Happy Holidays!

I have been walking in Portugal for the past week.  The sun was warm, the sky was blue and my mood lifted daily as the cares of the world

I have fallen in love with the Algarve.

fell off me one by one.  Well they would, wouldn’t they, in scenery such as this!


Whilst I was there I tried to find some local ceramics to buy but was frankly disappointed by the rather sad touristy things on offer.

I did, however, find one or two bits of interest.  The fishermen of the Algarve still catch octopus in ceramic pots which are rather beautiful, especially once they have become encrusted with barnacles

Octopus pots piled up on the quay.

Apparently the octopus like the cool, dark interior of the pots and take up residence, only to be hoiked out of the water after a couple of days before they can take evasive action.  I am rather attached to octopus – they have always struck me as intriguing and with good intelligence.  However, as the fisherman I was discussing this with pointed out, they can’t be as clever as all that as they fall for the same trick repeatedly!


The other thing that caught my eye was  the interior of a bread oven.  Over the past winter I have actually felt inclined to stick my head into an oven from time to time; it has not been an easy winter!

The roof of the bread oven.

However, when I finally decided to do so what I found was really rather lovely: The roof of the oven had been domed by using simple terra cotta bricks and tiles.  If it had not been for the discomfort of the angle to which I had to contort myself in order to photograph it I could have lain in this oven gazing upwards for some time!


So now it is back to work.  I have one more week of holiday from teaching during which I have a huge list of things to do in the studio.  This list includes preparations for the Open Studios, making additional work for Klaylondon and preparing for a visit to the Design Factory for a mentoring session.  I also want to start trying out some of the treasures

The colours on these cliffs hold the promise of vessels yet to come!

that I have brought back from the amazing cliffs of the Algarve:  I can hardly wait to be back in the studio on Monday morning.


What I am trying to say is . . .

I find myself wondering whether I put enough information into my pieces to enable the people who look at them and say they like them to know what my thinking was during the making of them.  Part of me feels that I should leave it to their imagination; that people will read what they want into a piece and it is not for me to make it explicit.  On the other hand I make what I do because certain things matter to me and I rather want people to know what those things are.IMG_8684

Maps and found clay give a piece an identity and an idea of landscape; fragile layers and the image of a very thin piece give a sense of fragility.  Is that enough?

Richard Long uses the phrase ‘If I don’t walk, my art does not exist’.  When I was doing the final work for my foundation degree at Weston I altered this to ‘if you don’t walk my art does not exist’.  My work for that project was positioned within the landscape and I thought the meanings within it were clear.  I know better now!  But this is still, for me, a difficult debate.

start with the first step
David Whyte, Riverflow: This speaks to me!

Are maps sufficient?  Are they too much?  Should I be including words as well or instead?  I rather like the idea of words, although for some reason I then want to make them difficult to read so what on earth is the point of that?


There is some beautiful poetry which resonates so well with what I wish to say in my work that a part of me would love to include it and some fabulous quotes which would also sit well with my thoughts.

time quotes
Sketchbook notes.

I carry a note book with me wherever I go and in it I record not just sketches and thoughts but quotes which I like.  Some of these are itching to find their way into my work.

Not long ago I was introduced to the work of James Goodman.  In his collection Claytown he has a remarkable piece which, just by using the names of Ordnance Survey symbols creates a fantastic image of the landscape through which he is travelling.  It is a great idea and one I feel tempted to play with.  On the other hand, Adam Buick adds nothing to his moonjars except the idea of landscape, letting them speak for themselves.  Is this the way to go?  There is absolutely no doubt that his work speaks volumes without words, images or maps.

“Adam Buick has imposed on himself the strict discipline of the simplest and purest of geometric forms. Don’t expect his spheres of fired clay to be standoffish or predictable though. Yes Adam makes white porcelain moon jars as chaste in their beauty as the old Korean dal-hang-a-ri vessels that first inspired him. But within the confines of his spherical ‘canvas’ he also conjures up worlds of spontaneous drama, pots so diverse in their scale and texture, so exquisite in their making, so alive with the Pembrokeshire landscape which they literally embody, that his passionate connection to his environment becomes unmistakable.”

Andrew Renton, Head of Applied Arts, National Museum, Cardiff

At the moment I am very conscious of our tutor, Annie Turner at City Lit who tried so hard to impress on us the idea of less being more.  So for the time being, since I cannot decide what to say, I think I shall say nothing at all.  People can make up their own minds and the vessels can speak for themselves.  Can you hear them?