After looking at a lot of Jeremy’s work over the weekend, I have been thinking more and more about the shapes. They have very accentuated curves, creating a unique look. The bases are often splayed out, making the pot robust and grounded. Any waist the pot has is often really narrow, or a belly really rotund, making caricatured figures.
(the photos below are pinched from http://jeremysteward.co.uk )
I love the shapes of the milk jugs, they are so full of character and energy. The combination of earthy salt glazes and curvy shapes make for a fun but homely look. It shows through the work that the making process was enjoyable and expressive, no line is too straight, and no curve is too controlled. The pots are lively, and yet not contrived or saccharine, the muted colours make them real and physical. Their handmade qualities are evident, and are at the forefront of each piece. I think its important to keep personal traits evident in handmade things, and not try to make things too uniform, otherwise they may as well be made by machine. After all, is it not the fact that it was made by an actual pair of hands the thing that makes the handmade special.
I finally got around to photographing and looking at the work properly which came out of the kiln last week. A lot of it is very gray, from the heavy reduction, so I’m currently looking into some more iron-rich glazes, tenmokus and shinos. Hopefully this will help bring some warmth to my work too, as at the moment the colours I have are quite cool and clean.
I’m happy with my elm nuka, a solid, creamy white, which contrasts well with the reds of the clay body, especially around foot rings. The nuka is also quite resilient to being over fired, which it was in the last firing.
I’m really enjoying modifying pots at their leather hard stage, faceting and trimming and stamping to create surfaces for the glazes. Ash glazes respond really well to having little ledges and grooves to run into, accentuating their flowing nature in the kiln. Sadly in the last firing their flowing nature was a little too strong, and some larger bowls were ruined by being stuck to the shelves with glaze.
Early on Saturday morning, I drove up to Herefordshire to see the firing of a salt kiln at Wobage Farm Workshops. I meant to take photos of the day, but as always with these kinds of things, I was too absorbed in the experience to remember. I did manage to take a photo of some sheep in the late afternoon as I was wandering round the site.
It’s not a photo of the lovely Pheonix kiln but it does give a little taste of the place. The firing was for work by the people who attended the evening classes. There were about 18 people around over the course of the day, and we fired the kiln in 1.5 hour shifts, with two of us at the kiln at a time. The whole day was a community event, people brought food and drink to share, and although the shifts were for 2 people to be at the kiln, there were often at least 5 people around, chatting and drinking tea. It was a surprise for me how relaxed and happy everyone was about firing the wood kiln. My previous impressions have been that wood firing is labour intensive, stressful, and unreliable, so it was nice to be shown that this isn’t true.
The kiln itself is a Phoenix design wood kiln, and below I have stolen a photo from a past students blog who also helped fire this kiln.
We fired steadily with smaller bits of wood to reach 1000c at about midday, before going into reduction, using larger, flat planks of wood. Then the salted wood was used, and after that, salted wood with salt packs placed on the end. I have never been a part of a salt or soda firing before, so this was a big learning curve for me. Before Saturday, I felt like wood kilns were a looming problem of my future. I love the results and ideas behind wood firing, but had been told that it is difficult and costly. The Phoenix kiln at Wobage costs less than £10 of wood per firing, which is very low. And although it is labour intensive (compared to gas or electric kilns), that’s all part of the process. Over the day I had so many interesting conversations, so much interesting food, and felt so welcome. I really enjoyed the whole experience. I did put a bowl in the top of the kiln with some of Jeremy’s slips and a shino glaze, so I am excited to see how that comes out. Maybe I will be a salt-glaze convert.
Today I have been throwing larger pots again. Things I throw tend to come out more dumpy and squat than I mean to, especially with 6lb+ of clay. I have been looking at various tall, lean pots, and trying to figure out just where the wall curves – where the opening out of the bottom, becomes the tapering in at top. Often there is just one of these points, but on more complex pots, there maybe several, and the point on the pot at which these happen, have an enormous effect on the feel of the pot. Below I have crudely drawn over pots by Clive Bowen, Mike Dodd, and Phil Rogers, to try and make it clear to myself, visually, where the curves happen.
This jug by Clive Bowen, has one convex curve, or belly, in the very centre, and two concave curves either side. The first concave cure (at the top) is slightly narrower than the bottom one, and is the narrowest point of the pot. The very base, where it flares out, is the same width as the rim and the belly creating a balance. The flared base is a look I really like, as it makes the pot look grounded and sturdy.
The pot above by Mike Dodd, is more simple, and only has one main convex curve to its body. The widest point of this pot is about 2/3 of the way up. However, the horizontal lines carved into the body, are of equal width, evening the pots shape out, and creating balance. The rim is slightly narrower than the base.
The above piece by Phil Rogers is interesting. The main belly of the pot is in its upper half, but the lowest carved line an the highest are of the same width, leaving the very bottom to be slightly narrower than its shoulder. This makes the pot seem more elegant, and lean. The rim is the narrowest point, and is almost neck-like, creating an almost human form.
To produce a range of work which fits together in a group, I have been drawing out designs for a range of amounts of clay. I have been working on larger pieces, 6lbs or more, and then trying the same forms in smaller sizes. I really enjoy refining forms that I make, realising when something doesn’t look quite right- a curve maybe in slightly the wrong place or the rim may just need turning out slightly.
I have also been making some porcelain stamps, and working with a cheese cutter to facet some pots. These surface textures will help to catch my ash glazes and help to draw attention to their flow across the pot. Making large jars and vases has opened my practise up to more decorative techniques, which I am enjoying researching and experimenting with. I am using some stamp ideas shown to me by John Jelfs.
Along with these forms, I am still making small beakers and bowls, which are less decorative and more utilitarian. They will still be ash glazed, but with a more simple and less textured surface. I have been faceting a few beakers, similar to the designs used by Lisa Hammond and Florian Gadsby. Beakers are quite child-like in their nature, their handless forms ask to be held around the pot, and so the forms have to be carefully considered. A wide beaker would need two hands to hold, a rough surface would make it uncomfortable, something too glossy would be slippery, etc.
When I was towards the end of firing the little gas kiln on Friday, one of it’s burners went out, and would not relight. Because of time restrictions with gas usage within the building, this meant that the kiln had to be turned off completely, and left to be fired once the burner was fixed. I opened the kiln this morning to have a look at the half fired pieces, I think it reached 1210c.
The surfaces are ugly, but interesting. It’s actually a great opportunity to see the glazes, and how they move and react in a firing. Like a landscape, the materials have shifted around, and carved their own path on the pot’s surface. In some places, the ash glazes have fluxed early, and started to run, but in others, they are still dry and rough. The glaze shown on the pot above is the white, elm ash nuka. It would be interesting to have a series of beakers with the same glaze, each fired to 10c higher, just to see the progression of glaze movement and melting within the kiln.
Once the burner is fixed, I will re-fire the whole kiln.
I now have a set of 5 glazes which I will use on my work. Three are elm ash glazes, and two are from river Soar clay. They are glazes which I have developed, and that I trust. Other than perhaps developing a few other glazes, these 5 are the ones which I will be working with up until the exhibition. It feels good to have this set palette to work with, and means I can focus on form.
I have chosen the 5 glazes above to work with because of their functional qualities. They are all glossy, smooth, and fairly evenly distributed. This means that they will be easy to eat from, drink from, and wash. The colours range from the opaque white nuka, to the dark browns and greens of the clay glazes. Each holds a different perspective on the natural materials they contain, and each has it’s own character. The palette of colours work together well, they are all muted, earthy colours, with some clean, snowy whites to contrast this.