Spark: twenty seven

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

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Pauline Prior-Pitt, abstract seascape, acrylic, 2013

I’ve mentioned previously that we visit North Uist each year for a family holiday. We nearly always miss the open studios, and sadly we did again this year. Luckily I bought this small painting a few years ago when Pauline was taking part in a local exhibition. She is most well know for her poetry, but I feel that her paintings capture everything that I love about the breathtaking beaches and ever changing weather that belong to the island.

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Inspired

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Each year we head to the Outer Isles for a family holiday. Whatever the weather we always have the best of times, and this year was no exception. Most days were spent on the beach, with my husband and girls investigating rock pools, the dog going mad in the sand and me soaking up as much of it as I can.

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I sketch and photograph whenever possible whilst I’m on North Uist. It’s my way of unwinding. There is so much to inspire and motivate – the colours and textures of the sea, shore, lochs and hills. Everywhere you look there’s something…

I also finally remembered to bring some pots with me to shoot amongst the landscape that inspired them…

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Yearling

I spent last weekend at Potfest in the Pens. This was my second time at this wonderful show and marked the end of my first year of trading. It was a real pleasure to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. It’s been a great year with some real highlights…

SHOWS
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I’m slowly increasing the number of fairs I do. The year has seen two Potfests (Scotland and Pens) and my first NEOS (North East Open Studios). I’ll be taking part in NEOS again this autumn and hopefully some local events nearer Christmas.

SALES
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I’m delighted to have received some direct sales and gallery orders throughout the year, and I’m becoming good friends with our local postmaster! I’m looking forward to increasing my production levels once my youngest heads to school later this month.

SUPPORT
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At the beginning of June I discovered that I’d been awarded a Made In Aberdeen artists’ bursary. This brilliant award will help me get some much needed tuition, and apply for a London show next year.

PROGRESS
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Over the last six months I have been testing some new colours and shapes. The feedback so far has been really positive and having the chance to experiment has been very enjoyable.

INSPIRATION
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We are just back from our annual fortnight in the Western Isles. My husband’s family come from North Uist and it is a treat to visit this breathtakingly beautiful place. We had mixed weather this year but we still had time for beaching, fishing, rock pooling, sketching, walking, camping and the highland games.

TUITION
Thanks to the Made in Aberdeen bursary I will be visiting Tortus Copenhagen for a week’s workshop this November. I am beyond excited. Eric Landon is a master potter with over 25 years experience. He is renowned for throwing large and tall pieces – something that I need help with.

And finally there is a new addition…
Mij the Border Terrier puppy now keeps me company in the studio.

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True colours

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Any of you who have been following me for a while might know that I am a contemporary slipware potter… I use coloured slips (liquid clay with added pigment) to decorate my pieces rather than glazes. To date my work has been inspired by the breathtaking turquoise blue that I see each summer on North Uist’s shell beaches. However the sea can be a multitude of colours from blue, to grey, to green and for some time I’ve wanted to expand my colour range to allow for these.

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Until now I have been using ready-made slips but I’m finding this both limiting and expensive. To make my own there are two alternatives: to buy manufactured stains, or to blend my own combinations of oxides. One day I hope to do the latter but for the meantime I’m going down the stain route. I’ve been prevaricating about this for ages… Why is it that the things you think are going to be tricky end up being pretty straight forward? Maybe it is as a result of thinking about it for so long that I’d worked out most of what I needed to do in my head before starting.

First I made a series of test tiles out of clay slabs – each one with seven impressed areas to apply the different combinations of colour. Then I made endless pots of slip using measured amounts of dried waste clay, water and stain. These were left to slake overnight and then passed through a fine sieve to ensure a smooth consistency and proper mixing of the pigment. With each colour I did three tests –

Dilute: where incremental amounts of water were added to the slip to thin the colour
Lighten: where additional quantities of white slip were added to fade the original colour
Blend: fading one colour into another to create other colours

126 combinations in all.

There are some results that I really like, and some that need a little finer testing before I achieve what I’m after… but all-in-all not a bad first attempt.

Spark: twenty four

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

FENTONjulietmacleod2014Shoreline, abstract landscape, oil, by Margaret Fenton

Sometimes it is not only the work of an artist that inspires me but also the place in which they work. North Uist is breathtaking in its beauty and Margaret Fenton is lucky to have a studio in a particularly seductive place. It is in between Loch Eport and Loch Obisarry with fantastic views of Eaval, North Uist’s highest hill.

We are lucky to have two of her paintings.

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Abstract seascape, oil, by Margaret Fenton

Spark: twenty three

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

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Hand-bound book with handprinted cover paper by Corinna Krause

Each summer in the Outer Hebrides there is a fortnight of open studios called Art on the Map. Corrina Krause from Solas Bookbinding is one of the participants whose work I really admire. This particular book sits beside my wheel every day. It’s now a little clay streaked but it is truly treasured, not only for it’s beauty, but also because it holds all the measurements for every shape of piece I have made.

For the non-potters amongst you: it is critical to keep a detailed log of everything. This includes: type of clay used, weight of clay, diameter and height of thrown item, sketch of shape etc. This means that remaking a particular piece becomes more simple. This is important particularly because clay shrinks significantly as it dries and is fired, making it difficult to work from finished measurements.

Magpie {30}

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Reduction fired stoneware bowl, by Miranda Forrest

I’ve picked up a few wonderful things from the Outer Isles on my yearly visits there and I will show you some more of them over the coming weeks. I’ve been hoping to meet Miranda Forrest ever since I read her book, Natural Glazes, but circumstances played against me again this year. However I did have the chance to visit the Uist Craft Producers’ shop at the Kildonan Centre on South Uist and buy this lovely pot made by her. It is a thing of beauty only increased by the fact that the glaze is made from locally sourced Angelica and Dock plants.