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.
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…
As a maker, and once graphic designer, I really understand the importance of imagery. In fact I believe that a single image can portray much more than words in most instances. I try hard to take good photographs of my work, but although I know exactly what I want, I often struggle to succeed with the end result. Part of it is down to knowledge, and part down to not having quite the right tools. For example my iPad will take good day-to-day working shots in the studio, but as soon as I want a shot of a single piece of work the lens distorts it badly. When I throw a pot the shape is so important to me, particularly the slight taper that many of my pieces have. This often gets completely lost, and although there are ways to compensate it never looks quite the same.
I have an old digital SLR camera, which takes a decent photograph, and I’ve recently bought a tripod and shutter release to help with shooting in lower light levels, as we have at this time of year. I prefer to shoot using natural light, but I’m realising that I may have to bite the bullet and buy some lights.
All images by Shannon Tofts Photography
A couple of weekends ago I went to the Scottish Potters Association annual weekend workshops. I could only manage to go for a single day this year, but one thing I did take advantage of was having some professional shots taken of my work. This is not something I can afford every day, but they are needed for upcoming show applications. It was interesting to see how Shannon Tofts worked and I’m really pleased with the results. In particular the clarity of the shots and how he succeeded in capturing the reflection of my coloured footings – things I have not managed to date. I asked lots of questions and as a result realise that I need to buy a better lens. I’m struggling to decide whether I should get a standard prime lens i.e. 50mm, which tends to take images similar to what you see with the naked eye; or a macro (which Shannon used), which could be better for close ups and often have excellent sharpness.
I’d welcome any advice you might have.
PS I find myself increasingly recommending this great book… Photograph Your Own Art and Craft by the late Sussie Ahlberg, published by Bloomsbury. It’s full of practical advice and it has helped me enormously.
We’re past the winter solstice now and slowly our days are getting longer. This far north we’re lucky to have seven hours daylight during December, but the sun being so low in the sky does give a fantastic light – I can see why artists and photographers like it here. I’ve been spending the last few days gearing myself up to get throwing again and, come Monday I’ll be back in the studio… but today I spent a few hours at Aberdeen docks and beach searching for sunshine and inspiration.
It’s been a while since my last post. Things have been pretty hectic here with the building work, and it is taking up all of my time. The good news is that construction is going well, a few small hiccups, but nothing major. The groundworks are pretty much complete so now the actual ‘building’ can commence. Also there is now an enormous hole in the garden ready for a retaining wall to be built. Once this has been completed the pad can be laid for my new studio.
I’ve been so busy that I’ve barely had any time for anything clay related. I’ve not thrown a pot for over five weeks and I’m really missing it. However I managed some sketching last week, and a bit of photography here and there. Even on a messy building site there’s inspiration…
As it’s unlikely that I’ll be in the studio until next week I’ve been doing a bit of spring cleaning around the house. Redding the house is one of the Hogmanay traditions in Scotland, along with first footing amongst others. Officially the cleaning should have been done to welcome in the New Year, but as we were away I’m only just finishing it now. I’ve also been tinkering with the blog… I’ve uploaded a new gallery of the work I fired just before the holidays and amended my statement. Please take a look if you have a moment. Thanks.
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.
A series about people that have influenced my creative path
Dorothea Lange; Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936
A small part of my BA in Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins was spent doing ‘complimentary studies’. Running in parallel with our design work we researched and discussed Art and Design history. One of my tutors gave lectures on photojournalism and through him I became fascinated by the power of photography… how so much could be conveyed in a single frame. One of the first images he showed us was this acclaimed portrait of a destitute mother (Florence Owens Thompson) from the Californian Dust Bowl, by Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). It has stuck with me ever since. In fact, looking at again over the last few weeks, I feel it resonates with me even more, because now I have children.