Calm Down Dear!

One of the very good thing about being a part of the Design Factory is the provision of a mentor to support you in your creative business.  I have to confess that I have been actively avoiding my mentoring session because I have had so much on that I couldn’t bare the thought of my mentor piling anything else on top.  list[1]

What a fool I am!  During a lengthy and well structured session today we went through the success of my past year and considered where things needed to be done better – not more, just more planned.  It was incredibly useful to actually break down all the events and to work through what might have made it even more successful.  I now have a list, it isn’t a very long list but I have considerably more confidence as a result of it that I can go some way to avoiding the turmoil of the past couple of months if I follow it.

Just three things on my list

  1. Address my marketing – do what makes a difference and don’t bother with what doesn’t.
  2. Get a planner – and use it!
  3. Research the galleries that I want to stock my work. 
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    Tregony Gallery will remain firmly on my list!

Having got that all out of the way I decided that the day was too good to be in the studio and I set off to play in the water.

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With the Falmouth Classics in full swing it was wall to wall boats in the bay.

When I got back to my phone it was to a message form the wonderful Tregony Gallery to say that whilst I had been messing about in boats they had sold five of my pieces!!  Do I panic that I need to make more work I hadn’t planned for?  No!  I will refer to my planner and decide what to do calmly and sensibly.

 

And so, with no apologies, I’ve got a little list!

Going Nowhere?

This week a dear friend introduced me to Simon Jenkin’s book England’s Thousand Best Churches.  She did this shortly after I had introduced her to one of the gems of the Roseland Peninsular, the thirteenth century church at St Just in Roseland.  I am particularly fond of this church and so it is one of the places which, when showing visitors for the first time, I take great care to approach from the right direction.  We walked out along the Bar, a spit of shingle which reaches  across the creek, so that she could see the church across the water.  She was appropriately impressed.  A series of ‘wow’s and other appreciative sounds confirmed this.  Later we walked round and into the church.  It is a beautiful and interesting place full of peace and history.  Its creek-side setting and semi-tropical gardens are the icing on the cake.

I was astonished that Jenkins only gives St Just one star and have resolved to explore some of the Cornish churches to which he awards 4 stars in order to compare and contrast.  Turning to the page for the Roseland churches I was shocked.  None of them merit more than one star and Jenkin’s summary of the Roseland is ‘A secret annex which might just as well be called Going Nowhere!’  I would like to add to that, please, Mr Jenkins.

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Creed Church.

The Roseland is steeped in history and tales of daring do; its coast is rugged and yet gentle at the same time; its geology is fascinating; its villages have their hearts in tact because they still have sufficiently large residential populations, having been blighted slightly less than some parts of Cornwall by people who own houses but only use them for a few weeks a year.  I could go on and on but, given that one of its charms is that people leave it alone to some extent, I won’t tempt them!

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This is my playground!

 

Having given Jenkin’s remarks some time to filter through my tatty brain I appreciate their accuracy.  Geography makes his comments completely accurate.  Apart from a couple of ferries there is literally one road in and one road out.

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You don’t come to the Roseland unless you meant to!

You don’t come to the Roseland unless you meant to – and I meant to!  It gives me a sense of well being.  It is my playground.  It inspires my work and I am truly glad that I now have the opportunity to live and work here.

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The Roseland inspires my work.

 

 

Its a Kind of Magic

Well, it has only taken me about 18 months but at last I have found the time to enjoy reading Edmund de Waal’s book The White Road.  I am glad that I have waited until the right moment as I have been able to indulge myself with soaking up de Waal’s palpable enthusiasm for the subject of porcelain without feeling rushed.

I have had the time and the peace to read most of the book whilst invigilating our exhibition at Fountain Gallery which has its final day today.  Now this says something about the number of sales and visitors to the gallery and begs questions about self invigilated shows.  (Thank goodness for Tregony Gallery which cheerfully goes on selling my work without me putting in an appearance).   But that aside, the luxury of reading a well written book about the porcelain story has been a delight.

There are three lasting impressions from reading this book.  First is the extraordinary excesses which those with money and power went to in the past.  When Augustus the Strong of Saxony died in 1733 he had a collection of 35,798 pieces of porcelain (de Waal, 2015).  Secondly of the heightened emotions which the efforts to create ‘white gold’ in Europe seemed to invoke.  The alchemists searching for the formula for creating gold from base metals and also how to make white gold spent decades working in intolerable conditions, imprisoned and forced to experiment over and over again until they struck success (de Waal 2015).  Thirdly the wonder  with which people have always perceived this material.  De Waal describes the first makings of English porcelain by William Cockworthy as an obsession;

 ” To make something so white and true and perfect, that the world around it is thrown into shadows as the blackthorn does when flowering in the hedgerows in early spring.” (de Waal, 2015, p.225).

 

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Sometimes opening the kiln really does feel like a kind of magic!

 

 

Oh my goodness, I get that one!  When I open the kiln and there it is: a crisp, thin, translucent vessel with a pure, creamy whiteness.  It is a kind of alchemy if you ask me!

Where Do You Go To?

When I am not in the studio it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am not working on my art.

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Armed with a trowel and a plastic bag.

Given that my art is about landscape I am often to be found wandering the countryside with a small trowel, a pocket full of zip lock sandwich bags and an indelible pen – just in case the urge takes me – but there are masses of other activities involved which are somewhat less glamorous.  Social media takes up a lot of my time.  Research; planning; applications for competitions, galleries, grants etc all have their place as does the designing, ordering, collecting and delivering of advertising which might or might not hit the right spot and lead to sales.

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Consider yourself invited!

This week I have been delivering fliers for our up-coming exhibition at Fountain Gallery, near Hampton Court.  Each of the 3 artists involved took 800 fliers to push through letter boxes.  It doesn’t sound much but, believe me, it can take hours.

You need to find the posh houses, those with two expensive cars outside, because these are where the people with disposable income live.  So we are talking approximately 800 security gates to decipher, 800 long drives, 4800 steps to front doors and indiscriminate quantities of gravel.  I think that I have walked the length of Chesil Beach this week!

Then there are the letter boxes themselves.  High up and you have to jump, low down and the bag full of fliers on your shoulder swings round to give you a hefty clout on the knee as you reach down to push through.  Whilst horizontal flaps can be relatively easy, vertical flaps are always a nuisance.  They need two hands: one to hold the flap up and one to push the flier through.  If the flap is too small you have to fold your expensive flier in half, spoiling the impact somewhat, and if too many of the springs are too strong you risk repetitive strain injury in both thumbs from forcible pushing.

I have eventually learned to be suitably cautious of ‘Beware of the Dog’ signs.  At one residence I saw the sign, heard the dog and assumed small because of the pitch of the bark.  What I didn’t spot until he had the flier in his mouth was that miniature yappy dog’s best friend, gigantic Irish Wolf Hound, had been watching me for some time through the upper part of the door.

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Let me take that for you!

 I learned to dread the letter boxes with a flap on the inside as well as the outside most of all.  Not only do you not know what is in store until you are committed to the action, but the inner flap is inclined to want to hold you prisoner causing nasty biting injuries as you withdraw your last finger and the flap snaps shut.  And you can’t even shove the entire bundle into a post box and dash home because, unlike other types of junk mail, you paid for these out of the yet-to-be-seen profits of the exhibition so they have to hit their mark come rain or shine and I don’t mind telling you that I didn’t see much of the shine!

The doors themselves make interesting studying.  I am really into front doors at the moment as we are trying to decide on the design and colour for our house in Cornwall.  It seems that grey is the colour.  I did see other hues but grey is predominant and, whilst I couldn’t possibly comment on what goes on behind them, there really are 50 shades for the exterior décor of posh houses in 2017!  I must have seen pale dove grey, dark satanic grey, blue grey, green grey, purple grey . . . . . . I think we might be going for bright red in St Mawes.

After wearing my legs down by several inches I decided to try doing it by bike.  It is a while since I rode my bike but after a few preliminary wobbles I was off up the road.  It didn’t take long before I was gazing at the tarmac at close quarters though.  I had forgotten the need to disengage feet from pedals when approaching a roundabout and was now face down in the middle of the road feeling embarrassingly representative of Nurse Chummy from  Call the Midwife.

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Given my new found respect for the postie, I shall be using one of these.

I have decided that, out of a new found sense of respect for the postie, I shall be having an external letter box in Cornwall.  It will be positioned at a height which does not involve bending double and it will be located at the end of the drive so that the postie can lean over and shove the mail through without ever having to disengage his feet from his bike pedals as he passes by.  Enjoy the link!

 

The Potter has Landed

A couple of years ago I was invited to apply for membership of the Design Factory, an organisation funded by Arts Council England which exists to promote artist integrity, raise standards and to ‘support and develop the very best designers/makers in craft practice today’.  I was hugely flattered.  I had only just finished my diploma, didn’t know what I was doing and was crashing around in the dark.  Through their scheme of mentoring, workshops and support at exhibitions I have learned so much.

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Design Factory stand at Top Drawer.

Now, in addition to having an artist’s profile of which I am really proud and which I could not have come up with without attending a writing workshop organised by them, I have taken part in exhibitions which I would not have dreamed of being involved with if it had not been for their support.  One of which, Top Drawer, this January has done enormous things for my career, leading directly to 3 exhibitions in interesting places over the next year:  This July I will be the featured maker at Hybrid Gallery in Devon, at the same time I am exhibiting alongside Debbie Barber, an established maker whose work is well known at Red Barn Gallery , one of the best known galleries in the North-west.  Then, in the autumn, I will start preparations for a collaboration with artist Candide Turner Bridger for an exhibition in Norfolk at Great Walsingham Gallery next year.  I can hardly believe my luck!

This week, probably as a direct result of the opportunities which they have provided me with,  I was informed that I have been invited to become a Flair Level member of the Design Factory which, in addition to looking great on my CV will give me even more opportunities to learn and to exhibit both nationally and internationally.  I am really excited about this.  It feels like a true endorsement of what I have been trying to do since I finished the diploma and it definitely promises to open doors for me.  There is just one tiny problem – I think I need to get back to the studio and get making – so much to do, so many pieces to create, so little time!

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Time to get back to the studio and start making!

 

 

 

On Vessels.

I have often wondered why one of my great loves does not influence my ceramics.  After all, my work is about vessels which carry a story.  So why does my love of sailing not come in somewhere?  The answer escapes me but, in a week where progress in the studio has been just that – progress – and we have had our first outing of the year in Annika, I decided not to write for the sake of it and instead to share with you the two aspects of my love for vessels.

 

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During a week of serious preparation for the up coming exhibition in East Molesey I have been having a polishing bonanza. 

 

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Annika:  This was taken last summer in warmer conditions but we did enjoy a quick once round the Manacle Buoy and then back home under spinnaker in a lovely 17 knots of breeze yesterday.

 

 

 

The Crest of a Wave

I make no apology for including a mass of links and no images in this blog.  The thinking being that you all just need to go and see for yourselves!

I have had a lovely time this week.  I have enjoyed my daughter’s dress rehearsal with the lovely Pindrop quartet, I have lunched at the Royal Academy (with said daughter), I have visited the spring exhibition at Erskine Hall and Coe where I especially loved the work of Sarah Flynn and Elizabeth Fritsch , I went to the book launch in Kew of a dear friend’s first novel (Congratulations to Mike Thexton for the Magistrate’s Son – available from other bookshops as well!) and last but by no means least, I have been at Ceramic Art London, the highlight of the contemporary ceramics calendar in the UK.

Ceramic Art London was a veritable feast of talks and stands showing gorgeous work by talented makers who, without exception, are happy to talk about techniques, ideas, glazes, skills – you name it, they are willing to share.  I have to say, the generosity of spirit shown by people who work in clay is greater than in any other walk of life that I come into contact with.  I picked up cards from many stands, especially enjoying the work of Rachel Wood – for her delicious surface decoration, Chris Taylor – for his use of colour and decals, Chris Keenan – for being Chris Keenan! and Megan Rowden for her delicious surface texture and alternative firing techniques and I went to a number of talks.

The talks, and I only managed three of the 15 on offer, gave me a lifetimes inspiration.  So here are just a few tidbits to scatter into the wind for those unfortunate enough to have missed this great show:

From Stephanie Buttle – ‘The need to push the clay to its absolute limits’, ‘If your life is off balance, where does that energy go?’  ‘You need a platform.  Without one, it remains inside your head.’

From Stuart Carey who set up The Kiln Rooms in London – The need to be able to bounce ideas around with other people when one is in the early stages of your career but the need also for a ‘Fortress of solitude’, the fact that ceramics is on the crest of a wave and we all have a responsibility ‘to get it out there; to talk about it; write about it; discuss our work.’  He had good advice about setting prices for ones work: About not underselling oneself; about watching out for (and avoiding) the ‘holes in the market’.  The impact of ‘The London Effect’, especially for new artists and the need to maintain the very highest quality in everything we do.

From the wonderful Kate Malone – about the flow of ideas (and glazes); about how her vast source of reference material is full of things which ‘hits her subconscious and moves her inner soul; about ‘the sense of a world in a pot’; about the ‘creative alphabet’ of the artist which is such that, whenever you see it, it just rings a bell somewhere and you draw on it time and time again; about the use of the kiln as a tool rather than a useful hot place, the very thought that for one project you might make 15 000 pieces using 5 different clays and 4 different glazes and fill 600 IKEA boxes in the process!

Possibly the two things I shall try to hold onto most are:

  1. The idea of brinkmanship when making.  Not sure who said it but I am sure it is essential that one pushes everything to the limits.
  2. It’s about hands, about fingers, about touch. (Kate Malone). Yes it is!

The Wonders of Travel

This week I have been in Portugal.  I opted for the´sudden immersion´ approach to the City.  It is some while since I have travelled in a foreign city alone and so I was quite relieved to have adequately navigated the mysteries of the Lisbon Metro, successfully coping with the ticketing system and the map and emerging into the light for the first time at the Cais do Sodré on the banks of the River Tagus in the middle of the city.

It is exciting after the impersonal , non-nationality specific aura of airport and international hotel to ‘Arrive’.  To feel, for the first time, the light and the atmosphere of a different place.  I love the assault on the senses which comes from such an approach.  Here was bright light and the smell of the River and the Atlantic.  A busker was playing classical guitar in the square and, in the market, there was every conceivable type of fruit and vegetable.  Hams, wrapped in muslin, hung from long rails. Fish gazed, glassy-eyed from beds of ice.  The smell of spices was intoxicating!

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Hams hang from long rails

I wandered, without direction, up narrow cobbled streets dodging trams and Tuk-tuk and gazing up at tall terraces of buildings in a multitude of colours.  But what struck me most was the ceramics.  Many buildings were clad, at least in part, in beautifully decorated tiles.

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Colourful buildings, trams and Tuk Tuk make it feel different.

This is the Portuguese way of protecting their buildings from the elements: Azulejo cover almost every flat surface and the impact is incredible!

Many buildings are clad in tiles to protect them from the elements.

 

 

Later I walked along the river to the National Tile Museum to learn more.  The museum is housed in an ancient monastery and I had difficulty focussing on one thing because there is so much to see.  The architecture of the building is old and beautiful, the tiles range from sixteenth century to very contemporary and the tea room served some of the best Pastel de Nata (custard tarts) I was able to find!  The second floor is given over to one enormous mural of Lisbon, part of the museum is given over to an explanation of the making of Portuguese Azulejo through the ages, and in the cloisters, a group of children were decorating their own tiles under the watchful eye of a curator.

This museum is less well frequented than others in the city because it is not so easy to get to but I made it my fist port of call and I was so glad that I had – it is a treasure!

 

 

New Friends

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.

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Richard makes thrown, altered and thrown pieces in terra cotta.

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.

 

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Slip decoration using newsprint masking.

 

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.

 

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For sale – I now have my very own piece.

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!

 

I was a Trade Show Virgin

Let’s be honest from the start here – when I signed up to be part of Top Drawer as a part of the Design Factory team I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for.  I had not really thought about what a trade show is and I hadn’t really considered whether it was appropriate for my work or not.  As I catch my breath after my first ever trade show I find myself reflecting on what I got right and what I might have done differently if I had had the presence of mind.  So this week I thought I would share with you my post show feelings:

  • If you possibly can, especially for your first time, go as part of a group. safety%20in%20numbers1

You might get a little less space than if you went on your own but what you get instead is someone reminding you of all the things you have to do, organising the stand, supporting you before and during the event and producing a more corporate feel to the area – I think our area looked great because  it was so coherent in appearance.

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Our stand looked coherent.

 

  • Do not trust the public transport system.

I found travelling to an unfamiliar venue first thing in the morning discombobulating.  On the first day my journey took double the time that it was expected to and I arrived late and flustered.  The second day was better but still not perfect.

  • May friends with your neighbours.

cachedimage1Everybody needs good neighbours!  To look out for you when you need a bite to eat or drink, to boost your energy levels and with whom to have a bit of a laugh and to hold the fort for you when the public transport system lets you down.  Thanks guys!

  • Say no to nothing but promise nothing either  9c47ce60901c0e8e0aee74b0eced525f1

I now have a pile of interested parties to contact.  Potentially I have some very exciting opportunities to look forward to.  If I had promised something to the first person who showed an interest, I would have felt rather pressed to agree to some of the later ones.  By agreeing to things in principle and suggesting that I follow up later, both the potential customer and I have time to consider all the opportunities that the show presented and neither side is stuck with something that might not be the best for them.  I am hugely looking forward to making contact with the people who expressed an interest over the next few days and having more detailed discussions with those who, in the cold light of day, really do want to do business with me.

  • Take a goodie bag with you

I seem to have eaten rubbish for 3 days.  Next time I do a trade show I will make sure that I have plenty of healthy snacks in the fridge so that I can stock up each day and not fill up on chocolate and muffins!

  • Do not party until the middle of the night before!

On the day before Top Drawer I set up my stand in very good time in order to drive 150 miles, party half the night, eat and drink far too much and then drive back on the Sunday morning to man my post.  It was not a good look!  Party all night!

  • Be prepared

 

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The invaluable ‘little green book’.

Due to the fact that my wonderful daughter was left in charge until I could get back from Somerset on Sunday I thought it would be a good idea to give her a structure for her conversations with possible customers.  Throughout the weekend ‘the little green book’ was to prove invaluable.  I could never have remembered the detail of all those conversations if I had not had a structured approach to the notes that I made immediately afterward each one.

 

  • Don’t plan too much for the few days afterwards.

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    don’t plan too much for after the show.

By the end of day 3 I couldn’t feel my feet, my brain was in a complete fug and the only place that I wanted to be was my bed – for a very  long time!  So it was a bit of an error to have to go into the studio on the following day to work on 4 urgent commissions.  I need to think that through more carefully next time.

  • Get help

 

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Set up and Break down was a nightmare

The unloading, set up, break down and removing of the stands is a nightmare.  If it had not been for my strong, helpful, patient and tolerant husband I would not have coped.  Simple!

 

 

  • Smile

All the time, at everyone!  bc35526f361a06e4957a0716a80112761