procrastinationWhen I was the mother of teenage children I found myself in a regular conflict zone.  I am blessed with two wonderful offspring who have always been very different in everything they do and think.  Their attitude to revision and coursework while studying for GCSE and A level exams was at the opposite ends of the spectrum and I was stuck in the middle as they were both aiming for public exams at the same time.  I remember the daily mantra of advising one that it was time for a rest break whilst the other was constantly on the receiving end of my nagging to go and get some work done, followed several hours later by him coming downstairs to tell me that he had spent the time re-planning his schedule.  The inevitable result being that he had now got several hours fewer in which to do the actual work – and so it went, day after day!

And now, here I sit, knowing that the final semester is well under way and finding all the time in the world not to get on with the work.  I have even been contemplating cleaning the house! So it was a well deserved kick up the backside to be told in a tutorial on Thursday to ‘stop mucking about and just make’  I know, I know!  But I have been caught in a circle of indecision. So this is the week! . . .  half term from teaching gives me 3 whole, precious days in which to trawl round the V&A ceramics department, plan a schedule, get to Cornwall and gather images, clay, organic materials to add to glazes, paint the changing colours of the water, write a 4000 word essay, plan my glaze technology for this semester, visit a great looking exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, pop down to Bath and buy some more clay and oxides . . . . I think I can feel a couple of  hours planning my schedule coming on.

I really need to add Fiona Byrne-Sutton to my list for this week!

Actually I have not been completely inactive:  I have been doing some testing and I am currently waiting for the kiln to come down so that I can see whether anything good is going on at all.  That is part of the trouble with ceramics; everything takes so long before you know what to do next.  But I have collected a number of bags of vegetation from my bit of Cornwall and turned them into ash which has been sieved and tested to stoneware and I have been making a few trial pieces but the problem with ‘grunge’ is that it takes for ever before it can even enter the kiln.  I am following the instructions provided in a wonderful book by Miranda Forrest which I was given for Christmas and which I am finding very inspiring.  It gives some great ideas as to how to test natural materials.  At the back of the book there are a number of artists who work with these kinds of ideas, including Fiona Byrne-Sutton.  She is not an artist whose work I know but I need to seek her out and see her work for real because I think the images are incredible.  Perhaps I should add that to my list  . . .

P.S. I love you, Son, and I know exactly where you were coming from!

Hot Pots on Plinths

010The good news?  We have all passed the third semester of the diploma.  The less good news? none of us know how we actually did yet!  This makes decisions about the final semester a little harder since none of us are completely sure which were our strongest pieces, although I think many of us have a fair idea.  The thing is, this is IT!  We are now embarking on the last leg.  By the end of this semester the expectation is that we will know what kind of maker we are and will have a clear direction for the future – there is a first time for everything I suppose!

final semester insiration
Not on my own quite yet!

Day one of the last semester was spent talking about our successes and failures.  One of the things about being a very experimental maker is that there are plenty of the latter and a few surprises which count among the former.  It seems that my most successful piece of the last semester was a block which was made as a bit of an after thought.  It came out of the kiln on the day of the assessment, was intended as a plinth for another work and became a work in its own right 20 minutes before the assessment began!  It is so different to much of my previous work and yet it seems to have sent everyone into ecstasies!  So what now?  Should I go with fragile?  Should I stick to gunge?  Or are they, in fact two sides of the same coin?  The more I think about it all my work is a kind of duality – a conflict between order and disorder, discipline and kicking over the traces, fragility and robustness.  So perhaps there is room for both my previous fragile work and this more recent rough, tough, layered approach.  I suppose it is all a bit of a balancing act really and maybe I do know where I am going, I just need to open myself to trying anything and everything for  little while longer, think less, make more and see what happens.  At any event I fully intend to enjoy this last semester – because after this, I really will be on my own!