I settled eventually with this layout for my exhibition (minus the pots at the bottom of the table). The trestle table keeps things simple and smart, and along with the singular shelf, allows pots to be viewed from two angles. I wanted to keep the display fairly domestic, yet professional. I arranged the pots and their various colours to keep the whole display tied together, for example the shinos are spread out, so that the brightest colour (the shino orange) draws the eye around. I also grouped a few pots together, to enhance each other, and show their qualities contrasted. For example, the three vases at the back of the table are similar in shape, but have subtle differences, and different glazes, which are highlighted by being placed next to each other.
I originally had two six foot shelves, but decided on just one, so as to keep it simple and uncluttered. I decided to line up the edge of the table with the edge of the shelf, to avoid things being too symmetrical, and tried to keep the arrangement flowing. I want this to simply be about the pots, and so all the decisions I have made are to best show the pots qualities.
I also had to consider my display in relation to the people around me. I am in between Ynyr and Fflur on the wall, who are both quite colourful. I think this makes it difficult as my colours are quite dull and quiet, but hopefully the placement of the shino pots will help. I think the addition of some sprigs of blossoms or something placed in one of the will help a lot. Pots often look best in natural light with some kind of outdoors visible, this really allows the pots to be seen next to the origins of the wood ashes and clays.
The pieces I have chosen to display are the ones which show my best abilities as a potter.
As part of our Field, exhibition module, we are required so show an understanding and level of pro-activity in regards to where we will be after we graduate. Because of the broadness of the course, this needs us to individually place ourselves within the world, depending on our aims and type of practice. For the past few years now, I have had my heart set on becoming a potter. As I have visited more and more potteries, this idea has grown, and I think that being a production potter in a team of people is what I aim for.
I have worked on my CV a lot over the past month, and have edited it down to show the relevant qualifications and experience. I have also kept a master copy which contains all my qualifications and experience. I have also developed a website, using Cargo Collective. I kept the design and format simple, as what I really want this website to function as is just a way for people to see more images of my work, read a little about it, and be able to contact me. My website contains a digital portfolio of my work, my artists statement, and my curriculum vitae.
I have also ordered some postcards for my exhibition. I always think when visiting potters or exhibitions that having an eye catching card with details on is really important, just to get your name out into the public. I also left a large blank space on the back of my postcards, as I remember Ingrid Murphy saying that this is always very useful, just for jotting down information or dates.
Over the summer I have a few things lined up. Firstly this is a residency with Robert Stockley at Ryall Hill studios. Here with two other students, we plan on building a small wood kiln to remain at the studios. Having proposed this to Robert, he is very keen for us to do this, and I am eager to get some kiln building experience.
After this, I am working at the International Ceramics Festival, Aberystwyth. I think this will be a great opportunity to meet other potters, and see how a fair of this size functions. I am also keen to see the sort of community events that happen, such as long firings and sculpture building.
During July I have some work at Wobage Workshops, assisting with throwing courses, and doing odd jobs about the studio. Then, in August, I will be exhibiting at Hatfield House with 15 other students from the course. I think this will be great experience of organising another group exhition, as this takes a lot of planning and consideration.
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.
Today I began to organise the composition of pots within my space. I find it very hard to tell what it is works or doesn’t work within a composition. But it is getting easier the more I play around with the work. Here is how I left the set up today, I will come back tomorrow with fresh eyes to reassess.
After settling on the trestle legs with a board table, and two six foot shelves, I have been arranging pots and thinking of colours other than white. I want to keep the display simple and spacious to allow each pot to be seen properly. I originally played around with the pots on the white board –
I prefer the 1st image layout, but I think it will definitely need some playing with in the space, as like this it’s a sort of three-wall arrangement with one viewing face, whereas the in the space it will be walked around and so will need to be thought about from all angles.
I think with the white glazes that I have, the board and shelves will need to be another colour, so that they have something to back them. At first I tried a simple gray (black mixed with white) just to test out the idea.
This is a very cold gray to contrast with the earthy warm colours of the clay and glazes, and I think the colour needs to be a little warmer. It’s difficult to photograph colours accurately. After trying out a couple of different paint samples, I settled on ‘on-the-rocks’ from Crown paints.
This adds a bit of lift to the work, and gives the viewer an environment to inhabit in the exhibition space. I want to keep the display domestic but still sleek and proffesional, so I will need to be careful and thoughtful about the arrangement of pots, and the placements of shelves on the wall.
Over the Easter break, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of potteries. The first was Winchcombe pottery in Gloucestershire, where I worked for a few days. The team there had altered slightly since I had last visited, and the production of wares for The Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent seemed to be going well. It is always when I visit a pottery like this that I am hit with the reminder of what I want to spend my time doing.
Production pottery functions differently to studio pottery. There is very much a team atmosphere going on, with each person completing their own tasks, which tie into everyone else’s. The wares aren’t those designed by the makers, but ones which have been made at Winchcombe for decades. The learn about and be a part of a history like that is an incredible thing. Measurements and weights of clay for specific pots are written on pieces of paper by potters of the past, and shapes of cups and pots are often referred to by looking at those made by the old potters of Winchcombe. Each potter has their own subtle style leached into the pot, whether it is the curve of a handle or the weight of a rim. A pottery like Winchcombe is the feeling of being a part of something greater than yourself.
The second pottery I visited was unintentional. I was camping in exmoor, and when I got into conversation with the old lady who worked in the icecream shop, she told me to visit the pottery that happened to be just around the corner. The pottery is called Ruffen Common, and houses two makers, the first is Brian Andrews, who makes animal sculptures, and the second is Russel Kingston, an earthenware potter who had been there for two years. He was very welcoming and happily chatted to my boyfriend and I about his work and how he came to be an earthenware potter. The history of earthenware pottery in Britain is rich, especially in north Devon, and the shapes and patterns that can be drawn from this tradition are distinctive. I think it is again about being a part of something greater than yourself – living and continuing a tradition in a conetemporary way. Of course a real country pottery is something that will not exist again, (because of many reasons including changing customer demands and technologies) but taking ideas and learning or teaching the skills that they used is a way of connecting ourselves to the potteries that were once an essential part of rural life.
I also bought a lovely mug from Russel’s seconds box: