This week I’ve been having another go at throwing larger pieces using a range of 1.5 to 2.5 kg of clay. Armed with a bit more experience it has been much better, although I did manage to break two when turning some yesterday… ahem.
The biggest challenge for me has been pulling out the clay to a large enough base size whilst keeping it centred and the base even. With small pots once you get a rhythm going you can centre, open and pull up relatively quickly. I have come to realise with large things you really have to take your time and repeat things like centring and compressing the base over and over again. Here Hsinchuen Lin makes it look easy. I’m chuffed though, as I’ve finished with seven dishes ranging from 25 to over 32cm in diameter… Now let’s see if I can manage to get them safely through decorating and the biscuit and glaze firings.
A series about people that have influenced my creative path
Lettering by Alan Fletcher (quote by Francis Picabia)
© Raffaella Fletcher and Fletcher Studios 2013
It’s funny how sometimes you feel like you know someone, even though you’ve never met them. Alan Fletcher (1931-2006) ‘the father figure of British graphic design*’ fell into this category for me. My old boss, Lynda Brockbank, worked with him at Pentagram and shares a similar rigorous approach to graphic design. His work is witty and timeless and I was reminded of it just the other day when I visited the V&A… he designed the symbol. I can’t think of the number of times I’ve leafed through his book The Art of Looking Sideways seeking inspiration.
Small ‘Within’ vessel, porcelain by Elaine Bolt
This is the final piece that I bought on my wonderful trip to Handmade in Britain a few weeks ago. It was a pleasure to meet Elaine as I have been following her blog for a while. Sometimes it is difficult to express the complexity of a pot in a single photograph. This one at first appears so simple… but it is really a series of contrasts: smooth to the touch, but with a sharp outer rim; a light celadon exterior, but a dark mysterious interior; perfectly and regularly shaped, but with a broken and uneven opening. I love it.
One day I hope to own one of her sets of ‘objects’ too, but I need to do some saving first.
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Porcelain small cup by Ali Tomlin
I was lucky to meet a number of interesting people at Handmade in Britain the other weekend. One person who particularly resonated with me was Ali Tomlin… She is a fellow ex-graphic designer with a similar length of time in that discipline. Her pieces are all made from porcelain, sanded to a soft, smooth finish and often glazed only on the inside. They are decorated with deceptively simple colour and line and you cannot help but pick them up.
It’s been an odd ten days – full of highs and lows.
The week before last I really felt like I’d made progress with my throwing. However when I glaze fired my pieces at the end of the week, they did not come out how I had planned. That’s not to say that I’m completely disappointed… there are positives too… but I’m having a problem with my clay colour. It should fire to almost white, but instead all my pieces are coming out cream. I’ve used the exact same clay before (extra white stoneware) so I don’t think the problem is there. I’m not sure wether it’s a something to do with my older kiln. I’d be grateful for any advice.
Sea dapple tea bowl
Then there was my glorious trip to London. What a treat, and a definite high.
The last few days I’ve been throwing jugs… experimenting with lips… and trying a little more Mishima. What’s not to like? But, I’m desperately waiting for my new kiln to be installed and then hopefully as a result some more consistent firings. Trying to get an electrician up here is proving to be very difficult – it’s been weeks. Bertha is just sitting there, reeking of potential.
I’m just looking forward to the day when I open my new kiln and I’m delighted with everything. Does that ever happen?
Stoneware mug by David Worsley, The Dove Street Pottery
I mentioned in my previous post that I had visited Handmade in Britain when I was in London last weekend. It’s held in the glorious Chelsea Old Town Hall which I haven’t visited for fifteen years at least. Many moons ago they used to hold the Crafts Council’s Chelsea Crafts Fair there, before it metamorphosed into Origin at Somerset House. I spent a wonderful child-free morning wandering the aisles, pootling about and taking in the beautiful pieces on show, however one of my main reasons for going was to meet David Worsley (The Hopeful Potter). I found his blog very soon after starting out on this venture, and I found it a fascinating and inspiring read. David has been extremely generous with his time and advice so it was a treat to meet him face to face, and finally buy one of his beautiful pots.
I’m just back from a wonderful weekend in London. I managed to pack in a lot, but my primary reason for going was to visit Handmade in Britain and I’ll post more about that later. The other main highlight was a lengthy afternoon spent wandering around the ceramics collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I can’t think how long it is since I last visited and I had forgotten just how much there is to see…
As you enter the main hall of the museum and look directly upwards you can just catch a glimpse of Edmund de Vaal’s Signs and Wonders in the topmost dome of the building. After taking the lift to the sixth floor and walking through some of the furniture collection you enter the ceramics section. The number of pieces on display is breathtaking. It is divided into a series of galleries – firstly four large rooms with glass cases packed from floor to ceiling with pieces from China, Asia & Europe, Britain and Britain & Europe. These are followed by the following rooms: Factory Ceramics after 1900, Contemporary Ceramics (where you can get a closer view of Signs and Wonders), Studio Ceramics, Making Ceramics, Architectural Ceramics, World Ceramics and a display gallery.
I could go on for hours about the things I saw. Photography was quite difficult. I took most of my photographs on my rather inadequate camera phone as this seemed to produce the ‘best’ results given the subdued lighting. I decided that a series of details would be the best way to get across the amazing variety on show. Wherever possible I have included the maker’s surname, or country of origin, at the beginning of the image file name but there are a few pieces that I found very difficult to identify.