For more information please visit my website: www.cargocollective.com/megbeamish

Summative Evaluation

At the start of my third year, I was very much focused on the use of natural materials in my work. I experimented with clays, ashes, shells and rocks to form glazes. I was intrigued by the work of Matthew Blakely and Andrew Preistman, who both use materials available to them in the landscape to create their pots. Over the course of this year, my practice has swung round to focus equally on pottery, and the shapes and forms of traditional pots.

I was also still very new to reduction firing, and so firing the small gas kiln solo for the first time was a daunting task for me. It has gradually become easier and I now feel that I have a level of understanding of the kiln, and what happens inside it during a firing. Gas firing has become an essential part of my practice, and the earthier, more expressive and unpredictable results only enhance the nature of the materials that I use. As I began focusing more on ash glazes, the focus of my pots changed slightly too, I became more aware of the surface to which I was applying glaze.

My work has become much more refined in the past few months, and I have begun to understand more about the functionality and finesse of pottery shapes. I still have a very long way to go in my throwing and turning skills, and I know that the details of my work need refinement. For example, the foot rings which I turn into my bowls are often too short, and look a little stumpy. What I would like to do next is focus purely on skills.

In January, I worked a lot on throwing larger amounts of clay, working from 3lb up to 8lb. I found this very difficult and despite throwing a dozen or so pots, I only kept a few. I found that there was only a certain height that I could reach, however much clay I was using. I looked at Clive Bowen, Mike Dodd and Phil Rogers for inspiration on shape, and spent a lot of time trying to work out exactly where a curve should go in a pot. It is amazing how the slightest change in shape can offset the feel of a pot completely. I think this helped to improve my small scale throwing too, as I found it much easier to go back to bowls after throwing a 6lb pot.

In March I went to assist the salt firing with Jeremy Steward at Wobage Workshops. Seeing the work made there and the community atmosphere they had helped me to remember that evidencing the joy of making in the work is important. I began experimenting making some lively mugs, leaving finger prints in the clay, and decorating with stamps and wooden tools. I really enjoyed making these mugs, but decided to omit them from my exhibition, as I feel they contrast to much with the rest of my work at the moment. Perhaps in the future I would like to develop these forms with my other work to bring them together.

In the last few months I have been working on producing quantities of bowls to certain weights and dimensions. This is to help me think more about working sustainably as a potter, and also about the costs of time and materials. I have been also thinking about the display of my work, and how to link the range of pieces together with heights, glazes, patterns and shapes. I developed two ranges of bowls, one curvy and simple, and the other more squared, tea-bowl shape, which was inspired by a small bowl by Helen Pincombe in the Anthony Shaw collection at the Centre of Ceramic Art, York.

I found that I needed some warmer glazes to bring the pieces together, and really stand boldly next to the ash glazes. I began developing Shino glazes, using recipes from books, journals, and some directly from other potters, while substituting some ingredients with my own dug clay from Leicestershire. I found one which carbon trapped really effectively, and create a great palette of colours. However, I soon discovered that when applied thickly, it easily bubbles and crawls. If I had more time, I would like to develop my Shino and learn how to apply it to functional wares for optimal balance of thick, crawl on the outside, and smooth orange on the inside. I also started using a tenmoku glaze, which I took from a Phil Rogers book, and edited to include my own willow ash. I really like the way this glaze settles into crevasses in the clay, and creates dark pools. However, similar to the shino, I would like more time to really get to know this glaze and work on my application. When this glaze is too thin it is rust-red, and when too thick it runs easily.

There are still a lot of materials and techniques that I would like to explore. I would like to do research into the use of rocks in glazes, and learn to identify rocks myself that could then be ground into a glaze or slip. I would find it incredible to make a range of bowls from completely self sourced materials. I would also like to develop my glazes in wood firings, as I think this would bring a whole other dimension of expression to their surface and colours.

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