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!
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.
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.
Where can we put all this subsoil?
Invitations to come and stay in Cornwall for making weeks will be forthcoming ‘drekly’!
I love the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. I believe that it has a really great list of attributes for a true human being. Yet Kipling missed something. Earlier this week life became a little hectic. On day one of the exhibition in Kew Gardens people were crowding into the aisles to look at all the wonderful things to buy but not many ready to part with much money. They were, on the other hand, very happy to talk. One lovely chap was asking about the cost of exhibiting, the time it takes to make each piece and the disconnect between the value and the cost of high quality craft. Same old, same old. We agreed that making this kind of work is a lifestyle choice as much as anything and that one cannot expect to be rich on the back of one’s creativity and he came up with a great extra line for Kipling’s poem. I think it is going to be the way forward for me:
If you can keep yourself amused and still have enough for beer and cheese,
Seems like a plan to me!
On the other hand, Kew has been good for me and I am quite hopeful of being able to afford some reasonably exotic cheese as a result. I began with my stand showing almost exclusively new work. I wanted to promote my most recent ideas. I filled my stall with my fragile, thin porcelain vessels which have inclusions of found clay. It looked good and I was really pleased with it. The trouble was, and don’t get me wrong, this is a good problem to have, so did the customers. By the end of Friday it was looking decidedly bare! So late on Friday evening I made a panic dash to my studio to get some work to fill up the gaps.
Old work sitting along side the new to plug the gaps.
This meant that I ended up on Saturday with works which would not normally be anywhere close to each other and that fact alone has led to some interesting thoughts and comments.
I think the time has come for a bit of a rethink – the contrast is great when I sit one of my really rugged, sculptural pieces beside a fragile one. How good would it be if I made pairs using the same material?
Contrasting pieces look so good next to each other.
I need to get beyond the Open Studios first but, after that, it will be time for some serious research!
Moving house is proving very traumatic. It is not so much the sorting, tidying and packing that is getting me down. It is more the trips to the dump. How on earth did I accumulate so much rubbish in the short time that I have lived in London?
The scary thing is that so much of what I have taken down to add to landfill is as a result of my ceramical activity; not something about which I feel terribly clever.
The problem with ceramics is that, once fired, they last for ever which is why they are so useful historically. I wonder if, in the millennia to come some poor archaeologist is going to be subjected to sifting through a deep hole in south east England and will happen upon the efforts of my ceramics misadventures!
Fair enough, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs but when I think about the number of trips that I have done with car loads of experiments and errors over the past few weeks it drives home the responsibility that we all have to think before we fire. I realise that the fact that much of this work was created as a part of my Diploma and from which I learned a huge amount mitigates this waste to some extent but at what cost? I suppose there are a number of questions that we should ask ourselves each time we load a kiln.
I am not suggesting that we should not experiment, Heaven forbid! Indeed I adhere to the view that every firing should include some kind of experimental piece. I am simply suggesting that all of us have a responsibility to care for our planet and that as ceramic artists we are sending the planet a double whammy which makes it even more important that we examine our consciences on a regular basis: We plunder our natural resources in order to make work which, if we are not happy with, we throw away where it adds to the problems of landfill.