Art in Clay Hatfield

Just back from a magical few days volunteering (for the first time) at the 23rd Art in Clay on the grounds of Hatfield House. This was a great opportunity to meet makers of all sorts of styles and techniques and learn more about their work, while at the same time learning how to display work for sale and interact with the public. Saturday night’s BBQ was a highlight and it was great to meet like-minded ceramics students from Farnham. Definitely one for next year’s calendar!

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Another of the show’s highlights for me was Matthew Blakely’s talk about sourcing the rocks and materials he uses for his glazes. Seeing the vibrant range of effects he could get with as little as wood ash and clay has inspired me to start sourcing my own glaze materials from places I travel as well as my local area. He described how he uses a ball mill to grind down materials and how some rocks (like granite) will become soft when heated in a kiln while flint is dangerous because it will explode. He also spoke of the importance of getting permission to gather materials from the landscape, especially when selling the work afterwards, and of taking photos of where the natural rocks, clays and ashes were sourced. I agree with the audience members it would be great to see the finished pots photographed in the landscape they are linked to, like Adam Buick does. Matthew explained how buyers would receive a CD with their pot with information about how it was made.
It was insightful to see how different potters wrapped theirs work too, some using bubble wrap, newspaper, brown paper and elastic bands…some having to use round boxes with lots of sponge for fragile work.

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Melissa Pritchard runs Parade Mews pottery in South London and creates stunning soda fired pots. Some of the glazes shimmer like fish scales.

 

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Kathrin Najorka’s wood and salt-fired stoneware (above) is modest and homely, effectively displayed on these dark wooden shelves to make them look even more rustic. I really admired her work as well as the porcelain and stoneware thrown tableware of another German artist – Susanne Lukas-Ringel. I’d like to learn more about firing in these alternative ways to an electric kiln.

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As I mentioned in a previous post I find myself drawn to works made in a black clay body with surface decoration in white. Naturally, I got really excited when I saw Margaret Curtis‘s work! She began using black clay after visiting the studio of Japanese potter Miwa Kyusetsu X1 and admiring the crawling snow-white shino glazes on the black clay body of his tea bowls (chawan). She achieves crusting white textures with thick porcelain slip.

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Tim Lake is a potter based in Carmarthenshire who makes eastern inspired pots, bowls and tea bowls, all on a kickwheel. I was drawn to the natural, muted colours of the glazes and impressed decoration.

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Surprisingly though, my favourite piece in the whole show was not a ‘pot’ in the traditional sense at all, but this adorable ‘little ugly being’ by Chiu-i-wu. It’s a fat little creature with sharp teeth that clearly just wants to be loved! Her work is hand-built and she draws influences from her love of English summers as well as her home country Taiwan. Her forms remind me of illustrations in children’s books and this dry, green surface makes me think of the oxidation you get on copper roofs.

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And now for some bowls

 

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For some reason I find throwing and turning bowls more difficult than other forms. I can never seem to get the thick clay out of the base and they tend to end up with strange ridges. The pearlescent glaze here was supposed to be a gloss white but looks like it needed more than one layer.

Page 132 The Glaze Book – Gloss white 1290C

Potash feldspar                              60
Dolomite                                         20
Quartz  (flint)                                 15
China clay                                       5
Rutile                                                5

Layered on top of another glaze the opalescent effect might work but I don’t like how watered down it looks revealing the clay underneath here.

The bowl with the oatmeal glaze is my favourite – it’s got rings of different shades of orange with a subtle texture and green tinging where it’s pooled at the base. I like the detail of the running green glaze around the rim too – a touch of Lucie Rie!

Oatmeal 1290C

Potash feldspar                             45
Dolomite                                         88
Quartz    (flint)                               16
Zirconium silicate                         11
China clay                                        6
Zinc oxide                                        2
Chrome oxide                                 1

The green bowl has a pleasant mottled antique green colour – white slip with smooth satin opaque yellow green on top applied to bisque ware. I like the visible brush marks and the colour variation where the thickness is different.

Natural glazes

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I’ve been invited to sell my work in my local hometown and want the glazes to reflect the colours of the rural landscape of North Wales. These thrown vessels have been painted with the glazes I made at the start of the year as part of the local clay project. The bowl has been pained with a glaze made from a 2:3 ratio of Potash feldspar to my clay while the rounded pot has a 2:1 mixture of Whiting and my clay. It flows very much like an ash glaze but luckily wasn’t too runny that it stuck to the kiln shelf. I’m going to add more whiting and feldspar to these glazes because the colours are much darker than I expected.

Repetition throwing

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I’ve been practicing throwing repeat forms that I can use as glaze tests. These are also to explore what I mentioned in the previous post about the material agency of clay and the way it responds to hand movements and the wheel. I’ve deliberately tried to throw them as thin as possible and keep turning to a minimum to retain the throwing lines because I like how raw and fluid they are. I feel turning a pot ‘to death’ loses that spontaneity and immediacy. These were intended to be Adam Buick-like moon jars but look more like little beehives. Hopefully the ridges on the surface will cause the glazes to pool and display their effects with different thicknesses of application.

Sandals on Stow Hill

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With the Chartism ‘In their footsteps’ launch event planned for this Friday morning, I took the train to Newport yesterday to meet up with Dylan, one of the project’s organisers, to figure out the placement of my sandals for the installation.

Following the march of the Chartists down Stow Hill, a series of footprints have been etched into the pavement at intervals, with the hope that members of the public will interact with them, literally following ‘in their footsteps’. The ones here face Bethel Community Church and when standing on them, the pair of ceramic African sandals below will be visible. The Sanctuary project at the church works with international communities and offers support to asylum seekers and refugees in Newport. I spent time with an English class there earlier this year where we welcomed the men to make clay shoes for the installation at St Woolos cathedral at the top of the hill. Interestingly many of them ended up making sandals, so this pair will sit outside the sanctuary project to represent them.

The glaze turned out much patchier than expected, probably because I had to wipe the previous layer of reduction glaze off when I realised my mistake (these are oxidation fired). However, when seen from high up on the street the white stands out pretty well.

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SO MUCH WINE

I swear time moves differently in the French countryside. No way could I have fitted a lip sync battle, building a reliquary kiln with relics to fire inside, ping pong, building a stackable camping set, visiting a mysterious cave church, two French markets, putting on a play, more ping pong, dressing up in silly hats, cooking a three course meal, origami cranes, directing another play, and SO MUCH WINE into a week in Cardiff. I’m practically an alcoholic now.

Last week we returned, sore hands and throbbing heads from Mick’s deadly mojitos, from an unforgettable week at La Perdrix, Johnny and Ingrid’s gorgeous getaway in the Dordogne countryside of south-western France. To any future ceramics students at CSAD I urge you – GO! It’s so worth the hangovers.

Some combination of being in such a beautiful setting and eating three course meals each day resulted in us all being super productive and inspired. I’m struggling a bit to hold onto the energy I felt there now that we’re back in the UK but the trip has definitely shown just how much stuff it’s possible to get done when you put your mind to it (and the sun makes it feel like you’re on a Caribbean beach resort).

I think the problem I’ve struggled with this year has been the length of the projects. I end up procrastinating for weeks and changing my ideas and designs rather than getting on with the making. With such a short amount of time in France, it was necessary just to get stuck into it ASAP, and this is the kind of mentality I want to bring to my future projects. One of the things I enjoyed most was working outside in the open air which felt so much more spacious and peaceful than the studio back home.

Our first challenge was to make a raku fired set of nesting camping utensils. I began with sketching some concepts, trying to work out a way of fitting the different sections together snugly and maximising the use of space. Initially I planned to have a steamer above the casserole dish but it would have taken me a long time to throw pieces that fit together neatly, so I opted for a simpler ‘one storey’ design.

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The final piece is composed of six separate sections – a couple of bowls (the smaller was supposed to be more of a mug), a sort of casserole dish with a lid, and a spoon and fork. All the handles, including those on the spoon and fork were pulled – I thought they might be stronger this way.

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The main downfall is that I didn’t create a gallery and flange for the lid of the dish, it just sits on top instead. I’ve never thrown vessels with lids but I think it’s about time I addressed this gap in my knowledge and gave it a go.

I’ve just realised this could be something that ties in with my centrepiece project. I was thinking about drawers to put objects in, but why not make this an exercise in throwing lids? I could make a sculpture of sorts that holds condiments, napkins or knives and forks…

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The outside of the camping set was dipped in transparent glaze but the insides were painted in a thin wash of brightly coloured under-glazes with the transparent on top. I like the effect of having eye popping colours as a surprise  when you open it up, a bit like cutting into a plain icing- covered rainbow cake to find it’s got all those layers inside. The only issue I had with the making was that I had to trim the smallest bowl so the lid would fit. The bowls are also very heavy but then they’re to take camping…of course they need to be sturdy.

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Layering slip and glaze

Here I’ve tested to see what effects can be had when layering slips and glazes onto ash white stoneware.

  1. White slip with turquoise glaze on top produces crazing in straight lines underneath a patchy shiny green.
  2. Reversing the above with the white slip on top creates a dry, textured matte surface which doesn’t flake or peel.
  3. My favourite – yellow/green glaze with blue slip painted on top forms islands of matte dark blue over a shiny surface with a very painterly effect. I like this rough, uneven texture which might look exciting on a large scale.
  4. The same as 3 but with turquoise glaze on top – this looks like a painted landscape with lots of variations of blue and hundreds of tiny bubbles encased in the surface.

I expected the slips to run off the surface when fired but the addition of glaze works to stick the raw and bisque fired clays together.