My work so far has been concerned with the functional vessel. However, as a result of my dissertation research into the relationship between ceramics and time, I am interested in turning my focus away from the object to the material itself. The vessel form will still be central to my work but I want to better communicate duration and transience, and to celebrate the unique quality clay has of preserving traces. I want to juxtapose two times of making in my work. Firstly, the process of throwing on the wheel and secondly the hand-joining together of these thrown elements. Throwing on the wheel as the first stage of the process is important to me because it enables me to start with a controlled, symmetrical shape. I also like the tension held in thrown vessels. I plan to re-work into the pots at different stages of dryness in order to build up a chronology of traces made at intervals in time. Jasper has suggested setting time limits on my actions such as allowing myself only 20 minutes on a pot or only 5 seconds to draw a line in the surface.
I have experience of sculpting with thrown sections before and know it is a challenge to get the timing right, so I plan to invest in a heat gun. It may also help to research additions to clay bodies so I can create a strong clay, smooth enough to throw but strong enough to be altered and built on top of afterwards too. In terms of technique I am very inspired by the work of Jo Taylor and Bryan Newman. However the aesthetic qualities I’m searching for are the lack of self-consciousness, spontaneity and bravura characteristic of the works of Peter Voulkos, Gareth Mason and Wayne Clark where lines are blurred between making and performance art. I want to see how far the traditional vessel can be deconstructed and reconfigured, stratifying layers of time in the making. I find I am interested in how our personalities shape what we make and whether the art we make can, vice versa, shape our personality. I would like to see what happens when I decide to address my character traits of perfectionism and self-consciousness and discard any previous prejudices about what I think is a ‘good pot’.
I intend to begin by somewhat imitating the styles of work I admire with the hope that an embodied, tacit knowledge of the mark-making involved will help guide me to find my own visual language. Slivka and Tsujimoto’s book ‘The Art of Peter Voulkos’ will be my starting point but I would also like to see Voulkos’ work on display in the V and A at some point. I find I can spend a very long time contemplating the photos in the book. The lines of cuts, fractures and joints lead the eye on a journey over the surface of the form. The flashes of ash on the wood-fired surfaces complement the forms well but I will have to think of alternative ways to decorate my sculptures.
This week I began with a couple of basic moon jar style vessels, connecting together two thrown bowls. I decided to sketch the first of these in order to pay closer attention to understand the form and from this exercise, realised that I hadn’t pushed the disfigurement far enough. I want to achieve a similar looseness of quality that’s in my drawings, in my vessels. While gouging, squeezing, slicing and punching the pot’s surface I try my best to touch the outside of the pot as little as possible. I think this was advice from Gareth Mason when he demonstrated at ICF a few years ago.
At the moment my throwing isn’t thin enough so the pots are a lot heavier than I want them to be so I need to get better at throwing larger quantities of clay. I don’t feel what I’ve made this week is dangerous enough. I need to feel a bit of a sense of trepidation that the thing might collapse. Perhaps I could attempt to build a vessel in the spirit of Johnny Vegas’s one minute teapot challenge to really encourage a sense of immediacy. Alexandra Engelfriet approaches her markmaking without pre-thought or self-consciousness in a complete of the moment response to the material and this is the kind of state of mind I aspire to too. At the moment these vessels still feel too careful, too contrived.