For quite some time I have had a desire to ‘go large’ in the studio so when I saw a really enormous beach ball for sale in the village post office I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to make a really bit mould. When I got it home, I discovered just how large it really was – maybe I need a bigger kiln!
Houston, we have a problem!
In fact it isn’t TOO big. Once I have done some manipulation of the clay and there has been a bit of shrinkage I am confident that my current kiln will be just fine.
The next thing to do was to create the mould from the shape. As a general rule I would have built up the clay all the way to the mid point of the ball, constructed a wall around the entire thing and started pouring plaster of Paris until the cows came home. If I had done that this time I would have used a ton of plaster of Paris and ended up with something so big and heavy I would never have been able to lift it so I thought I would go for something different. The following images show the main stages:
1. Make a clay barrier exactly on the mid line of the ball.
2. pour a very thin layer of plaster of Paris over the whole of the top of the ball. (I made the plaster thicker than usual so that it didn’t run off.
3. Put a collar on the outside of the clay wall and pour more plaster over tha ball, making sure that it filled the collar and was a fairly even thickness all over.
The result is that I now have a fabulously large mould. It is light and easy to manoeuvre and I can’t wait for it to dry out fully so that I can get making.
So here we are. Christmas comes again! What a year this has been. Full of surprises, tragedy, political upheaval and the rest! The end of 2016 cannot come fast enough in some ways and yet, for me personally, it has been a remarkably good year too: Sales have been good; interest from important directions has been exciting; activity on my social media sites has been incredible and the learning curve has flattened out a wee bit giving me time to consolidate some ideas and try a few new ones. So here are some of the highlights of my ceramic year.
A piece of my work has been photographed and now hangs large, proud and clear for all to see in Battersea as part of the redevelopment of the Power Station site.
2017 will see the ‘Grand Migration’ to Cornwall which is an enormous step – one that I have been wishing for since I was about ten years old, so not long really!! I am hopeful of collecting some more exciting and interesting commissions; I am taking part in a 3 person show in May – 2 painters have asked me to provide the 3D element to an exhibition at highlighting the best of Surrey’s landscapes at the Fountain Gallery in East Molesey, close to Hampton Court – and it kicks of with Top Drawer which is a huge trade show at Olympia in January. I wonder what, if any, surprises That will send me!
So I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a successful, healthy and happy 2017. Let’s hope for calm waters and sticky mud!
My Beverley Brook vessels have been going down a treat and, in my enthusiasm to make each one unique I went for a walk along the brook at the weekend to try and get some more images to use in the inside of the vessels. The light was awful – grey with a hint of fog – and so I was not exactly hopeful of getting a shot worthy of the Royal Photographic Society but in actual fact it doesn’t seem to matter for what I want. So this week I thought I would do a bit of a ‘how to’ blog because a lot of people have been asking me about the interior decoration.
Step 1: Take some photos. The deer are still feeling a bit frisky and so it was not difficult to find a couple of stags playing ‘I’m the biggest deer in the Park!’
I didn’t have to get close which is good because I am really anti people stalking the deer and surrounding them with cameras! These two were not really fighting. In fact they looked distinctly bored and the younger one was simply going around the herd picking on all the other stags in order to annoy them as far as I could see.
Step 2: Download your image and enhance the lighting and contrast in Photoshop.
By now the image is looking a little extreme but that is what I need if the decal is to work well.
Step 3: Remove anything that looks the least bit confusing:
all the bracken has to go for starters.
Finally order the decals, stick them inside the vessel and fire. I have not got that far with this image yet – it will probably make an appearance on a piece to feature in the Top Drawer exhibition that I am taking part in after Christmas but I am hopeful that it will look something like this:
Biologically impossible, I know, but my Dad has always called Richmond Park his third lung. If you live close to London and spend much of your time struggling with the volume of people, the traffic, the fumes and all the other things that living near a big city involves – as well as all the great bonuses such as galleries, events, courses and so on – then having Richmond Park on your doorstep is a truly wonderful plus point. I treasure it so much and its conservation is of considerable importance to me.
The inside of this vessel is decorated with images which remind me of the life in and around the brook.
It was with that thought in mind that I arranged with the park manager to make a few pieces using material from the park and selling them for its benefit: 50% of all sales proceeds is donated to the Friends of Richmond Park for their use in conservation projects. Having sold the first one at Kew Gardens during Handmade it was with great pleasure that I presented the Friends with a cheque for £300. In response they posted a link to my website in their newsletter and on Facebook. The result has been dramatic! I am enjoying peak viewings on my website and have had a number of requests for similar vessels. Given that I am short of work ready to sell during the Open Studios, which starts in less than a week, I had already decided that I would keep my space as more studio than gallery and would make Beverley Brook vessels throughout the weekend, as a kind of ongoing demonstration. It seems that this is a good plan because, if activity and enquiries are anything to go by, I am going to need a couple!
A new Beverley Brook vessel is already under construction.
At the moment I have one, slightly smaller one which is half finished so it looks as though I am going to be a bit busy before, during and after the show and that the coffers of the Friends of Richmond Park are in for a boost.
It has been a while since I checked in on the work being done on our new home and so I was really excited when I arrived yesterday to find that, despite the apparent devastation, the corner of my studio has already been mapped out: particularly as it seems as though I might have space to get my friends round for making days – the space is about 4 times as large as the half studio which I began with only five years ago when I shared with Regina and we each squeezed into our part of a small space at Wimbledon. Whilst I had seen it on the plans and knew how large it would be, now it is actually appearing on the ground this new space feels as if it is going to be sheer luxury!
Its going to be sheer luxury!
Possibly even more exciting was the activity around the other side of the house. We had rather expected that the crumbly shale close to the road extended down the hill and that, when we knocked down the existing terrace to make way for our bedrooms on the lower ground floor, we would have a major underpinning job to do. So it was with huge relief (and much cheerful patting of our wallet) that we discovered that the builders had dug straight into wonderful, glutinous, golden yellow clay. Not only does this make to construction of the extension easier – apparently this is really good for building on – but I can hardly wait to get making now: my very own clay pit! It seems we need a large scale geological map of this place so we can find out exactly where the change occurs.
My very own claypit
Of course I was always going to create something from whatever came out of our foundations. After all, that is what I do. But now the opportunities are immense. Whilst I am not sure that I can make enough use of this clay to solve the issue of removing a few tonnes of material around (and away from) the site, I have been spent most of the night dreaming of the experiments that I can do and the pieces which I can make from Watersmeet clay.
And as for landfill: well we have been drawing up plans to use as much as we can within our boundaries so watch out for a series of terraces and steps to get around different areas of the garden in order to enjoy our amazing view from various different angles.
Where can we put all this subsoil?
Invitations to come and stay in Cornwall for making weeks will be forthcoming ‘drekly’!
I seem to have had the best of all problems recently – I do not have very much to put on the shelves at Klay and almost nothing at all for the Open Studios which starts on 10th November because I have sold so much work over the past few weeks. This is a wonderful feeling in some ways but it does leave me with a problem!
I should be in the studio every day at the moment frantically making so that I can put something on the shelves. Somehow that seems to miss the point of what I am trying to do though. I want, more than anything, to enjoy my making. I want to have time to experiment, to hone my skills and to learn new things. So it really does not suit me to be having to work hard. I am sure that it would suit my bank balance, mind you!
Actually it is worse than that because if I feel that I should be making it puts me off and I don’t want to do it at all. So here I sit finding all kinds of excuses for not getting anything done and just letting the clock tick quietly on.
Nothing looking very ready at the moment!
Experimenting with monoprinting
That said, I have been getting a bit of experimenting done and here is lots of stuff wrapped in plastic which is half made and I do have a bisque firing on at the moment which will hopefully yield a few good pieces but finished work, ready to sell off the shelf is going to be in short supply in November!
So I have decided that I am going to do something completely different this autumn. I have been making a number of pieces for Tregony recently and I know that they have sold at least one so this time I am going to make no bones about my activities over the four days that the studio doors are open. I shall have my hands in the clay and, in tune with Poldark Series 2, I will be continuing to create more of my Cornish Mining pieces. I am looking forward to showing people how I work and I can always give my hands a quick rub if anyone wants to take a closer look at the work that I do have ready to sell or to make notes for anyone who is after that very personal piece which reminds them of a time or place which is special to them.
Beyond doubt the best thing about working on a commission is the moment when the client sees the finished piece. That is when you know if you got it right or not. So it was with my most recent commission which I had the pleasure of sending on its way this week.
Ready for handover.
I was delighted with her reaction to her vessel. It is a special birthday present for a member of her family and includes material from the woods on their land and details of the location and architects drawings for the house.
The colours which have come out in the patterns on the vessel apparently match those of the house, which is not surprising given the origins of the material but it is still gratifying to know.
Surprises even on the base.
I am particularly pleased with the idea to put the drawing of the house on the base. It is as if everywhere you look there is another surprise waiting for you, even when you turn it over there is something else to see.
But without doubt, it is the reaction of the client which gives me the best feeling. She was really happy with it and it clearly meant so much to her – considerably more than it did to me as I have never been to that part of the UK. Up until that point it felt like a job well done but as I handed it over it became so much more than that.
The finished commission
I felt as if I was launching a ship or something. I find that these vessels, which are so personal to the person who orders them, are so much more than any of the other work I am doing and I love the warm fuzzy feeling that the hand over gives me deep inside.
I love the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. I believe that it has a really great list of attributes for a true human being. Yet Kipling missed something. Earlier this week life became a little hectic. On day one of the exhibition in Kew Gardens people were crowding into the aisles to look at all the wonderful things to buy but not many ready to part with much money. They were, on the other hand, very happy to talk. One lovely chap was asking about the cost of exhibiting, the time it takes to make each piece and the disconnect between the value and the cost of high quality craft. Same old, same old. We agreed that making this kind of work is a lifestyle choice as much as anything and that one cannot expect to be rich on the back of one’s creativity and he came up with a great extra line for Kipling’s poem. I think it is going to be the way forward for me:
If you can keep yourself amused and still have enough for beer and cheese,
Seems like a plan to me!
On the other hand, Kew has been good for me and I am quite hopeful of being able to afford some reasonably exotic cheese as a result. I began with my stand showing almost exclusively new work. I wanted to promote my most recent ideas. I filled my stall with my fragile, thin porcelain vessels which have inclusions of found clay. It looked good and I was really pleased with it. The trouble was, and don’t get me wrong, this is a good problem to have, so did the customers. By the end of Friday it was looking decidedly bare! So late on Friday evening I made a panic dash to my studio to get some work to fill up the gaps.
Old work sitting along side the new to plug the gaps.
This meant that I ended up on Saturday with works which would not normally be anywhere close to each other and that fact alone has led to some interesting thoughts and comments.
I think the time has come for a bit of a rethink – the contrast is great when I sit one of my really rugged, sculptural pieces beside a fragile one. How good would it be if I made pairs using the same material?
Contrasting pieces look so good next to each other.
I need to get beyond the Open Studios first but, after that, it will be time for some serious research!
Over the past few months I have waffled on a bit about a number of different sources from which I have received material to include in my vessels. This week, I have decided to give you all a rest from waffle and simply update you.
The material was given to me by the gas men working in the road outside our family home. I have begun using it and the results so far are great. I have only made small so far but will be going large any time soon hopefully in time for Handmade in Kew
Meanwhile, given that I cannot stick to anything for too long I decided that for the material brought to me from Ashtead Clay pit A Man Walks into a Studio and . . . I decided that I would change the design a bit and go all cylindrical. The finished pieces are great and I think there will be more of these too before I arrive in Kew Gardens.
So that’s it for a bit, folks. Next Sunday I leap on a plane and fly west for a few weeks. Vancouver, look out, I am on my way! I will blog again in October. Hope you can bear to get by without me.
I have been in the gallery all weekend and it has been such fun! We are having a sale to celebrate the fact that we have now been here for six months. People have flocked through the door to admire the work and enjoy a few nibbles. The Persian restaurant next door kindly gave us a plate of deliciousness to hand out and one of the team made a couple of plates of brownies which are frankly to die for so I am trying to ignore them today.
The window of Klaylondon in Camden ready for our summer sale.
Personally I am having a fabulous time sales-wise but I am also getting great joy from selling the work of our other artists and I am enjoying the fact that people who come into the gallery are now saying things like ‘I bought something from you a month ago and I had to come back’. Maybe Klaylondon has arrived to stay! We certainly feel more permanent than pop-up now.
Sold! Magpie by Gemma Wyllie and large vessel by Isvan Szabo