teaching

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.

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 need more space!  Studio shelves full of work

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!

Studio table full of workI 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.

Kiln openI 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!

OwlWith 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.Drying pieces 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.

It’s a busy week this week as the summer term courses are staring back and all three are running this term which is great. There’s still time to book on for the Thursday classes (10am – 12pm or 7 – 9pm) or I’m happy if you’d like to join the Monday class a week in (10am – 12pm) so just let me know.

The 2015 Saturday workshops programme is also kicking off this week with a fabulous ‘Spring’ theme.  For this one I’ve split the day in two so you can attend one or both depending on what you’re interested in, how much time you have and your budget :-).  The morning will be making flower tiles and the afternoon we’ll be making clay baskets.

Coil pots

Coil pots being made in the studio

The next Saturday workshop will be the 16th May and is 10am – 3pm to build your own large coil vessel.

There’s also a chance for the children to have some clay fun on the bank holiday weekend with a ‘clay play day’ on Saturday 2nd May.

If you’re interested in any of these please have a look at the classes and workshops page or send me a message/email or give me a call.

I’m also available to teach privately if you prefer and I can take clay out to groups (or up to 12 can come to the studio) if you have a group that would enjoy trying their hand at making something in clay.  Feel free to get in touch with any questions or requests.

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