One of the most significant changes resulting from moving my studio to Cornwall is that instead of working in a very creative atmosphere, as at Wimbledon, I am now surrounded by more practical types. I am flanked by a dog grooming parlour and the store for a fish and chips enterprise. There are at least two units involved in mechanical engineering plus a shellfish processing plant: sensible, down to earth practical types who know a good piece of kit when they see one.
So conversations range round subjects such as can I keep a look out for the gas bottle delivery or whether there is any life in some old rotavator rather than whether or not to enter a particular exhibition or competition. It makes a change but, even more than in my lovely artists’ community, I am prone to feeling like a fish out of water from time to time and it is because of this that certain bits of my machinery do not come out until everyone else has shut up shop for the day.
My most exciting piece of kit is a wet diamond polishing machine. It is a veritable monster! I use it to polish, rather than glaze, the outside of my work. It is what gives my pieces their tactile, lustrous quality.
It does, however, give me some difficulties. True to its name, this polisher is wet! Extremely wet! So wet that I become soaked to the skin in very short order, despite full waterproofs. It shoots water in every conceivable direction and leaves no part of me dry. I have to use it outside in the yard. If I worked in my studio I would run the risk of finished work floating out of the door. It also blasts lumps and bumps off the work, throwing bits of grit everywhere. I wear safety goggles to protect my eyes but they don’t have wiper blades and so it is minutes few before I can hardly see out. It resembles working in a car wash.
Imagine my embarrassment, then, the other evening. Everyone had gone home and it seemed safe to bring the monster out into the yard and start polishing. I had not appreciate the importance of it being Friday until the lovely, young fish and chip man arrived to collect his van for his regular weekend run to the village. It was blowing a stiff easterly so I was freezing cold as well as drenched to the skin. With my hair plastered down over my goggles I couldn’t actually see who was talking to me. A large bin liner worn underneath my waterproofs is meant to mitigate for the fact that they are not in fact waterproof but what is provides in terms of practicality it lacks in the style department. The dungarees belonged to my father in law and should have been thrown out years ago when the shoulder straps failed to maintain their elasticity. They were several inches too long for me so I have sliced them off rather unevenly below the knee, revealing more than is fashionable of a pair of blue floral wellies which have been kicking around the house for years. It is not an altogether fetching look.
My friendly chippy worked away on his van, his gas bottles and his fish for a while but in the end he couldn’t resist it. ‘So, there has to be an easier way than that, right?’
Yes, I rather suspect there does. I need to find out how to tame my monster before I die of drowning.