As classes begin again for a new term with lots of new students I’ve been thinking about the ‘right’ way to do things. I am a firm believer that there are many ‘right’ ways to do things. While I am there to teach my students how to make things in clay I let them know early on that I am beginning by teaching them one way to work with the clay but there are many ways, all of which are ‘right’ (as long as they don’t blow up in the kiln or break) and that they will find their way of working which they find most comfortable. I teach the ways I have found to be safest, and by that I mean the most consistent for achieving great pieces with few problems, cracks or all out disasters. Of course they still happen but generally they are fewer than some other methods I have used over the years.
I teach these methods as the basics then as students progress they bring in more challenging ideas and stretch their skills (and mine sometimes!) to develop their own voice and style. The joy of the journey is to experiment and explore clay with all the myriad of possibilities it brings in both form and finish. It’s an endless journey for me as I’m continually learning and experimenting with new materials and methods. I’m continually being inspired by the cleverness of others and how they use clay to achieve a strong aesthetic with a unique voice.
I’m sure I’ve said it many times before, but I do love clay! All the mess, potential and longevity of the finish appeals greatly to me.
I’m excited! I’ve started work on some new pieces that build on the work I’ve been doing around the Intrinsic Extrinsic concept, particularly the idea of decorative interiors and turning functional into non-functional by decorating the functional space. You can clearly see a lot of my previous inspirations like seed pods and sea life but there also seems to be a definite femininity coming into these pieces that has surprised me. In the past I’ve thought about most of my work (particularly the figurative pieces) as masculine so I’m intrigued by this new direction and wonder whether it’s because I now have a daughter… I still don’t think it’s ‘pretty’ work but that’s never what I intend. I prefer to make something that inspires a reaction in the viewer whether it’s curiosity, wonder or dislike. I don’t mind what the reaction is as long as it’s memorable and maybe, just maybe, makes them wonder why such a piece makes them feel that way.
I’m trying out new ways of finishing the pieces (well, new for me anyway) as well as returning to an old favourite. I’m working with slips, printing onto the surface of a slab before building and layering with sgraffito. Layering up glazes and oxides then adding metal leaf to glazed pieces for a further depth to the finish. I’m playing with melting glass into pieces to add jewel-like surfaces into pieces and exploring the single firing method too. So many things to try and so little time! It’s fabulous fun to feel free to create!
There’s still a long way to go with these pieces. I’m going to look towards lighting and still need to consider the textiles and beads which I think could work really well with this idea but I’m loving the start of the journey and will have to continue to make sure I set time aside to develop and make new work for galleries.
It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post and things have been super busy. I’ve been teaching classes at my studio, as well as classes for Cambourne Village College and the Wellcome Trust social club; working with schools on mural commissions and curriculum inspired workshops where the children get to follow the process of clay from malleable beginning to the beautifully glossy, glazed finished piece; making a few small commission pieces; and making some of my own work.
You notice how making my own work is at the end of the list…well for 2017 my goal is to move it up the list a bit and to get my work back out into galleries and shows around the UK, and further afield if the opportunity arises. I’m going to set time aside to develop my current work and turn some of the ideas swimming around in head into test pieces to build and develop new pieces. I have so many ideas about hidden beauty, layering up and using lights more… I’m super excited to get started so I’m going to have to work super hard to make sure I don’t get caught up in the day to day work too much (two school murals, a beautiful greyhound commission and 7 classes a week starting January…). I do have two lovely studio assistants who have started helping me out so I should be able to find some time with their help 🙂 Look out 2017, here I come!
I can’t believe I’m saying that! I only moved into my beautiful, big, spacious studio in October 2014 but I really need more space. Not for my work so much as for the fabulous pieces my students are making and the hundreds of tiles that are currently in my studio at various stages of making for the Over school commission. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing but it has taken me by surprise. It’s great that I’m saying it as it means I’m very busy doing what I love too so I’m happy. I’ve gone from two regular weekly classes to running five as well as Saturday workshops, parties and face painting…I’ve reached the point of having to say no to opportunities and how hard is that!
I subscribe to the Design Trust newsletter and Patricia’s current question is ‘What does success look like?’ It has popped up on my screen at a very good time for me and what with being so busy and growing so much faster than I thought it would, it is a really good question!
I’ve always dreamed of making my living from my clay work. I want to sell my work through prestigious galleries and events as well as pass on my passion for clay to students. I would like to have an excellent reputation for making unusual pieces of high quality ceramic art. I also want to work in a way that fits with my family with a degree of flexibility. I would like to be recognised by my peers and wider industry for pushing boundaries and making unique pieces. So I guess for me, success would be making my living from a balance of selling my work in selected galleries and events and teaching while still having the time to spend with my family. It is also about being featured in industry magazines and doing demonstrations at shows and events.
I suppose all of that does also come with a need for a fabulous studio space kitted out with all the facilities needed so a sign of success would also be getting a bigger studio with separate glaze and kiln rooms!
With a month away from teaching classes I’m going to be busy working on a fabulous commission for the Vine Inter-church Primary School, Cambourne. Born from the vision of their head teacher, Debbie Higham, as a way to celebrate the school’s 10th birthday, it’s a great project that brings together all the ways I love to work.
While I will have some serious time in the studio on my own with my head down creating in both ceramic and textile the bulk of this project has been about collaboration with the students, governors and teachers. It’s a small piece of public art that will be permanently sited in the main entrance of the school building. I put together a simple proposal with a drawing of my design which went to a panel of children who then shortlisted two proposals they wanted to hear more about. I was then invited to meet with some of the children along with a couple of governors and the head teacher for an interview that took my initial design to a new level by incorporating same great suggestions from the panel. This, I have been told, was why I was the successful artist for the project, I was happy and enthusiastic about their suggestions and included in the proposal more time for workshops to allow for more opportunities to contribute and influence the finished piece.
I love the idea of collaborative creativity and the fact that the finished piece will feel so much more special because of all the input from so many of the people and the community it’s celebrating. I still have the role of artist and have to keep the vision cohesive and the finished piece of a high quality but this is a challenge I love. So far, all the suggestions have added and built upon my original design so I look forward to seeing the finished piece!