My friend David Worsley has asked me to take part in a blog hop – a way of linking artists and makers across the world. I have known him for about a year and a half… ever since I stumbled upon his blog when I was setting up mine. David makes the most beautiful, understated, and finely thrown stoneware pottery. He has been very generous with help and advice whilst I have been starting to establish The Cloud Pottery.
The hop consists of answering four questions and then linking to two new artists/makers to continue the hop…
WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
I am just beginning to experiment with ideas to expand my range.
Once I have finished my final show for the year I will be testing new colours. My work is mostly inspired by North Uist’s beaches in summertime, but I’m planning to add some greys and greens to reflect more wintry and stormy seas.
Over the short time that I have been selling people have requested both beakers and plates so I’m hoping to develop both of these. Plates require a new level of skill. I have made a start and I’m looking forward to improving my throwing ability over the coming months.
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
It’s still early days and I’m slowly building my style. I hope to create pots that are well thrown and simply decorated with patterns that evoke the marine environment that I have grown up with and admire so much. I suppose I could be classed as a slipware potter as I use liquid clays with added pigment to give colour rather than different glazes, but not in the traditional sense… I am experimenting with contemporary ways of mark making whilst using time-honoured techniques such as slip trailing, sgraffito and mishima.
WHY DO I DO WHAT I DO?
I think I was always been destined to be a maker. Following 20 years as a graphic designer I accidentally rediscovered my love of pottery. To me this change in direction seems to be an instinctive progression of my creative journey. I feel that I have finally found the perfect combination of expression, creativity and connection. It satisfies me on so many levels: working with my hands; being in control of how a piece looks and feels; creating something useful that might also be treasured; continually discovering and hopefully improving; not to mention just playing with mud!
It has, so far, been a tremendous journey with a steep learning curve, but I am enjoying every experiment, disaster, lesson, setback and success along the way.
HOW DOES MY PROCESS WORK?
Pottery is not a quick process. There are many stages and many opportunities for mishap. My starting point for all new pieces are my sketchbooks. They contain all manner of scribbles; from landscapes to ideas for shape and pattern.
I use two clays to throw with. One is a smooth white stoneware with which I make my domestic ware. The other is a buff stoneware with added molochite. This makes it rougher to throw with, but more resistant to thermal shock and therefore suitable for the extremes of the raku firing process.
Both domestic and decorative pieces are thrown on a wheel. Once they are dry enough to hold their shape they are tidied, burnished and finished. Colour and extra form is added at this stage, and then decoration.
After their first firing, to 1000˚C, the pots are then stable enough to be glazed. First they are sanded and washed. Then they take one of two routes…My domestic pieces are dipped in a clear glaze and then fired for a final time to 1240˚C. This is done slowly, over about 14 hours, in my electric kiln. This reveals their true colour and makes them vitrified and very strong.
The raku pieces take a very different journey. Once glazed, they are fired extremely quickly in a gas fired kiln. When red hot (1000˚C) they are quickly removed from the kiln, and placed into a smoking chamber. After a time the pieces are taken out and quenched in water before cleaning to reveal their finished glaze.
Either way each finished pot is a unique testament to the process of its creation.
Next week the two artists I have chosen will be answering the same questions. By chance they are both called Alison…
Alison Sye is an extraordinary upcyclist. To use her own words ‘part womble, part emergency service’ and creator of the most beautiful and intriguing work.
Alison Macleod is a relation by marriage but I haven’t chosen her out of nepotism. She is a phenomenally talented jeweller and I am lucky to own a number of her beautiful creations including both my wedding and engagement rings.
I look forward to reading their stories.