I seem to be crossing another Rubicon. My ceramics are now available to buy via Made In Arts London, (MiAL) a not-for-profit enterprise, promoting and selling art and design by UAL students and recent graduates. That includes me! I was so excited when my work was chosen by the selection panel to be included in the MiAL curated collection.
So if you have friends who enjoy spotting and collecting emerging artists and design talent please share this post with them. Or you fancy buying one of my pieces, ‘an early work’ then please click here and take a look at my new shop window. They are all one-off ceramic sculptures. The prices include the MiAL commission and delivery. Learning to sell my work will be one of the most important skills I hope to graduate from Central St Martins with … so please watch this space, and let me know what you think.
Last week was extraordinary. A 3 day whistle-stop tour of the manufactories of Stoke-on-Trent, the heartland of British Ceramics. We got a unique perspective on the history, the heritage that still stands the test of time, current best practice and the future of our industry. Starting with Emma Bridgewater, who was amazingly generous in her candor, sharing her experience of setting up a hand-made ceramics empire in the dying industrial embers of Stoke-on-Trent over 30 years ago. Go Emma! To a tour of Endeka Ceramics, which has been producing clay for the industry on its present site since the industrial revolution. Endeka are kindly sponsoring our next project by providing the Second Year CSM students with their eco once-fired clay and glaze, to get us to think about reducing our carbon footprint in our production methods. This was followed by the impressive Wedgwood factory, museum, shop and design studio, plus Johnson’s Tiles – ceramic making on a gargantuan scale, and last but not least Armitage Shanks / Ideal Standard who are steadily robotising their factories and producing 100’s of thousands of ‘pans’ and sinks each week.
The numbers of people involved in Stoke’s production is dwindling. For the big boys, robotisation is the only way to survive. Ideal Standard and Johnson’s tiles employ around 35 people to run their factory floors in any given shift, with the factory running 24 hrs a day 362 days of the year. While Emma Bridgewater’s USP is based on the handmade, and employs around 300 workers who run 3 shifts a day, manipulating the plaster casts and hand decorating the ware with hand-carved sponges to her English cottage-inspired style.
We got home exhausted but bubbling with ideas for Manufactoring and Materiality. Watch this space …. Looks like my project will be a rye challenge to Take-Away food culture, and reflect on the importance of sharing home cooked meal – all in ceramics of course.
We had been set a brief to come up with porcelain giftware and objects that could be used in the planned Jingdezhen Porcelain Cultural Exchange Centre, in a new development planned for the birthplace of porcelain production, Jingdezhen in China. Yourun, our clients were keen that we develop designs that would encouraged creative playfulness with porcelain, were these pieces to be manufactured by the master craftsmen of Jingdezhen.
My response was Serendipity, a slip cast coat peg and set of door pulls and handles that explored the tension between Perfection and Imperfection, sleek finishes and rough ones that can be achieved when you contrast the sharp lines of slip casting with the roughness of clay snapped at the leatherhard stage.
Snapped clay from earlier project
Richness of snapped clay
Cast with a bullet end
Unique roughness snapped at leatherhard
Snap off end when leatherhard
Montage showing pegs with different colour tips
Line blend glaze test
Gradation of colour along pegs
Glaze to soften snapped clay
My project was designed to be contemporary, playful and bridge a cultural divide between craftsmen that seek perfection and those who embrace the happy accidents inherent in ceramics.
I was thrilled when I won a prize of £500 for my project. Thank you Yourun, for the provocation, generosity and opportunity.
Over the last 6 months, I have been grappling with the challenging question of what is the point of attempting to sculpt portraits in an era of 3D scanners and printers. After all, these amazing machines can make exact facsimiles of complex shapes including humans, showing all the tiny details, like eyelashes and wrinkles. How can I or any practicing portrait artist possibly compete? This summer, I had a go, taking part in a 3 day workshop with Portrait Artist Hazel Reeves at Morely College. She was full of top techniques of how to capture a likeness. See my rendition of Anne below.
But it seems that the Royal Academy is thinking about this challenge too. A few weeks ago I noticed an article about the public being invited to be 3D Scanned by The Veronica Scanner, the high tech brainchild of Madrid-based Factum Arte, located this week at the Royal Academy. All the time slots was all sold out when I tried to book but was so excited yesterday when I received an email saying I had won a competition to be included in the cohort of people being recorded.
The scan took all of 4 seconds, and despite my best efforts to think about how I would like to compose my face, when put in the scanning pod, my face went into a rictus stare. Reminiscent of the stress of being in a passport photo-booth, only this time 8 cameras on a mechanical arm whizzed round the pod taking 96 photographs of me from all angles. Factum Arte will email the digital file of me in the coming days. I am now mulling over how I can explore the boundaries between exact printed portraits and hand modelling. There is a ceramic printer at college so the first step when terms starts will be to print and fire the Mini-Me.
Watch this space!
Me & Veronica Scanner
Head milled in wood
Printed in chocolate!
Padre Justo Gallego printed at various different scales
Roman inspired feet, for the ACWU London Bridge Project
So I am associate member of of ACWU – the Associated Clay Workers Union. A wonderful collective of non-functional ceramic artists who are come together to make joint site specific projects in unusual settings. As a Ceramic student I am still on the fringe of this budding organisation, but I was delighted that they have included me in a project they are organising with Transport for London at London Bridge. The wonderful Alison Cooke and Diane Eagles approached the contractors responsible for the renovations of London Bridge Station and asked if we might have some clay dug from under the station, to use to make site specific work, based on the history of this area of London. They agreed and screwed down 30m into the earth below the station, with one of those enormous pilling drivers and brought us up some virgin clay that is 50 million years old! A successful grant application to London Potters Association brought ACWU £500 with which to hire a van to collect the clay, and buy a box and sieve for all the ACWU artists to enable them to transport and process the clay. Even after seiving and drying on a bat in the spring sunshine, the clay is very sticky, and quite tricky to work with.
Soaking the rock hard clay in water for a few weeks made it maliable enough to sieve and make ready for modelling.
The archaeological dig that took place before building work at London Bridge began, revealed a rich history dating back to Roman Times. In fact an oil lamp in the shape of a foot was found under the construction site. Which is my starting point. I am thinking of giving my foot nail polish, with a nod to gender issues we face today. I will keep you posted as to how the project progresses.
Greek foot from the Elgin Marbles
ACWU is working to exhibit the work in London Bridge Sation at some point late summer or early autumn. I will keep you updated as to when this will take place!
Well last Thursday was a Red Letter Day: the first time my ceramic work has been included in a public exhibition (not at college). The lovely folk at the Pangolin London Gallery on the ground floor of Kings Place included 10 pieces from the First Year BA Ceramic Design students in their Sculpture in the Garden Show, mine being one of them. The project on display are a series of huge ceramic seed pods hand coiled based on electron microscopic photos of various seeds taken by the wonderful CSM tutor Rob Kessler. Here is how my work looks in the Pangolin gallery windows.
I am particularly pleased that I managed to get the spikes on the underside of this piece. It’s all about the drying of the clay. Also many thanks to Campbell from the CSM jewellery dept who so kindly laser-soldered three special tools for me to make the zig-zag markings you can just about see in the image above.
So glad my first slip cast mugs have survived the first firing. The handle is supposed to suggest an ear shape. I’m thinking about doing some kind of eye or face screen-print decoration on one of them in the coming weeks.
I have also been working on some hand-built mugs that started life as extruded tubes of clay. Most are non-functional, Having left the lip as torn clay as it came out of the extruder. I liked the effect that the torn clay makes.
Meanwhile we have also been discussing in class the fact that Ceramics is one of Man’s oldest known crafts and how our discipline can be used to chart the history of man-kind back to neolithic times. Some of these ideas have influenced the shapes I have gone for, and their decoration …
Next up: glazing. We will be given an induction into glaze mixing and applying tomorrow. Can’t wait.
Well it has been a roaring 2 weeks since my first blog post.
I have been to the British Ceramics Biennial held in the disused Spode factory in Stoke on Trent, I have created plaster moulds for a mug and handle then slip caste them, six times. I have been to Expo in Milan for the day with the family, not to mention today’s blissful day experimenting in the studio extruding clay and playing with the results. Phew!
The visit to Stoke was inspiring and dispiriting by turns. Inside the exhibition were examples of the latest work by established artists and recent arts school graduates. Fingers crossed I will be exhibiting there in 3 years time! I was particularly impressed by the Clay Cargo exhibition put on by my CSM tutor, Duncan Hooson. The depth of the thinking and the amount of energy and commitment he and his co-conspirator Julia Rowntree of Claygound Collective bring to keep the making with clay alive by introducing it to new people was awe inspiring. A barge fitted out as a ceramic studio, navigating the canal waterways of Britain, (that were originally built by Josiah Wedgwood et al, as a means of connecting the potteries to the ports of Britain – who knew?). Then staging public events inviting the uninitiated to make a collective sculpture for the day. Rather like the one we students made on our first day of term.
My favourite student work on show at the exhibition included James Duck’s vending machine with porcelain vessels in. For a mere £4 you could purchase an original celadon pot from the machine, have it roll forward and smash on a rock placed in the base of the vending machine. Ceramics are breakable, and on one level disposable after all! How long do we ever own them for? I bought a piece and it only chipped on the edge, and it now sits on my desk holding pens.
Hannah Tounsend’s thrown and caste pieces were beautiful too. And I was delighted to see Alex Simpson, my favorite from the RCA’s summer show.
But then wandering around this factory site, that has been derelict since 2008 when the loss adjusters came in, was depressing. Spode plate moulds were visible through cobweb windows.
Empty warehouses with up turned chairs. Luckily, we came across a maverick in a white jump suit, who was busy painting the walls of an empty unit near the edge of the site. He was setting up a new pottery studio, a professional ceramic painter, who had worked at Spode and currently at Emma Bridgewater, but who was going it alone. Then we discovered the Spode Visitor Centre and were heartened to meet former ceramic factory workers who were keeping the spirit alive, and who had good news about funds having been secured to save the massive Spode archive.
My family’s experience of seeing the city of Detroit hanging on by its finger nails over the last 20 years, and now getting on an even keel, with the threatened bankruptcy behind it and groovy arty types moving into the derelict warehouses downtown, makes me hope that Stoke on Trent and the heritage of Spode will secure a similar renaissance … Fingers Crossed that Stoke City’s victory over Chelsea FC last night is a good omen!
PS Here is what I have been up to in the studio today playing with extruded clay tubes to make drinking vessels. I couldn’t resist the pull of the human form!
So I have just finished my first week at CSM. Wow what a whirlwind!
Day One involved among other things creating a 21 person long clay sculpture, on the theme of “Where are you From?” I confess I got a bit sidetracked into “What is your background?” modeling Scandanavian jugs, my family and a human ear … but it was just fantastic to get my hands muddy again, and to learn a bit about the roots of my fellow students.
My contribution to the Great Wall of Ceramic Design Stage 1.
Our first project is a 7 week investigation into Mugs. First up we learned how to use a lathe to sculpt a body of a mug out of plaster of Paris. Mine went slightly hors piste, in terms of the curves of the form, as I forgot to bring my spectacles into the studio, and got my measurements wrong. However, the final shape looks quite refined, and as one of my fellow students said “It is ladylike!”
We then made a plaster caste of that mug body, which will be used to slip cast our mugs in a few weeks time.
This weekend’s homework is to develop a design for a handle to go on the mug. I have decided that mine must be be able to accommodate 3 fingers, so be lovely and comfy, and suggest an ear shape. I am thinking that this will allow me to do some fun graphic interventions in the coming weeks to play with the face or mug of the mug.
What’s makes a good mug for you? Comments below please!