I decided it was about time that I took courage and applied to exhibit my work in a dedicated ceramics exhibition. Until now I have exhibited my work alongside a mix of craft disciplines – jewellery, textiles, glass, you name it – everything, a real mix. There were two objectives I had in mind, I wanted to see how my work looked alongside more experienced potters and secondly I wanted to gauge how my prices compared. I am sure I’m not alone in finding pricing one of the most difficult areas to tackle. From my observations newcomers fall into one of two categories – far too high having rigidly followed a given formula from college or far too low due to inexperience coupled with a slight feeling of lack of self-worth. I have come to the conclusion that I fall into the latter!
I was delighted and very much encouraged to be selected at my first try. There are very many highly experienced potters/ceramic artists in Northern Potters and of the names I recognise there are many whose work I greatly admire. I was asked to submit 12 pieces for the exhibition that runs for 5 weeks.
The New Schoolhouse Gallery is situated in a lovely space right next to the Quilt Museum in York. Outside there’s a garden with paved walks, it must be fabulous in Summer! The building itself is single storey and as its name suggests, a former school. The main gallery has a high ceiling and tall windows along one side.
I arrived early for the opening and my first impression was of a room full of work, lots of plinths and with every surface used to advantage. I managed to get a couple of photographs before the room filled.
Work by Ian Howie. The piece on the left entitled ‘Fishpheasantturtle’ was my husband’s favourite and I must admit I thought it pretty stunning too!
As for my work –
I was initially disappointed that only a few of the pieces I’d sent were on show but it was explained that as pieces sold they would be replaced! That showed a certain amount of confidence on the part of the organisers then! The room soon got quite busy and as none of the makers wore any name badges I hadn’t got a clue who was who. Such a shame as I would have loved to have chatted to other makers. As a rule we’re all fairly isolated and it’s only at these sort of events that we crawl out of our studios, dust ourselves off and get to meet and chat to others. A lost opportunity in my opinion!
Here are a couple pieces still in the backroom and hopefully they’ll see light of day if this first lot sells!
Just recently I have started experimenting with smoke firing again. I love it, it’s such fun and a good antidote to the type of Raku firing I do. Once you’ve prepped your pots, loaded them into the container, popped in the sawdust or whatever you’re using (leaves, sticks, wood, straw, paper etc.) you just light the touch paper and retire. Bliss!
I tend to do my firing overnight. It means that I’m not tempted to interfere with it once it’s set alight. I have been known to poke about with a rod in an attempt to accelerate the firing which ruined the results. I lost all those subtle marks made by the slow burn and ended up with all over brown pots – not what I wanted at all!
Here are some of my recent smoked birds. I love the colours and all those random marks you can get with this type of firing, from pale greys, browns to very dark brown and black. I am reminded of pebbles on the seashore. See what you think.
It’s nine weeks until Christmas Day – I just checked. I’m looking forward to it because if I get there in one piece I will have survived my second year as a maker and boy what a year it has been.
Things took off in April when I rather bravely as it seems to me now, took a stand at BCTF (British Craft Trade Fair) in Harrogate. To be honest I went for the experience, to get some feedback and to make contacts with other makers and galleries. I ended up with a sheaf of orders enough to keep me working through the Summer and Autumn. I drove home after the three days slightly shell shocked, I had not expected the level of interest let alone the amount of orders I received.
Sooooo since April I have been hard at it. Full time, most weekends too and apart from a week away no breaks either. Talk about a baptism of fire! I have learned so so much. In all areas and aspects of the business. Just handling clay day in day out has made me very sensitive to the material and I believe enabling me to get a better finish and ultimately a better result.
Having set myself the project of following one particular Ash tree through the year I discovered that I find the idea of following the seasons really motivating and something that I am getting quite excited about.
I mentioned in my last blog post that I had noticed some crows in the first stages of nest-building. I think they were probably looking over old nests to see whether they could be repaired and used for the coming season. There’s definitely a bit of activity going on. So I decided to go on a bird’s nest hunt. I wanted to get some shots while there are no leaves on the trees to obscure the view. So while out and about I’ve been scouring the tree line for a sight of those tell-tale clumps of twigs. Here are a few shots I managed to get. Sadly no birds in sight.
I also had a look on the web for photos and came across this gem of a site that I feel worth sharing – Peter Lovelock Photography. Lovely photographs and drawings, well worth a look! Enjoy!
Here are a couple of Peter’s photographs of Rookeries. I particularly like the way that the branches are coming into bud.
I feel another Tree-form bowl coming on! In the meantime I decided to dust off my long forgotten throwing skills. I bought an electic wheel from a friend before Christmas but I just haven’t had the time to do any throwing at all. I need to practice! I have thrown a few bowls which I intend to turn in to ‘Bird Nest’ bowls. I found a bowl at the back of a shelf and will Raku fire it next time. Here it is with its slip decoration already applied. I can’t wait to get out there for the firing.
The whole purpose of starting a blog is not only to share my creative inspirations and the progression from idea to finished piece but also to act as a spur to actually getting some designing done. I find it all too easy to be lazy and not pick up a sketchbook and put down my ideas. Ideas are constantly buzzing around in my head but very few are actually used and without the external discipline of an assignment most are just forgotten. So I have decided to set myself a project.
I have always found trees a huge source of interest and inspiration. A few months ago as I was coming home on a particularly cold and foggy day I passed this tree…
I think it’s an Ash Tree. A very common species in the UK but also under serious threat from a fungus that causes dieback. Potentially we could lose most of our Ash trees in this country.
I have decided to follow this tree through the year. Photographing it regularly in all seasons. I also thought it would help me with my designing, keeping me on track especially with my ‘Tree Series’ of pots.
Here’s today’s entry :-
We’re still in winter, no new leaves on the tree it’s a bit dull and very cold. There’s a little bit of colour from the ivy on the trunk but that is all. Here’s a little bit of work on my ‘Winter Tree’
And a finished piece, it’s not perfect yet but I’m getting there.
I am hoping that next month there will be a bit more interest. I notice that the birds are starting to construct their nests. I will be out looking for rookeries to photograph – now that will be an interesting subject!
It’s been such a relief to see the first signs that Winter is in retreat and that milder weather is on its way. This year has been the first I’ve tried to do Raku firing in Winter. At times it’s been fairly grim sheltering behind my shed and warming myself next to the kiln in sub-zero temperatures and with several inches of snow on the ground.
It had to be done though and I have learned a lot. You could say I learn something new every time I do a firing. There are so many variables that can affect the result. Some are down to the temperature, wind and humidity on the day. Some are due to the size, quality and composition of the sawdust and organic material I am using to produce the smoke. No two firings are the same and smoked pots can vary in colour from pale greys though light browns to dark brown and black. Some pots have all shades and colours depending on the way they sit on the sawdust. A sudden gust of wind as I’m placing the heated pot on the sawdust can whip it up into a flame in a second. Even the size of the container I use to contain the smoke, the smoke chamber if you like, has an effect. I suppose this for me is the appeal. I enjoy the hands-on aspect of Raku but also battling the elements and trying hard to predict and obtain the results I’m after. This is quite apart from whether the pot will withstand the rigors of the Raku process itself. The rapid expansion and contraction during the heating and smoking puts extraordinary stresses on the pots. The vast majority survive but I’ve had many disappointments too.
This is a bowl I fired yesterday. One of the paler ones. It forms part of a series of pots that I’m calling the ‘Tree Form’ Series. All based on trees and leaves and most with tall pedestal bases (the ‘trunk’). On the whole I’m quite happy with the way it’s turned out in spite of the colour variation. I’m getting used to it now – the vagaries of Raku!