This week I took on a new commission. I spent a happy hour in my studio with the customer. We poured over the architects drawings of a beautiful looking Arts and Crafts style house which, in all probability, I will never see; We discussed maps of the area where the house was built in order to get a feel for the place and to understand it from her point of view and then I started work on a test piece to explore the possibilities which she is hopeful that I can achieve. I began by examining samples of the subsoil for stickiness and lime – stickiness is a good sign as it indicates a high proportion of clay in the soil whereas lime is a nightmare because it decomposes in the kiln and then later on it very slowly and subversively destroys the ceramics made with it. Fortunately there does not seem to be any in this sample.
It is a funny feeling working with somebody else’s special memories. On one level it makes me feel quite excited. I love the idea of creating a piece which has real meaning to someone else and yet, at the same time, there is a massive sense of responsibility! The clay can speak for itself. The colours and contours which appear as I work can only tell of the landscape from whence they came. So long as I relax and just let it guide me, the vessel should tell of the place which is so important to my customer. The anxiety on my part is that I am playing with someone else’s memories. Knowing how important my own memories are, I really appreciate the trust that this lady is putting in me to work with hers. She has images in her head which I can never be party to and yet, somehow, the finished vessel must give sufficient of a hint to these pictures that it sparks a sense of well being in her and in the person for whom this vessel is a gift. I am really looking forward to working on this vessel but a cannot claim for one minute that the project is worry-free.