I have done a lot of coiling since I started working with clay, it’s one of my favourite hand building techniques, there is something meditative and mentally calming about the act of coiling, it’s definitely a making process that immerses me in the artistic flow. Coiling is a very versatile hand building technique, enabling the maker to create a multitude of shapes and forms from giant, human size onggi pots through to delicate porcelain thimbles. Many of the sculptural vessel like forms I have constructed have been made using coils, it’s easy to create curved, undulating shapes using coil building and there is something deeply satisfying about seeing a form slowly emerge as the walls and form of the pieces grow in your hands.
Coiling can be done over a former, inside a slumped form or free hand straight onto a board, virtually any clay body can be used, but some require more delicate care and attention than others to avoid slumping and collapsing. I often coil more than one form at a time, to allow clay to dry and ‘set up’ more firmly so the base can withstand the weight of further coils.
In the piece below I decided to show the making process, and chose to leave the outside wall of coils unblended, it’s an opportunity to create some interesting surfaces when the glaze is applied as it will break over the coil ridges.
I chose to use my own glazes that I had made but felt that these didn’t really work as well I had hoped on this piece and further experimentation is needed.
When I embarked on my MA I had already committed to participating in a group exhibition at The Storey Gallery in Lancaster with Higherford Mill Artists group (I will do some blogs about this as the works I produce develop). I decided to begin a larger scale coiled piece as part of the body of work I would be producing for this show. The shows theme was landscape and I wanted a piece that explored some textural aspects in the surface but also had some feminine qualities as I wanted to explore the idea of locating myself within the landscape. I am very interested in the cyclical nature of life, processes of decay, and decomposition and the connections between humans, animals and the natural world. We all return to the earth in some form or another, the materials I am using to make these vessels are born from this same earth, clay seems the most natural and appropriate material to reflect this reality in the vessels and forms I make.
I rarely use pinch pots in my day to day ceramics work, but there is something very satisfying about creating vessels using nothing but your hands, the process of pinching and manipulating the clay to create a simple vessel form creates a real connection to the clay. It’s potentially one of the best processes a ceramic artist can utilise to learn about the material qualities of clay. How far can the material be stretched, thinned out, opened up and retain it’s shape.
In the past I have joined two pinch pots together to create spheres, this opens up the potential of a pinch pot to create a whole range of both functional and sculptural items. I have also used a pinch pot as a starting point for a vessel, adding coils to build the structure.
I made three simple pinch pots as part of this task, I deliberately made them without a foot ring or defined base as I wanted them to gently rock, the edges are turned in and thinned. They have been partially glazed using a commercial brush on glaze combination.
This was an interesting task and even as I did it, I already felt that my chosen artists would likely change and evolve. It’s really hard to choose 3 pieces of work, am interested in such a wide range of work by an array of artists. I am often drawn to the narrative and thoughtfulness of art work finding at times that I am more interested in the maker and their ideas than the material or aesthetic qualities of a piece.
Building on what I learned during my explorations with texture, I was tasked with creating a set of tiles where the texture I used would endeavour to portray different emotions. Unfortunately I hadn’t realised that I should have retained these particular tiles for firing and they ended up in reclaim, but below are some images of the completed tiles. Again made with the departments mixed stoneware clay body. I really enjoyed this exercise, it was really hard to avoid being too literal with my choice of textures and shapes, some of them were more successful tan others. I actually posted the tiles to my own pottery group on Facebook, as I was interested to hear about how other people saw them. The link to that page is here.
My first week on the Ceramics MA at UCLAN, it feels strange to be back in education, a mixture of anxiety and excitement in equal measure. I didn’t know how I would feel about going back to basics, am no expert and often feel like I have no idea what am doing, Ceramics is such a massive field, it’s impossible to know everything and takes a lifetime to build up a solid library of knowledge, so I knew for sure I would definitely learn something new from having the opportunity to go back to basics.
It was only when I started exploring the brief and really letting go I realised how long it had been since I had actually allowed myself to ‘play’ with clay. Since opening my pottery studio almost 5 years ago, my time has been taken up with gaining knowledge, I was starting from scratch so I wanted to learn as many skills, techniques and processes as I could, as well as gathering as much information as I could on the technical knowledge that goes along with ceramic production. Around 3 years ago I started to teach, and this grew and developed, I still teach and really enjoy it, but it is time consuming and it has impacted on the time I have to explore my own making. I often found myself making work in response to commercial pressures or to fulfil a commission.
Having the chance to just explore the materiality of clay, experiment and investigate with no set outcome was really liberating. I loved the outcomes of the experiments with texture, being free to use a variety of mark making tools and techniques such as scoring, ripping, embossing, compressing, stretching and drying produced some really interesting results, it got ideas flowing for new ways of working with the clay body.
Below is a slideshow of some of the experiments with clay and the resulting tiles before firing. I used the departments ‘in house’ reclaim, a mixture of different clay bodies, mainly stoneware. Once the tiles are fired I will blog about how I applied different finishes (oxides and glazes) and how the textures impacted on these finishes.
I have learned so much from this experience of playing with clay and I plan to do a lot more of this.