When I was the mother of teenage children I found myself in a regular conflict zone. I am blessed with two wonderful offspring who have always been very different in everything they do and think. Their attitude to revision and coursework while studying for GCSE and A level exams was at the opposite ends of the spectrum and I was stuck in the middle as they were both aiming for public exams at the same time. I remember the daily mantra of advising one that it was time for a rest break whilst the other was constantly on the receiving end of my nagging to go and get some work done, followed several hours later by him coming downstairs to tell me that he had spent the time re-planning his schedule. The inevitable result being that he had now got several hours fewer in which to do the actual work – and so it went, day after day!
And now, here I sit, knowing that the final semester is well under way and finding all the time in the world not to get on with the work. I have even been contemplating cleaning the house! So it was a well deserved kick up the backside to be told in a tutorial on Thursday to ‘stop mucking about and just make’ I know, I know! But I have been caught in a circle of indecision. So this is the week! . . . half term from teaching gives me 3 whole, precious days in which to trawl round the V&A ceramics department, plan a schedule, get to Cornwall and gather images, clay, organic materials to add to glazes, paint the changing colours of the water, write a 4000 word essay, plan my glaze technology for this semester, visit a great looking exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, pop down to Bath and buy some more clay and oxides . . . . I think I can feel a couple of hours planning my schedule coming on.
Actually I have not been completely inactive: I have been doing some testing and I am currently waiting for the kiln to come down so that I can see whether anything good is going on at all. That is part of the trouble with ceramics; everything takes so long before you know what to do next. But I have collected a number of bags of vegetation from my bit of Cornwall and turned them into ash which has been sieved and tested to stoneware and I have been making a few trial pieces but the problem with ‘grunge’ is that it takes for ever before it can even enter the kiln. I am following the instructions provided in a wonderful book by Miranda Forrest which I was given for Christmas and which I am finding very inspiring. It gives some great ideas as to how to test natural materials. At the back of the book there are a number of artists who work with these kinds of ideas, including Fiona Byrne-Sutton. She is not an artist whose work I know but I need to seek her out and see her work for real because I think the images are incredible. Perhaps I should add that to my list . . .