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!

 

On the Road Again.

It is the story of my adult life.  When I know the way around the supermarket, when I can confidently navigate the back roads it is Time.  Time to get the boxes out and say my goodbyes.  My daughter was only seven when she suggested to me that we were Travellers, although, given her creative imagination she was probably already referring to time travellers!

This move is a strange one in that it is very piecemeal.  First we packed up the house and put everything in store.  Then we started creating the house that we will move into next summer. Now I am packing the studio and taking on a temporary space at Lanhay and, whilst the new space will be bigger and cheaper and closer to the building work, I don’t like the act of moving out!  Don’t get me wrong.  I am extremely excited about going to Cornwall.  I have wanted to live there since I was about ten and this is a dream coming true. But Wimbledon!  I feel this is where I have come of age.

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Regina at work on our studio.

 

It is almost exactly four years since my lovely friend Regina suggested that we should share a space at Wimbledon.  This was pre diploma.  My work was amateur and I was completely unsure of what I was doing.

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My work was amateur!

Regina, on the other hand was a skilled thrower who knew precisely how.  Four years on and so much has happened.  I have completed the Course at City Lit and what an experience that was!  If I had not had a space at Wimbledon to practice and develop, the diploma would have been virtually impossible!  Since then, I have had about 20 months of flying solo – Regina left for pastures new and, without the rigour of formal study , I have been developing my practice, honing my skills and getting ‘out there’ at shows and in galleries.

 

And always, in the background, a supportive group of ‘proper’ artists to whom I could turn for advice and support.  We have had great discussions about my work and theirs, they have helped me with my first approaches to galleries, we have held each other tightly when things were tough, we have talked over the kettle about everything under the sun and I have really appreciated their company.

This week I have dismantled my studio in preparation for moving out on Saturday and everything is one chaotic mess.

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The studio is in Chaos!

Well I can cope with that.  But what is more difficult to bear is the metaphoric drawing out of the tent pegs.  The hearing of conversations in the corridor about a future that I will not be part of.  The knowledge, which comes with experience of so many moves, that it is time to let go and get out fast – no fuss, no drama, just gone!

 

I hate this part!

And so I am stalling!  Not really going at all!  Having my cake and eating it!  Making in Cornwall but hanging on by my finger nails in Wimbledon. Thanks to the wonderful Louise Diggle I have a small corner of a studio in Wimbledon in which to lurk.  Somewhere to talk to clients and discuss my work.

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Somewhere to talk to clients.

Maybe even take part in the future of WAS.  I realise that I won’t belong properly and I am aware of how hard that will be but I just can’t quite let go so, Cornwall, here I come but in Wimbledon. . . . . I’m still standing!

 

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!

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.

When you need a friend . .

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Collaboration 1 awaiting firing

Collaboration – the action of working with someone to produce something.  What a lovely idea, especially when I might otherwise be inclined to drift a bit post diploma with no specific project in mind.  So just when I thought there was no life after City Lit along come two people, quite independently of each other, wishing to work with me.

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Trevor Ruddock Black – Fabulous colours and great texture.

Actually, if I am totally honest, the project with Trevor Ruddock Black had been on the back burner for a bit whilst I made it to the end of the course, but this week is the first time that I have begun to think seriously about it.  Trevor paints in oils.  He makes vibrant abstract paintings on a very large scale and with fantastic texture. A little while ago we discussed the possibility of creating complimentary three dimensional pieces and so this week I started exploring how we might do that.  Of course foremost in my mind was how to get a cast of his paintings without destroying them in the first place.  Funnily enough that seems  to have been the easy bit!  The painting has survived completely unscathed.  Phew!  Next came the difficulty of working with a great many undercuts  which normally make it impossible to take a good cast from a mould.  Lets just say that I am working on that.  But the good news is that, at least on a small scale, I have almost cracked it – please excuse the awful pun!  And now I have a small box which is a copy of Trevor’s painting awaiting firing.  I can’t wait to see the results.  The next step is to think about colour – I could pass the box over to Trevor for that bit, or I could do something which compliments his painting.  The one thing I know for sure is that I am not going to copy his art!

Then, out of the blue, I was approached by a sculptor wanting help with casting porcelain.  Her project sounds really interesting and we met for the first time to discuss it yesterday.  I am full of hope for another interesting partnership.

Meanwhile, this week marked the first every meeting of the City Lit Ceramics Diploma Alumni 2015 reunion.  More on that anon, but it is great to know that we have each other in this time of transition and the thought that we are already planning our first group exhibition post graduation fills me with excitement.  Not sure where or when but we will Re-turn.  Sorry, more awful puns!

I feel so lucky to be surrounded by people who are in one way or another supporting my quest to become an artist.  I never realised that I needed people so much as I have over the past couple of years and I cannot end this post without saying thank you to my best friend, the person who, over the past couple of years, has demonstrated the most amazing capacity to support, understand, wait, cajole, cook supper and keep the house from becoming a health hazard.

I do not think being on your own between study and next step would be good for anyone but I certainly feel pretty blessed.  Go Team!

Its good to know you.

Its good to know you.