One of the very first things that I did when I moved the studio to Cornwall was to join the Cornwall ceramics and Glass Group. It seemed to me to be really important to be involved with what is happening locally when I am no longer working in a large group studio with all the benefits that come with being part of a close knit team. Having joined I signed up for a masterclass with Richard Phethean. I was eager to meet other members of the group and to try and make some new friends.
In a way it was an odd event for me to sign up for. Richard works in Terra Cotta, I use porcelain. He throws, I build by hand. He decorates with slips, I do not. His work is completely different, stunningly beautiful and fabulously exciting.
Yet I am confident in my belief that you always learn something from demonstrations exhibitions and visits even if you think there is no connection between your practice and the one on show and I was certainly not disappointed by this day. Richard shared a number of his tricks of the trade during the day, including tips on joining, cutting on an angle and application of slip each of which got me thinking about what I do in terms of joining and cutting. Why don’t I alter my pieces? What would happen if I fired my work to a different temperature? How about making slips and washes from my found materials and applying them to the surfaces of my work? And if I do, what would it look like if I combined the tricks shown by Richard for using newsprint to mask areas off with the tricks that I was taught by Annie Turner? One day I definitely think I need to start cutting into my work and overlapping things.
But it was some of his more ‘general’ remarks which will stay with me, two of which struck a particular chord.
When he was talking about the way that his work changes and develops over time he said that ‘you know when you are getting tired with it because you can’t be bothered to open the kiln.’ That very morning I had popped into the studio to collect something and walked straight past the kiln without opening it. I suspect that it is time for a shift!
Later, when he was summing up, he began to talk about the need to walk through the world with your eyes open and of having the freedom to follow a path. He described how visual stimuli tend to ‘go in through your head and out through your hands’. I like that. I just hope that my work reflects it.
The entire day was fascinating and I even bought my very own Richard Phethean piece home with me as a prompt for all the things it made me think about.
I think membership of the group is going to be a really good experience for me. I am hugely looking forward to the next masterclass, which features The Japanese artist Taja who makes hand built porcelain pieces, from which I anticipate gaining more insight into the way others think about their practice. Oh and I would also like to thank the lovely man who shared his lunch with me when I discovered that I had left my sandwiches lying on the kitchen work surface at home!