For quite some time I have had a desire to ‘go large’ in the studio so when I saw a really enormous beach ball for sale in the village post office I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to make a really bit mould. When I got it home, I discovered just how large it really was – maybe I need a bigger kiln!
Houston, we have a problem!
In fact it isn’t TOO big. Once I have done some manipulation of the clay and there has been a bit of shrinkage I am confident that my current kiln will be just fine.
The next thing to do was to create the mould from the shape. As a general rule I would have built up the clay all the way to the mid point of the ball, constructed a wall around the entire thing and started pouring plaster of Paris until the cows came home. If I had done that this time I would have used a ton of plaster of Paris and ended up with something so big and heavy I would never have been able to lift it so I thought I would go for something different. The following images show the main stages:
1. Make a clay barrier exactly on the mid line of the ball.
2. pour a very thin layer of plaster of Paris over the whole of the top of the ball. (I made the plaster thicker than usual so that it didn’t run off.
3. Put a collar on the outside of the clay wall and pour more plaster over tha ball, making sure that it filled the collar and was a fairly even thickness all over.
The result is that I now have a fabulously large mould. It is light and easy to manoeuvre and I can’t wait for it to dry out fully so that I can get making.
It’s a scary thought but the studio that I am planning at the moment is meant to last me a lifetime! So I kind of need to get it right. Previously there has been an element of making do with the space that I had and be thankful for having it.
Not much room to throw a pot here!
The space I have in which to work has grown over time from half a little tiny space to the whole of that space to double that space. But it has never been my space – someone else has held the lease; determined where the lighting, cupboards, windows were; made unhealthy decisions on the amount of insulation that artists need in the walls and floors of their work-space! (I know where the cold goes when the weather warms up in Cornwall now – My studio is the original heat sink!)
This time, I am going to have to decide for myself where are the best places for work surfaces, cupboards, the sink and the shelves.
Not much of a view!
Windows and plumbing are already sorted – I didn’t want a great view because I knew that it would distract me and I did want great plumbing because I know what clay does to U bends! But the rest of it! So much space, so many possibilities!
If you visit the Victoria and Albert Museum you can see a mock-up of Lucy Rie‘s studio. It is quite a compact space – much smaller than I am about to have – and within it she created the most beautiful work. Size is not everything! So I need to bear in mind that it is not where you create but what you create that is important. I do not want to let the new super-space to go to my head but, on the other hand, given that I can arrange it as I want, I might as well have it as I want it. Decisions, decisions!
So here we are. Christmas comes again! What a year this has been. Full of surprises, tragedy, political upheaval and the rest! The end of 2016 cannot come fast enough in some ways and yet, for me personally, it has been a remarkably good year too: Sales have been good; interest from important directions has been exciting; activity on my social media sites has been incredible and the learning curve has flattened out a wee bit giving me time to consolidate some ideas and try a few new ones. So here are some of the highlights of my ceramic year.
A piece of my work has been photographed and now hangs large, proud and clear for all to see in Battersea as part of the redevelopment of the Power Station site.
2017 will see the ‘Grand Migration’ to Cornwall which is an enormous step – one that I have been wishing for since I was about ten years old, so not long really!! I am hopeful of collecting some more exciting and interesting commissions; I am taking part in a 3 person show in May – 2 painters have asked me to provide the 3D element to an exhibition at highlighting the best of Surrey’s landscapes at the Fountain Gallery in East Molesey, close to Hampton Court – and it kicks of with Top Drawer which is a huge trade show at Olympia in January. I wonder what, if any, surprises That will send me!
So I would like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a successful, healthy and happy 2017. Let’s hope for calm waters and sticky mud!
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!
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.
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 –
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.
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’!