I have become increasingly concerned about the type of packaging that I use: getting through bubble wrap by the mile since I started selling my work. In a recent accountability workshop for like minded creatives we talked about this and someone mentioned paper bubble wrap
I decided to trial it at the Contemporary Craft Fair in Bovey Tracey, Devon last week. I bought the Rajapack EX MINI system which comes on a cardboard dispenser and also provides tissue paper to interleave with the packaging. I also bought a big roll of string and some brown recycled paper bags. The cardboard dispenser and was easy to set up. It’s quite a small thing to transport, but as you pull it from the dispenser the ‘bubble wrap’ cleverly expands into a honeycomb structure.
The verdict? The first couple of pieces that I pulled off the roll didn’t quite go according to plan – maybe the piece was too big; maybe trying to use the dispenser while it was on the floor, under a table, hidden by fabric impeded things; maybe it is always difficult until the dispenser is a little less full – but I was delighted to have found an alternative to plastic which works brilliantly to protect smaller pieces and the environment. It looks good too and there is a weird satisfaction in the way it comes off the roll! I think the jury is still out for larger works which I was less confident were adequately protected.
Given that my work is about the fragility of our landscape, it is vital for me to find a satisfactory solution to the wrapping of my work. Not sure I’m all the way there yet but I am certainly feeling much happier. And let’s face it, if we all do something isn’t that better than a few good people doing it perfectly?
Well, it has only taken me about 18 months but at last I have found the time to enjoy reading Edmund de Waal’s book The White Road. I am glad that I have waited until the right moment as I have been able to indulge myself with soaking up de Waal’s palpable enthusiasm for the subject of porcelain without feeling rushed.
I have had the time and the peace to read most of the book whilst invigilating our exhibition at Fountain Gallery which has its final day today. Now this says something about the number of sales and visitors to the gallery and begs questions about self invigilated shows. (Thank goodness for Tregony Gallery which cheerfully goes on selling my work without me putting in an appearance). But that aside, the luxury of reading a well written book about the porcelain story has been a delight.
There are three lasting impressions from reading this book. First is the extraordinary excesses which those with money and power went to in the past. When Augustus the Strong of Saxony died in 1733 he had a collection of 35,798 pieces of porcelain (de Waal, 2015). Secondly of the heightened emotions which the efforts to create ‘white gold’ in Europe seemed to invoke. The alchemists searching for the formula for creating gold from base metals and also how to make white gold spent decades working in intolerable conditions, imprisoned and forced to experiment over and over again until they struck success (de Waal 2015). Thirdly the wonder with which people have always perceived this material. De Waal describes the first makings of English porcelain by William Cockworthy as an obsession;
” To make something so white and true and perfect, that the world around it is thrown into shadows as the blackthorn does when flowering in the hedgerows in early spring.” (de Waal, 2015, p.225).
Sometimes opening the kiln really does feel like a kind of magic!
Oh my goodness, I get that one! When I open the kiln and there it is: a crisp, thin, translucent vessel with a pure, creamy whiteness. It is a kind of alchemy if you ask me!
It is wonderful what a calming effect this aquatic life is giving me. I have managed to make a load of work this week, despite the heat in my studio, which in August is normally enough to drive me out. It is just as well really. The pressure on me to create was growing exponentially. I had 4 more works to make for an exhibition in Cornwall at Tregony Gallery which starts in early September; I have a lot to do to prepare for Kew Gardens in October – it might seem ages away but I shall be in Canada throughout September; I had a commission to finish for a 70th birthday present and I need to restock my shelves at Klay London. So a wee bit of making was always going to be a good thing.
However, the desire to create is also an ephemeral thing – here one minute, vanished the next so it is always a huge relief to me when I turn up at the studio and find that I can get right on with it. The days when I seem to need to spend an hour or more on Facebook, wash the floor, tidy the shelves and still the urge to make does not come are really very difficult. Does anyone else have this problem I wonder?
Finished works – one a commission, one destined for Tregony Gallery
I suddenly wanted to make big!
Please form an orderly queue for the kiln
Anyway, this week I have been churning it out. The kiln has been fired 3 times and the shelves are groaning under the weight of drying works. Phew, what a relief! But the best thing? At the end of the day, covered in dust and feeling tired, I can sit on the pontoon beside the boat with a glass in my hand and my feet in the water and watch the cygnets practicing their one footed swimming – and BREATHE.
One legged swimming will take place after a rest in the sun.
This week I have been experimenting with a new clay. I love the feel of working with porcelain but I would really like to reduce the amount of warp which I get in large pieces so I thought I would have a go with some molochite grogged porcelain. I confess that the jury is well and truly out over this one. It came out of the bag wet and floppy but when I left it to dry for a bit it became rather fractious and crumbly. It was a beast to build with – it felt horrible to the touch and did not really want to join to the found materials at all. I have gone large because that is, after all, the point and I am going to fire to at least 1230 to see how it behaves but I will certainly need a lot of convincing!
Give me Audrey Blackman every time!
yesterday, at a get together of the Diploma students we were talking about clay as you do at 10:30 on a Friday evening, and a number of my contemporaries have also been having a go with a few new clays. There were some very favourable reports of a white stoneware/porcelain blend from some and so that might be the next one to try but in the meantime, I am open to suggestions – how do you get a lovely smooth, workable clay with the qualities of porcelain but without the warping?
I recently went to Edmund de Waal’s exhibition at the Royal Academy. I am not sure what I was expecting but I but I found myself to be really rather overawed by the experience. It was quite a small exhibition and I think that this gave it an intimacy which added to the enjoyment.
Perhaps it was the subdued lighting and the sense of history of the setting which provided such a special atmosphere. The library has never been used for an exhibition before and so there was a feeling of having been invited into a private part of the Academy; that you were no longer just the general public. We were the only people there for most of the time and, with a very informative and interesting security man, we toured the exhibition learning a lot about the library and feeling very privileged.
Because I don’t look very carefully at all the blurb which the RA sends me through the post, I think I had assumed that the exhibition was about de Waal more than by de Waal. I had not expected to see such a diverse collection of work. There was his Hare with Amber Eyes – I have only just got round to reading the book and so I was extraordinarily emotional about seeing this exquisite beauty so soon afterwards. How wonderful that, after all this piece has seen, it has made it to such a hallowed location, even on a temporary basis. There also were a number of de Waal’s own pieces lighting up dark corners of the library with the stunning translucence of porcelain. But how amazing to be invited to think about the works of composer John Cage and a pure white Meissen beaker during the same afternoon.
I am a dead ringer for collections of similar, very simple things and so I love the idea of a group of white objects. I also go floppy at the knees when I real things such as the opening paragraph of the exhibition blurb: ‘White is an aura. White is a staging post to look at the word from. White is not neutral; it forces other colours to reveal themselves. It moralises – it is clean when nothing else is clean, it is light when most things are heavy. It is political. It is enmeshed in the world’. Yes, it is!
De Waal is known for his installations of beautiful white vessels