Work space

Three years ago this summer my new shed studio was finally finished. It was two months late and I was desperate to get back to work, already having taken four months off to project manage alterations to our home. My previous work space was our tiny scullery which I shared with the boiler, sink, washing machine and fridge freezer.

I rushed moving in without paying great attention to layout, and it worked fine for a time. I bought flexible metal shelving and a table that I could move around the limited space as I needed. However, as months passed I began to realise various shortcomings… no sturdy workbench, no possibility of another wheel, the kiln taking up a huge proportion of the space. The interior is lined in very industrial orange OSB board. I painted the ceiling and one wall white a year ago and this added some much needed light, but the space still felt very functional.

     

I admit to having total studio envy when I see photographs of other people’s workshops on social media. In particular Pip Wilcox’s serene environment, and Tasja Pulowska’s multifunctional space. I knew I wanted a little of both.

Following much thought, discussion and deliberation about what improvements to make, a joiner fitted some bespoke shelving (inspired entirely by Tasja’s), and a workbench with additional storage. I then spent two weeks painting, and slowly moving everything back in a much more considered way. I now have a compact space that works better on so many levels; it’s a beautiful environment to be in, it works as a studio and gallery, and it’s flexible.

I’m glad that I took time before making the investment to upgrade. It’s good to know how you use a space, what the faults are, and how they could be improved.

So here it is… my new place of work.
I’m now really looking forward to open studios in September.


Much more storage and display space


Less cramped wheel space (spot the dog)


The kiln is now on wheels so it can be moved back when not in use


Standing height workbench to help my back, with storage for all my beach treasures

 

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Good return

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Me finishing the rim of a tall piece (photo by Line Klein)

In the summer I was delighted to find out that I had received an artist’s bursary from Made in Aberdeen. The award was to help me with two things, the first of which was to get some much needed tuition. I’m mostly self taught, which brings its own unique challenges. There are some things that I can work out for myself… rightly or wrongly. There are others for which the internet is an invaluable resource, but there are certain issues which can only be solved by talking to, and working with a potter with more experience.

My main obstacle has always been throwing tall pieces. This takes a combination of skill and confidence that I just don’t seem to have. The maximum height I can throw is about 20 centimetres, and the pot is always wide and heavy.

About a year ago I started following the Instagram feed of Eric Landon from Tortus Copenhagen. He is a master potter, with 25 years experience and specialises in tall decorative pieces. So last month, using some of my bursary money I boarded a plane to Denmark to take part in a week-long workshop at his studio in the centre of Copenhagen.

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Nyhavn, in the centre of Copenhagen, touristy but beautiful

It was an wonderful week on many levels. There’s something about being in a different studio, away from the usual day-to-day which I found invigorating. There were times of affirmation where I discovered I hadn’t been doing things incorrectly… however it was amazing how seemingly small adjustments to do with clay preparation; hand and body position; and wheel speed resulted in significant improvement. Thanks to Eric’s help by the end of the week I was making pots that were much taller, and were narrow and shapely. Now I am back home with a head full of ideas for new work. I still need to work on getting the walls thinner, but that will come with practise and I have set aside the next few weeks for just that. As I write this my finished pots are on their way to me from Copenhagen. I’ll post a picture if they arrive safely.

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Day one: Progress from right to left, getting taller but a bit clunky
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Day two: Eureka! The tallest piece I had thrown to date – 30cm
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Day three: Trying to go out as well as up
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Day four: Something a little more shapely, as well as 32cm high
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Day five: Taking stock of the week’s progress
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Day six: Glazing, using Eric’s particular process of layering different recipes

Copenhagen is a breathtakingly beautiful city, and I was lucky to find a place to stay that was so central. I walked everywhere, however the days were short so I didn’t get to see as much of the city as I would have liked. A good excuse to visit again! The other participants in the workshop were wonderful – from Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK and Australia! Thanks to you all and to Eric and Tasja for making my week away such a memorable and rewarding one.

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From left to right: Line Klein (Denmark), Eric’s assistant Tasja Pulawska (Poland), Silvia Woudt (Netherlands), Ashley Feijoo (Australia), Katherine Lees (UK) and me.

Earlier I mentioned that my bursary was to help me with two things. The second is to fund my application for a London show in 2016, something that would normally be beyond my means. I’ll let you know if I succeed.

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Return

SHED1julietmacleod2014After twenty weeks the builders have gone… There are still a few things to be sorted and acres of painting for us to complete, but the work they have done has revolutionised our home. My new studio is also here, only eight stressful weeks late. It too needs further painting inside and out, but today’s priority was to get throwing again.

It’s strange, I’ve been wanting this day to come for ages and the anticipation was more than I could stand at times. However, as the day neared I found myself preferring to think of all the other things I needed to do around the house, rather than making pots. I think I was worried that, after nearly five months, I wouldn’t be able to do it well any more. That, combined with the pressure of the studio being so late; my first show being only a few weeks away; and having no stock made me prefer to take the ostrich approach.

Well, today has been a good day with steady progress. After throwing thirty pots in my lovely new workspace I feel the rhythm returning.

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This is it. I’ll post further images once it is properly finished.