I have been walking in Portugal for the past week. The sun was warm, the sky was blue and my mood lifted daily as the cares of the world
fell off me one by one. Well they would, wouldn’t they, in scenery such as this!
Whilst I was there I tried to find some local ceramics to buy but was frankly disappointed by the rather sad touristy things on offer.
I did, however, find one or two bits of interest. The fishermen of the Algarve still catch octopus in ceramic pots which are rather beautiful, especially once they have become encrusted with barnacles
Apparently the octopus like the cool, dark interior of the pots and take up residence, only to be hoiked out of the water after a couple of days before they can take evasive action. I am rather attached to octopus – they have always struck me as intriguing and with good intelligence. However, as the fisherman I was discussing this with pointed out, they can’t be as clever as all that as they fall for the same trick repeatedly!
The other thing that caught my eye was the interior of a bread oven. Over the past winter I have actually felt inclined to stick my head into an oven from time to time; it has not been an easy winter!
However, when I finally decided to do so what I found was really rather lovely: The roof of the oven had been domed by using simple terra cotta bricks and tiles. If it had not been for the discomfort of the angle to which I had to contort myself in order to photograph it I could have lain in this oven gazing upwards for some time!
So now it is back to work. I have one more week of holiday from teaching during which I have a huge list of things to do in the studio. This list includes preparations for the Open Studios, making additional work for Klaylondon and preparing for a visit to the Design Factory for a mentoring session. I also want to start trying out some of the treasures
that I have brought back from the amazing cliffs of the Algarve: I can hardly wait to be back in the studio on Monday morning.
A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me a few moulds which she was throwing out. At the time I was not sure that I was going to get much use out of them but she was eager to clear the decks and I can’t bear seeing things go to waste so I stuck them in the car wondering if I would ever use them.
This week, whilst in the studio trying to resist the temptation to fiddle with my hand built vessels before they were ready for the next stage, I decided to divert my attention by having a go with some of these moulds. The results were beyond my wildest dreams. Lovely shapes began to emerge; jugs and mugs with really great proportions. I am really delighted to have found something to do with myself to prevent me overworking my main pieces and I think they might be quite popular in the gallery at Klay in Camden.
At first I was not too sure about making functional ware as well as my more contemporary sculptural pieces. They are not in the same league and I have been thinking that I needed to stick loyally to one thing and let it speak for itself. Indeed, one of the debates which we entered into during the diploma was about this very subject and I had come down firmly on the side of staying with what I am trying to say. However, the comments which have come back about them have been encouraging and a number of people have told me that the two different ways of working will complement each other and increase interest in my work. Plus I have already seen what sells on a regular basis at our gallery and it tends to be the smaller, functional pieces. I cannot bring the costs involved in my main work down very far even if I do make them small. In addition I do want/need to sell enough work in the gallery to make it a worthwhile venture so perhaps it is a good idea to have the two strands running parallel.
So, here goes, all I have to do now is fire them, polish them, glaze them and fire them again. Then they will find their way to Klay and to the next open studios at Wimbledon. If they prove to be popular at these two events I shall take a whole load of them to Kew Gardens for Handmade next autumn where I have just heard I have been given a space to exhibit with the Design Factory .
So thank you , Paula, for my new toys. I am having a lot of fun with them whilst my other work firms up.