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I have gone back to school and am very much enjoying it. This term we are working with the British Museum, looking at ‘digital engagement’. We have been asked to develop a family activity. We were assigned Room 65; Sudan Egypt and Nubia, it is the room next to the big hitters, next door to the powerful imagery of the Pharaohs.

This room attempts to explain a complex history. Movements of people and culture back and forth, up and down. A story of assimilation, appropriation, dominance,and subordination. Apparently this region has a huge amount of knowledge gathering focused on it. An archaeological long-term project I found hard to piece together.

It made me think of the complexity of history, of trying to find simple narrative time lines in amongst convoluted human behaviours. Shifting loyalties, personal and political allegiances. I wanted it explained, who did what and where? I am lucky to have a resident historian of Africa here, and he helped…

The cultural production of these peoples used familiar Egyptian iconography mixed with more recognisably ‘afro’ features and forms.  I made these images blending the images from the room and images of me.

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Me and the gift bearers.

We need empathy to understand others.  I wonder what future historians will make of our allegiances, our current complexities, inexplicable loyalties, and duplicities.

I left all my pottery stuff in Kenya. Sold my wheel, got rid of my clay, moved on.

Now every exhibition I go to seems to give me permission to do or try something. Previously I might have seen others’ work as a closed door, a reminder of that which I will never achieve. An under scoring of my failure, lack of true commitment, lack of integrity.

Now I don’t seem to care quite so much.

I started doing some work on childhood, more specifically, girlhood. The work I saw, the things I looked at, and my daughters behaviour seem to come together to make a series of photographic and video works.

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This scene of Pomelo destruction reminds me of the lovely poem Liddy’s Orange, it is, to me, a perfect description of childhood.

Liddy’s Orange by  Sharon Olds

 

The rind lies on the table where Liddy has left it

torn into pieces the size of petals and

curved like petals, rayed out like a

full-blown rose, one touch will make it come apart.

The lining of the rind is wet and chalky as

Devonshire cream, rich as the glaucous

lining of a boiled egg, all that protein

cupped in the rich shell. And the navel,

torn out carefully,

lies there like a fat gold

bouquet, the scar of the stem, picked out

with her nails, and still attached to the white

thorn of the central integument,

lies on the careful heap, a tool laid

down at the end of a ceremony.

All here speaks of ceremony,

the sheen of acrid juice, which is all that is

left of the flesh, the pieces lying in

profound order like natural order,

as if this simply happened, the way her

life at 13 looks like something that’s just

happening, unless you see her

standing over it, delicately clawing it open.

 

 

 

 

 

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So I could start with an apology for being away, but that would assume both an audience and an interest, so I won’t bother.

We came back to London in August for a myriad of rational and well though out reasons. I know it to be the right decision but I would confess, my heart was not really in it.

I live among boxes and chaos, my kids are disorientated and stressed. The up side so far is family and friends still look quite pleased to see us.

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Guava Branch, Watercolour on Tracing paper

So my collection of photos of this lovely place and my drawing practice have started to pay off. I have been asked to design a range of woodblock prints for fabric to be used in children and babywear. I have so relished this process, drawing and redrawing. Pattern and Form. I am looking forward to what the Indian craftsman make of it.

The friend that asked me to do it, asked me to draw emblematic East African animals and plants with a Indian sensibility. We swiftly eschewed Giraffes and Rhinos, in favour of the wonderful animals that are less often drawn and therefore more interesting. Whilst working on the drawings I realised how close this idea was to my previous practice in ceramic. In which I explored the cultural richness of East Africa, through working with Islamic decorative motifs on strong bold clay forms. One on another.

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Gerenuk, Pencil Watercolour on Tracing Paper

Augustus and His Smile

Reception Illustration Project

So the Reception Project is finished. I very much enjoyed making this with the kids. Reception year is bursting with energy and sometimes it was hard to manage but the result is lovely. I can’t lay claim to the image it is a direct descendant of Catherine Rayner’s wonderful illustrations in “Augustus and his Smile” one of my favourite and most lovely children’s books. I sent a copy to her I hope she likes it!

The Piece is very large about 18 x 12 ft. Takes up a wall. The school now has to find somewhere to put it! But my work is done….I am on to cooking up my next idea…..

One of the ladies who come to the studio wanted to make a teapot. So I thought I had better make one to remind myself how it is done! I haven’t made one since college.
And as I recall that was a disaster. The pots had been unloaded and put on display with my other work, right before my critique with the tutors. I hadn’t seen them before I walked in to have my turn at the ‘end of second year’ review. They sternly told me my work was ugly, and perhaps I ought to think wether I should complete the course. It was a miserable moment.
The kiln had way over-fired and what was meant to be a brilliant blue was a sludgy green. In the extreme heat the clay had blistered and boiled. The glaze erupted to leave sharp edged craters.
Suffice it to say I didn’t leave (my lovely tutor Sean came to my defence) but I never made a teapot again. Till now. It’s blue too, I hope.

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Looking over my childrens’ books, seeking inspiration for my Reception Class, I realise that I LOVE these children’s books. Love them more than any adult book. The collection we have amassed through gifts and regular trips to book havens: the Owl Bookshop in Kentish town and Daunt Books in Belsize Park, is a wonder to behold. Shelves of charm from Ed Vere to the intricate details of Satoshi Kitamura. Of course they are all tied up with parenthood and nurture. Each has a memory: a birthday gift, a reward for achievements. These glorious books have carried us through from burbling baby to essay writing eleven year old. Helen Ward’s The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse is just exquisite, & Naughty Nina from Anna-Laura Cantone is perfectly bonkers! I have completely fallen for these illustrated books.

So it took me a while to settle on which book to work with in the Reception Class, I plumped for a combination of old favourites John Burningham and Eric Carle and relative new comer to us Catherine Rayner, whose beautiful ‘Augustus and his Smile’ will form the basis of our exploration into illustration.

Last weekend in preparation I made these mark making tools from scraps I found in our field. Tools to scratch and scape, to push and trail, to splash and flick. I think they enjoyed using them. I certainly did.

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All ok! They all survived a Cone 4 biscuit firing. That means they have undergone a change on a molecular level and can never return to mud again. Sorry world for better or for worse, that’s it these are for keeps! Aren’t they looking pretty. What clever students and my children’s half term fun survived as well.
Now I just need to find out how much this is going to set me back!

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Biscuit ware, Cone 4 fired to 1060

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Decorative Slip, red iron oxide, cobalt oxide, copper carbonate, and plain old white.

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Decorative Slipware