It’s a really busy, exciting time at Paula Armstrong Ceramics at the moment as I am finally the proud joint owner with my fabulous sister (who runs a great dance school!) of my new studio in Fenstanton, Cambs, UK! I am now working with the builders to make it into my dream studio space perfect for making and teaching.
My current studio has been great and there’s lots I will miss like the fabulous natural light but I feel like the business has outgrown it 😀 (which is something I’m still amazed that I can say!). The new studio will have a sink in the studio with a clay trap, a toilet inside the studio, a separate room for the kilns and drying shelves and more than enough electricity to fire all of my kilns – all things my current space doesn’t have.
As well as dealing with the studio move I’m exhibiting at Art Unequalled at the Maltings in Ely on 1st & 2nd June then at Wymondham Arts Centre as part of the Garden inspired exhibition 11th – 23rd June while still teaching classes and running workshops, so I apologise if I seem a bit distracted at the moment, I’m working on keeping better organised….
I’m living my dream and am so grateful to everyone who has made it possible – my Mum and sister for always believing and backing me, my wonderful family for supporting me and putting up with the odd hours and gallivanting for exhibitions, my amazing students who couldn’t be nicer or more supportive and many others that I’ve met along this journey… you have all inspired me (and continue to inspire me) and made this all possible, so THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart <3
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!
With new classes starting last week I’ve been thinking about how I introduce people to clay. While it can be a technical and highly skilled pursuit I do believe it can be introduced in such a way that even those touching clay for the first time can make something that surprises them. I believe the best way to learn is to work with the clay so in the first session, in addition to introducing the basics of what clay is, I get students straight into making, starting with a refined pinch pot technique. From this they make something like an owl, dog or decorative sphere. Week two is a decorative box and weeks three and four are coiling a vase or bowl allowing students to quickly feel like they’ve made something beautiful and worthy of putting on display at home. All of this is helped by the right clay. I use Potterycrafts Raku clay and I love it! It’s a lightly grogged stoneware clay which makes it strong and, a nice forgiving clay for beginners. It has a wide firing range and fires to a buff colour making it great for exploring glazing and decorating techniques. I use it for all my own work so it is also a clay I am very familiar with so I have a very good idea of how far it can be pushed.
Hello and welcome to my creative journey!
I am planning to post a new thought/fact/opinion/story weekly and aim to cover a wide range of topics from what’s happening in my studio and classes, anecdotes and facts about working in clay through to opening discussions on creativity. I will use my work as both artist and teacher to inspire me. I hope you enjoy the journey with me 🙂
This week I am inspired by my students and what they make. This is the beautiful owl made by one of my students. It was her final piece made at the end of her 10 week course then glazed during her next 10 week course and it is gorgeous. She hadn’t made anything in clay since school and was looking forward to making but didn’t think she would be good at thinking creatively. She wasn’t alone in thinking this as another of my students echoed this sentiment exactly.
This started me thinking about several things (including what we consider creativity is and why we think we’re good/not good at it; and the appeal of and barriers to trying new things but I’ll leave these for another blog for now) but mainly it brought home to me what it is about teaching that I love most… the way students almost always seem to surprise themselves with what they are capable of achieving.
For me clay is such a fabulous medium to work in to encourage this because it is both highly malleable, so you can make it into whatever your imagination can think of, while at the same time requiring some basic technical skill. This means that people are able to concentrate on learning those new skills at the beginning without the worry of having to think of something to make. They can get a feel for the clay, see what it can do and how they like to work with it before they have to consider what they would like to make. By then the clay has usually inspired them enough to have an idea of what they would like to make and some discussion can refine that if necessary. I try to pass on the skills while giving each student the space to express themselves creatively. I love to finish a workshop and see the variety in the pieces made. We bring so much of ourselves to everything we do, all I do is bring the opportunity to express it.
It is amazingly rewarding to watch the journey students take during workshops and classes and I am a firm believer in everyone’s ability to make something fabulous 🙂