I thought that I would follow on from my theme of last week in which I described one of Annie Turner’s matra to the ceramic diploma students at city lit. I popped in to college yesterday to borrow some shelves and some plinths for the upcoming Great Northern Contemorary Crafts Fair which I have been invited to take part in as an emerging artist and as a direct result of exhibiting with City Lit at New Designers this summer.
There they were, the new cohort. Looking a bit anxious and having a group session showing their summer projects to the rest of the students with Annie. Oh I remember that day! Have I done enough? Have I done the right kind of things? Is my work good enough for me to be here?
But here I am two years on and one look at Annie gently coaxing the students out of their ceramic shells is enough to remind me of Annie’s instruction. All week I have been ‘putting it on and scraping it back’!
What this means in practice is that you can add a lot of decoration or thickness to a piece but that the magic comes when you start taking it back off again so that you are left with just a trace. This image shows what I mean quite well. At the start the vessel looks dreadful – smudged colours and no definition. But as you begin to scrape away the outer layers line and flow appears. You can control it to some extent but the real trick seems to be to know how far back to go. It can feel a bit like sharpening a huge beam of wood and ending up with a small pencil but if you get it right it is really satisfying.
It seems to me that I am suddenly discovering a way of working which I really enjoy and which other people seem to appreciate as well. I now have 4 exhibitions in the next five weeks, a private commission and, of course, the next open studios. All of them are based on work which involves a lot of scraping. In fact it seems to me that there are times when most of a vessel ends up on the floor. But if what people want is the bare bones, scraped thin – well that’s fine by me because the process is so satisfying!
Scraping is good, but only if your bowing is good enough to match it!