I am working on producing a Summer bowl and a Winter bowl. The Summer bowl may eventually be made in porcelain but until I get a shape I am happy with I am going to continue to use stoneware. The Winter bowl has been made using black chunky clay, I am finding that I can thow with this clay without too much trouble especially if I use slip instead of water. Turning it is a little trickier but also not impossible. I tried throwing these bowls with stoneware and then adding a layer of the black chunky as a slip, mainly to keep costs down but I am not happy with the results, the beauty of the black clay is the way it tears and distorts around the edges whereas the stoneware looks too neat. I guess I am just going to have to get selling if I am going to continue to use the black clay.


Some images of the work I have been doing. The tall pieces were first then the plates, the overlayed thrown discs, individual discs then the teabowls.

The overlayed thrown discs are in a curved former which is maquette size and if the piece works I would plan to make it on a  much larger scale. I have placed the pieces of ceramic which are going to be shaped and attached as handles at the sides, these will be attached with wire. I then moved on to testing porcelain discs and porcelain on crank. I started looking at clay properties as this was something that came up in my research at SWARCH. I was interested in the idea that it was the clay fabric which helped date a piece and also in the East/West refined porcelain/crude robust pottery idea. Eventually I would like to produce an installation based on all these ideas but for this project I am going to concentrate on making teabowls.

My next step is to start throwing with black chunky clay with a thin layer of porcelain thrown on the inside. I also have some sodium silicate to try out (apparently it can produce a cracked effect on the outside of a pot when thrown from the inside). I have begun to look into where I might source mica (this is proving very difficult) and quartz which is more like a coarse sand than in powder form. I have had some success with the quartz as I believe you can buy builders white silica sand which sounds similar to what I am looking for. I would also like to test using crushed shell as an addition. I then want to produce a more refined looking white teabowl with a blue glaze on the inside to echo the colours in the fragments. Finally I have been looking at the illustrations of pottery in various archaeology books and would like to incorporate them; perhaps by producing my own illustrations of the piece I have made which could then be applied using a lithography technique I have used before.

SWARCH 01.03.2011

Fours hours of pot washing again today. The finds weren’t as interesting as previous days but I find the time spent cleaning the sherds helps to focus my mind on my work and forget all the other hundreds of things I should/am expected to be doing at the moment. I have a plan of action for the work I would like to do over the next few weeks now all I have to do is find the time to actually do it!

and yes that is a golf ball!

Ceramic Art London 26.02.2011

I had a really enjoyable and inspiring day at Ceramic Art London. I had a very interesting chat with Lisa Hammond’s apprentice Darren who discussed the possibility of getting involved with kiln building and wood firing, an exciting possibility. I would also like to attend one of the master classes this summer with Rizu Takahashi, this class coincides with an exhibition of Yunomi’s and teapots.

I also spoke to Dylan Bowen about his work. He talked about how he creates spontaneity, a fresh organic look by throwing his pieces into a mould. He said that if he tried to make those marks himself it would look contrived rather than organic and talked about how you know when it looks right. He like me struggled to put into words what he meant but I understood exactly what he was trying to describe because it is what I have been trying to do myself. It was really uplifting to speak to someone who was on my wavelength.

I also got to catch up with Lowri Davies who I studied at Cardiff with and I was really taken with the work of Antje Ernestus.  

These images are of Chris Taylor’s work and the glass studio.

Corsham 08.02.2011

I had a very useful trip to Corsham (thank you David). Whilst I was there I found an archive of all sorts of interesting things and not surprisingly the first drawer I opened contained pottery sherds, I took lots of photos, none of which I can open!! Hopefully there will be a chance that this can be remedied when my technician gets back from Oz!

I also found a couple of really useful books in the reference library, again I took photos which I now can’t open, oh dear. Still I did write down a couple of useful quotes from: The World of Japanese Ceramics by Herbert Sanders, published by Kodabsha International LTD Tokyo Japan, 1968:

pg 10 “In Japan, even if the potter is known as an ‘abstract’ artist, he has been trained in and has acquired the basic pottery techniques” This is something I strongly agree with and relates to my research on Peter Voulkos

There are three images of pots which follow this quote and hopefully I will be able to retrieve the pictures I took of them. The author then enters into a discussion about conscious and accidental distortion, the first image is of a pot with a tear in it, the second shows how a piece becomes naturally distorted through the firing process and the third shows the regularity of a thrown form eliminated by a casual sweep of a rib over the slipped surface.

“The production of successful distortion of this kind, whether conscious or accidental, can be considered one of the real challenges and adventures of the potter” pg 137

When I add fragments of pottery to my work sometimes it looks right, it’s pushed in deep enough it’s in the right place, you get an interesting crack which can be stapled and sometimes it looks odd or awkward. It’s not always obvious what went wrong but you know when it has. It is the same when I am throwing forms that are meant to be flowing, sometimes they just aren’t and it can be the subtlest of differences between a pot that works and one that doesn’t.

Having read extracts from this book and reflecting on the work I have been thinking about I am going to go back to making teabowls (Yunomi). For me these are quick and enjoyable to make; a way of doing without thinking about doing (Wabi Sabi) and also a good way of trying out new ideas quickly.

SWARCH 28.01.2011

I have just had the most fantastic and exhausting day at SWARCH. I worked with the pottery expert all day, it was suggested that I should sort the finds alongside Graham Langman , I was told to put them into four piles: roof tile, floor tile, pottery and slate kiln shelf, I added a bone pile and a don’t know pile! It was a bit of a test to see if I knew anything and thankfully I picked it up really quickly.

A lot of the pottery we were sorting through comes under the category of Coarse Ware. It is often the fabric of the clay which determines the date, the more black and rough it looks the more likely it is to be old. Another term used was gravel tempered: using mica, quartz or calcareous material (crushed shell) to strengthen the ware. There was also gravel free ware which was finer more refined and more likely to be later.

During the day we found a great deal of evidence to suggest that there had been a pottery on this site. Apart from what the team had found during the dig which was a pit full of pottery that was at one end of a clay seam (already strong evidence of pottery production). The strongest piece of evidence was finding parts of a saggar, these would have been used to protect more delicate items such as cups. There were also pieces which looking like kiln fabric, kiln wasters including warped pieces which had been very overfired and the slate which was covered in glaze indicating that it had been used as a kiln shelf.

These are just a few images of the numerous boxes that we sorted. Image 1 is a general view, 2 shows a part from a cider jar, an overfired piece of clay and a cup handle, 3 shows the bottom of a floor tile the 4/5 scoops indicate that it could be medieval, 4 is of roof tiles (some jug handles also have these marks which look decorative but are actually to reduce thermal shock, 5 more cider jars and glaze colours, 6 handle styles, 7 interesting pattern possibly 15th century also the glaze is more dry and I was told that this was due to flour being added to the glaze however this happened around 1510, 8 more applied decoration and handles, 9 and 10 show a late 13th early 14th century inlayed floor tile, a very beautiful and exciting find, 11 pieces of saggar, 12 various handles applied and stamped patterns, 13 there was some discussion as to the origin of this mark, I later found an image of it in a book on Tudor pottery which I found at Corsham.

I also discovered that the fireman was paid the most because if he got the firing wrong no-one would be paid!