Sleep patterns

I am about to embark on another collaborative venture.  More details will follow but suffice to say that I am going to be working with other makers on a project which is going to involve me taking the way they work: their colours and textures and incorporating them into a body of work for a joint exhibition this autumn.  I am truly excited to have been presented with the opportunity and, given the pleasure that the collaboration with Candide Turner Bridger and Nigel Slater gave me for the recent Earthlines exhibition, I know that it could result in some great work.

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Collaborative work for Great Walsingham Gallery.

But, and it is a big BUT, I also know that I now have a whole lot of sleepless nights coming in the next couple of weeks.  All my best ideas happen in the middle of the night, usually at about 3 am.  The initial electrical surge is followed by a protracted process of going over and over the finer detail and sleep becomes utterly impossible.  There is little point in getting up and beginning to make as the whole thing has to ‘cook’ for a while first.  Sometimes a walk helps – so the puppy is on standby for some strange night-time excursions – but, please, if you have any dealings with me in the next week or so, do not expect much in the way of quick witted repartee!  

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Please be gentle!

Creativity Begins at Home

We began with a slightly unimaginative bungalow and we wanted to make a new home which would ‘fit’ the plot.  We wanted to be sensitive to the needs of those further up the hill to keep their view and we did not want to begin by knocking it down, lock stock and barrel before putting up something which occupied the entire site and disregarded any feelings of those around us.  Instead we took away the terrace, built rooms underneath it and then put it back on top.  View intact, house extended, neighbours happy.  

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It’s been hard work but so worth it!

Now we are in and I have a wonderful studio attached to the house in which I can work at any hour of the day and night but it has taken vast quantities of time and energy and my blog has suffered.

In addition,  I am working towards is a major exhibition in Great Walsingham, Norfolk in May and June and this has taken the rest of my reserves.

 

Jar. Burnham Overy Staithe
Jar for the exhibition in Norfolk using found materials from Burnham Overy Staithe

I am working with  Candide Turner Bridger , to  create a body of work about the North Norfolk Coast Path.  Because we are both very process-led makers we wanted to document our journey towards the exhibition and to that end we have set up a website and a blog on which we are detailing our progress.  A number of people have recently begun to follow me and there are also many others who must be wondering where I have gone. I would hate you all to feel neglected but I am not likely to blog on this site until the exhibition is up and running.  So if you want to know what I am up to for the next couple of months you might be better following me here for the time being.  Let me know what you think.

 

 

I am Such an Exhibitionist!

During this last week the exhibition Light, Clay, Colour ended and another one, for the finalists of the Royal Arts Prize started and it has got me thinking about the nature of different types of exhibition and the pros and cons of each sort.

Our three person exhibition at Fountain Gallery attracted a lot of attention.  We must have averaged about 25 visitors per day with some days being much busier than others.  We each sold work, although I think we would all agree that we would have liked to have sold more, but at a self invigilated show such as this, at least we keep what we make.  There is no gallery commission and that has to be a huge bonus.

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Preparation takes a lot of time.

We also enjoyed plenty of feedback from our visitors.  People are not shy about saying what they like about a piece and what they don’t.  They offer comments which can spark a trail of thoughts and might eventually lead to a whole new body of work.  I had a couple of very interesting discussions along those lines and am excited to know where they might lead. On the down side however, I spent a lot of admin time on this exhibition.  Preparing press releases, most of which got me nowhere; helping to design, print and deliver fliers; organising the hanging, displaying and labelling of work; writing, editing and printing out price lists and artists’ profiles.  The list goes on!  I also had a lot of up front costs: the hire of the space, the printing of publicity materials, the drinks and nibbles for the private view to name a few.  Then, when the exhibition was on, it was down to the three of us to invigilate – that is a lot of hours sitting in the gallery!

The Royal Arts Prize exhibition is a totally different kettle of fish:

The aim of the Royal Arts Prize Exhibition and Award is to search out for and showcase artworks by artists that have embraced their individual exegesis in art, artworks that are a product of an inner balance in a world full of diversity and often chaos.
An exhibition of 26 shortlisted artists for the Royal Arts Prize. The prize will be awarded to artists that present works that are the product of an emotional connection between dream and reality; we’re exhibiting contemporary art that shows the force driving individuals to express and affirm their personality and ego, through today’s modern art landscape. A winner will be selected by a judging panel made up of Art Professionals and Artists. There will also be a Visitor’s Choice Prize awarded to the Artist with the most votes by the visiting public.
30th May – 10th June 2017
Opening times Monday to Saturday 10:30 am-6:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12.00- 5:00 pm
Admission: Free

You enter the competition, if you are fortunate enough to be shortlisted you take your chosen pieces to the gallery and leave them there.  You come back three days later for the private view where you drink their wine and eat their canapé whilst trying to look intelligent, artistic and graceful and then you swan off home and let them sell your work.

BUT . . .

  • You pay a fair price to enter the competition and there is no guarantee of being among the chosen few.
  • You have fewer pieces on show
  • You have no control over the publicity, except for a pdf invitation prepared by the gallery which you have to accept, warts and all.  In this particular case it looked great and I was really excited by it but, given the dates on the invitation, some of my guests arrived to discover that the exhibition had taken longer than expected to hang and so they had not opened on the day they had announced!  If we had been organising it ourselves we could not have got away with that.
  • You have to accept the price that they sell your work for will not necessarily be the price that you put on it and that you sometimes have little say over that.

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    Proof reading the invitation should be the gallery’s responsibility.

On the up side, the gallery has a huge and interested client base, the private view  included people that the gallery has on its mailing list, many of whom don’t know you, and so this kind of exhibition is a great opportunity for building your own customer base and you don’t pay commission for work sold.

The third sort of exhibition in which I am currently involved is through my regular gallery.  Tregony Gallery is what I would call the ‘slow burn’ of exhibiting.  I have had work with this gallery for some time now and I like to think that we are building a good relationship.  I seem to be receiving a steady flow of sales.  I don’t pay to exhibit my work but they charge me a percentage on everything that I sell through them.  This seems entirely fair given what they do in terms of invigilation, publicity and promoting their artists.  If you get a good gallery, and Tregony is, the work just sells and you get the money – well some of it at least!   I just have a responsibility to the gallery to keep supplying them with the work that they want.  The customer feedback is through Brian and Judy so it is slightly less ‘in my face’.  I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad one!  All decisions about the running of the gallery are made way over my head.  I’m dead certain that is a good thing!  So when the gallery came up with the idea of Tregony By the Sea and asked if I wanted to be involved I was thrilled!

Tregony Gallery presents ‘By the Sea’, a new event showcasing the best in contemporary and traditional artists, from locals to Londoners and recent graduates.

We are thrilled to be displaying new work and key pieces from a selection of our most talented artists and makers in the beautiful harbour setting of St Mawes.

Visit us at; Millennium Rooms, The Square, St Mawes TR2 5AG.

9 & 10 June 2017. 

(http://www.tregonygallery.co.uk/bythesea.html)

 

In Praise of Partners

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Alan has painted plinths, mopped brows, calmed nerves and polished vessels without a single complaint. 

I think I might have over-stretched myself a bit recently.  I have committed to too many exhibitions and commissions in a short space of time and found myself with a bit of a problem.  This blog is in recognition of the part of my team which always seems to come up with a solution to this kind of problem.  He does it with more cheer than I can muster on most normal days and with greater efficiency than anyone else I know.  In fact, he leaves me feeling more exhausted by his efforts than I was before but, quite frankly, I could not have got through the last few weeks without him!

 

My darling husband has not only been responsible for bringing me hot drinks and lightly poached eggs whilst I have been fighting the ‘Mother of all Colds’,

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Sometimes I have been feeling like a scalded cat

he has also shopped for buckets of ice-cream; he has visited the chemist for the most vile cough linctus ever created; he has listened with patience and tolerance whilst I have alternately moped like a kicked puppy and scratched like a scalded cat;

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At other times I just wanted to crawl away and lick my wounds.

he has painted plinths late into the evening; he has waited at our private view pouring wine and engaging our guests with charm and wit and he has polished my vessels.

I have mentioned the wet polishing of vessels before.  It is a painstaking, time consuming, messy, cold, wet, unpleasant activity!  My other half has polished 21 vessels this week – at an average of an hour per vessel.  Well, you do the maths!  Even if I had been well and fit it would have been utterly impossible for me to get done all that needed doing unless someone took from me the load of doing the polishing.  One word of warning though.  He has done such an amazing job on the polishing that he might have constructed for himself a cross that he now has to carry for all time!!

Alan, thank you. I found something which says it far better than I can –  this is for you.

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.

 

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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The Highs and Lows of it all

Oh what a week!  I love Open Studios.  I enjoy all the meetings, I like talking about myself and my work and I love selling but it all seems to take a great toll on my energy levels.  First comes the build up with all the making involved – have I made enough?  Have I made the right things?  Is the quality up to scratch?  Then two days or so before the actual opening I begin to worry about layout  – how much gallery versus how much studio.

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Gallery or studio?

People like the idea that this is where I work and yet they also seem to like a well presented gallery space and so getting the balance right is quite difficult.  Then comes the event itself – 4 days of talking to whoever comes in.  What do they want to know?  How much do they want to engage and how much do they want to be left to look and think.  I don’t find this at all easy.

 

This time I decided that I would make a piece throughout the show and yet this is also fraught with difficulties –

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I am always covered by mud!

I am permanently covered in mud when I make and this is not always a good look when trying to engage with a gallery owner.  Not to mention the mess that it makes all over my phone as I try and keep up with Instagram and facebook and use my phone for my credit card sales.

 

The aftermath of the show often heralds the most almighty emotional crash.  I am exhausted and the room is a mess; there is half a packet of pop-corn and some stale wine lying in the corner but nothing nourishing to eat and I have lived on hastily shovelled pasts salads for 4 days. I am elated by the sales and possible openings but drained by the prospect of getting it all back to normal and beginning to make once more.  I am unsure what the future holds and which opportunities to chase and how hard to chase them.

Probably the most useful thing to do with the few days after the show would be to take 3 full duvet days but I am not very good at that and so I was in bright and early on the Monday morning trying to get back to normal.  It was mighty quiet I have to say!

One thing is clear though.  These Open Studio events at Wimbeldon benefit enormously from the fact that we have a dedicated co-ordinator who’s job it is to get the shows up and running.  She has found us some great sponsors and some fantastic opportunities, she has ensured the smooth running of the event, she has greeted many of the 4500 visitors personally and has probably had little to eat and very little sleep for days.  So Julie, this blog is largely for you.  Your tireless hard work and cheerful attitude to everything we throw at you is incredible.  I am a great many other artists really appreciate what you do on behalf of the studios – it won’t be the same without you.

Playing Catch-up

sold1I 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.

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Nothing looking very ready at the moment!

 

 

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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.