessels that embodied the qualities I hoped to convey and so began gathering together sources of ash. However, I discovered a flaw in my approach when I began processing the ash – an entire Tesco bag of rushes produced less than a gram! I had vastly underestimated the quantities I would need. As a result I looked to Phil Rogers’s ‘Fake ash’ glazes and played with layering one of these with a handful of other glazes to produce subtle qualities and pastel colours. For the first time I have been making large enough batches of glaze to dip work which results in a much more even and attractive coverage.
At first I was disappointed with the dullness of the colours but the more time I spent with them the more I grew to love the way the colours, iron spotting and carbon trapping in the shinos revealed themselves to you in different lights. I realised after doing a couple of makers markets that perhaps my work didn’t stand out as much against flashier ceramics but I decided not to compromise on my making. My vessels require the viewer to wait, to allow the object’s subtleties to unfold over time. It seems that ideas about ‘slow art’ and Arden Reed’s belief that ‘paintings can behave like moving pictures’ have subconsciously wound their way into my thinking.
Thinking of making and firing not as a means to an end but as processes in themselves, I’ve started looking at ceramists who use firing as performance (Keith Harrison ) and making as performance (Peter Voulkos) with the hope that I can learn more about duration in relation to ceramics. My ideas currently mostly come from reading for my dissertation but I need to start making them concrete. As a result of my tutorial with Claire I plan to begin next term by setting myself a series of challenges which will help me move into larger, more expressive work that will help me realise my ideas better. The vessel form with its embodiment of roundness is a central theme but function feels more of a safety net than a necessity.