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!

Rumours of my Incarceration are Greatly Exaggerated.

Sorry, I am at it again.  This time poor old Mark Twain is getting misquoted but not without just cause if you ask me.  You see I have been out and about collecting mud again, this time in a torrential rainstorm, and the residents of a small, respectable town in Devon are probably expressing grave concerns!

This all started because I have been invited to be the featured artist in an exhibition called Escape by The Hybrid Gallery in Honiton this summer.  I am excited by this opportunity and thought it would be sensible to begin my making by making a visit to see the space.

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We lay like sardines in the back of the car

I remember Honiton.  We used to have to drive through it on our way to visit grandparents in Torquay.  Then we lay sardine fashion in the back of our Morris Traveller estate, watching the lights and the telegraph poles swoop by on  seemingly endless journeys.  Now you flash past on the bypass with children firmly strapped into child seats.

Then it was famous for lace and there was a pottery in the town employing quite a number of people making slipcast functional ware.  Now many of the shops are gift or good food orientated and there is a Pottery Café on the site of the old pottery which hosts parties where you can decorate pre-fired wares whilst sipping smoothies and tucking into a panini.

 

It was years since I had visited the town and the rain on this particular day was  not at all conducive to sight seeing but Honiton is a true gem! Having had a bit of a look around I squelched my way to the public library where a quick search of the local history section revealed that the original pottery had, for many years, made use of a seam of clay running behind the workshop.  That was all the invitation I needed!

I was off – scampering up the main street and leaping puddles like the sure favorite in the National.  Lo and behold the house beside the pottery was having building work done and so, swathed in my sodden jacket and dripping with rain clutching trowel and zip lock bags in my damp, little hand, I knocked at the door.  Just then a young lad came round the corner of the house.  His expression on hearing my request was one of mild shock and incredulity but he agreed to my request and so, before he could call for men with straight jackets, I was down on my knees.  Three sandwich bags later (and, some would say, several short of a picnic) I was back at the car with my trophies and ready to start making.

 

Who Am I?

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to take part in a workshop organised by the  Design Factory  providing advice on writing about your art.  The session was run by Jane Adams from the Royal Literary Fund. 

We began by talking about our work.  We had about five minutes each, during which the other members of the group made notes on what we had said.  It is extraordinary how your attitude changes when you are talking to real people.  Suddenly we each began to say the things that the rest of the group seemed interested to hear.  Our description of our work practice changed significantly, well mine did for certain.  Instead of spilling out some ‘arty-speak’ notion of what I do I actually began to talk like a proper human being and to try and make what I said informative and interesting instead of merely talking through the top of my head.

Step two was to feed back to the speaker about what they had said and to try and distil what they had talked about into just the key points.  Next we split into pairs and, using the notes that we and the others had made, we wrote 4 sentences about our partners work.

Here I was exceptionally fortunate to be paired with Liz Cooper.  It turns out that she is a bit of a wordsmith!  Given the fact that she is a freelance curator this is no bad thing but, for me, it proved to be a very good thing indeed!  This is what she wrote about me:  I love it and will use it almost unadulterated as my Artist’s Profile from henceforth!

  • Geology is at the core of Bridget Macklin’s ceramics: she mixes in other materials, then scrapes back to reveal fantastic and colourful strata.
    Bridget loves porcelain and says, “When my hands are contact with it, I just can’t stop working with it.”
    She delights in repeated refining of her pieces, revelling in the challenge of taking risks with her materials.
    Bridget strives to make lustrous, delicious pieces that only reveal their full natures and hidden treats on close inspection.

Now I ask you, What is not to like?

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What is not to like?

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

 

A Very Potty Christmas and A Clarty New Year to You All

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.

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     I am now represented by Tregony Gallery

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It has given me great pleasure to hand commissions to my customers and see their reactions.

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I have taken part in some fantastically successful shows:  Here was my stand at Kew Gardens

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I have learned so much from being a part of Klay

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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!

Baby, It’s Gloomy Out There!

 

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Beverley Brook on a grey day in December.

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!’

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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.

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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:

 

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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:

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Reasons To Be Cheerful . . . . .

Things have been a bit strange since the Open Studios in November.  There have been some massive highs, some horrible lows and everything in between.  To cut a long story short I have decided that I am going to bring forward the moving of my studio to Cornwall.  The building plans are no further forward but I don’t want to work in London for various reasons and so I am going to rent a studio on the Roseland until my own studio is ready sometime next summer.

I have agonised over this.  Things have been taking off in London and I didn’t want to lose out just as it was going so well.  However, I have given myself a stiff talking to; pointed out to myself that, if I am any good, I don’t need the big smoke; gone for one of my favourite walks on a fabulous December afternoon and reminded myself that I have a lot to be thankful for.

With somewhere such as this to inspire me why would I not want to hasten my westerly migration!

To paraphrase the words of Paulo Nutini I have the view from my window and a nice warm bed; I have a great place to work and a bucket full of mud; I have some great ideas and a nice warm kiln; but most of all, I’ve got my Roseland!

Christmas is Coming

Christmas is coming, the pigs are getting hot!  O sorry, no, that’s wrong isn’t it.  I think that I am suffering some kind of melt down post Open Studios and, as a result, I find myself messing about in the studio.

I was rummaging about looking for moulds to play with and I came across a piggy mould.

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Covered in slips and using all kinds of clays.

Now as an inveterate saver I have always believed in incentivising people to save and what better way that to give them a piggy bank for Christmas?  Since Klay have taken a stall at the Burgh House Fair on 4th December, I thought that maybe I should think Christmassy for a while and so I got making.  The trouble is, I am pathologically unable to make ‘sweet’ and hence a litter of subversive little pigs was begun.  I have used strange clays, covered them with mono-printed slip decoration and thrown all kinds of glaze at them.

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Serious cracking!

Inevitably, there have been casualties along the way – adding a think layer of Vulcan black slip to a gentle, porcelain pig was bound to end in tears – but two of the litter made it through the first firing and were looking pretty smart so I threw some random glazes onto them and fired them right up to 1230.  Well you can either

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Poor piggy! I don’t think Vulcan black slip fits well over porcelain!

live or die trying in my book!  The result – pork crackling!  Just one pig, the one which didn’t have a mix of slips to begin with, has come through unscathed.  Actually I think it is better than unscathed.  The mix of slips and glazes has caused some incredible blistering and now I am at that difficult point where I am trying to decide if enough is enough or whether I should be adding to the subversion by putting decals all over it.  Hmm . .  decisions!

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This little piggy is going to market.

 

 

Along the way I have also made a pile of tiny little tree decorations which can go to Burgh House but of proper making, there has been little sign this week.  I think I need a few bracing walks on the beach to restore my mojo.  Cornwall, here I come!

More News About My Third Lung

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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

Hard Hats, please.

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!

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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.

 

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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.

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Where can we put all this subsoil?

 

 

Invitations to come and stay in Cornwall for making weeks will be forthcoming ‘drekly’!