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Category Archives: Studio Pottery

Studio Production

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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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

So I finally got a firing. Kazuri Beads let me use their kiln. Although confusingly they will not tell me how much they are going to charge me before the event. I have relayed this story to others and they tell me this is a peculiarly Kenyan approach to a transaction. We shall just have to see I guess…..how much could it be?!?
Anyway in goes 28 pieces. (Only one made by me!)
As we loaded up I am reminded how much I like technicians. The practical people that work away behind the scenes. They are the problem solvers and genuinely want things to work well for others. Lacking in the ego required to be the front man I am naturally at home with these types. And I feel confident that Nicholas is going to see us right!

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Dry clay vessels, being loaded into kiln at Kazuri Beads

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The steady hand of the technicians

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Me and the fellas at Kazuri Beads

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All loaded up and good to go….

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wedging reclaimed clay

I realised later why I found it so enjoyable, so happy, to have the children in the studio.

I was integrating my different lives, and it felt really good. I packed up my studio midway through my children and so my Eldest is the only one who ever saw ‘what mummy did’, and that was an awfully long time ago. In allowing my children into that world, something has changed. Perhaps they understand me a little better, perhaps they are a little impressed at my skills, or maybe they just loved getting their hands on some clay. But I know that I certainly feel better and Jung would be pleased I am sure. The integration of the self, peace of mind.

My Middle child made a short film of me wedging up some reclaim clay. It struck me that this was the perfect metaphor for the experience of integration. But I can’t upload it so you will have to make do with the picture and imagine the rest……