The workshop experience I had with Vicky Shaw has left me with a lot of new areas to explore and ideas to develop. I’m indebted to The Artists Information Company for giving me this chance to step back from my own mark making practice and consider and acquire skills that will take me into new areas of decoration. This has been a very valuable time and I look forward to seeing how it influences the direction my work takes in the future.
My second three day session concentrated on integrating the screen printed, leather hard plaques into the hybrid cast and thrown vessels for which I’m known. The bottom of my vessels pieces are cast in a mould, so now I began working with Vicky to incorporate my screen printed plaques of clay within the slip-cast form. These were sprayed with water to soften them and tacked onto the inside of the plaster mould securing them with extra clay. Only then did we add the slip. The hope was that the marks already in the mould along with the plaques would blend together to form the decoration as the slip thickened. After draining the mould of excess slip, the top of the vessel would be thrown and attached to the decorated and moulded bottom. The results after much experimentation resulted in more precise mark making, but with a softer more flowing feel to it.
Vicky works from her studio near Stoke-on-Trent and it was there that I first met her and her husband John, also a well known potter. Her studio was lovely, a good light workspace which gave me ideas and inspiration on how to organise my own studio. Top of the list was a supply of hot water and rows of cupboards on wheels to facilitate cleaning.
During this first three day session, Vicky introduced me to the basics of what we would be covering: screen printing, using paper stencils and photographic emulsion stencils, and mono-printing onto leather hard clay and bisque ware. We were also to explore pigment transfer using pottery tissue.
We started by printing onto flat sheets of clay building up layered images by mixing elements of screen printing with other transfer techniques. I combined my own mark making with Vicky’s own prepared screen patterns and was very pleased with the results.
I was then taught to shape the decorated clay over shallow plaster moulds, turning the 2-dimensional slabs into 3-dimensional vessels.
As a result of being awarded a professional development bursary from The Artists Information Company, I was able to explore the possibilities of screen printing directly onto unfired and fired clay. This bursary was to give me the opportunity to further develop my mark making skills by layering another printmaking technique into my ceramic surfaces.
I chose to work alongside Vicky Shaw, an established freelance maker who specialises in ceramic print. Our time together was to be spent in two, three day workshop blocks, with time between these sessions left free for me to explore and experiment with the new techniques. This was to be one-to-one tuition, specifically tailored to my requirements and existing skill level; I could hardly wait to begin!
The plane has landed. All my clothes and ceramic tools have been unpacked and as I return to a slightly less frantic schedule, I have taken a few minutes to sit back and take stock of my Danish Residency.
Looking back, I am amazed that I achieved so many of my (frankly ambitious) programme of objectives in a single four-week period. I have returned to the UK having created much larger ceramic pieces than I have ever done before and I now feel I understand and can handle some of the practical and technical difficulties of working on such a large scale. My major piece – nearly a metre tall- has been accepted into Guldagergaard’s own ceramics collection and I’m hoping that, later this year, the huge mould will follow me across the North Sea to West Sussex so that I can make more statement vessels in the months ahead.
Equally important were the many chance encounters and discoveries that led to subtle alterations in my work and outlook. Guldagergaard teems with examples of the best in ceramics, a team of wonderfully skilled and experienced staff, great equipment and a constantly-changing cohort of residents to generate innovation and inspiration. It’s impossible to work there without learning new techniques and absorbing ideas. Most important was the warmth and friendliness of all those I encountered. I now have an internationally-based group of knowledgeable ceramic friends for advice and helpful support. I’ve left Guldagergaard for the time being, but it will never leave me. I’m grateful to all those who helped to provide me with such a wonderful experience.
My solo exhibition 'FRESH lines' marks the culmination of my four week residency and highlights ten of the vessel forms I have made since I arrived here. It includes, to my great relief, a successful hybrid vessel nearly a metre tall. It is a very striking piece and I hope to produce similar forms as my commission for the British Ceramics Biennial in 2017.
Arranging this whole display has been a wonderful experience. Using bricks that have been handmade and smoke-fired here at the centre to literally support elements of my work seems particularly fitting. Putting together the exhibition also provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on my time at Guldagergaard. As I work out final placements and admire my artist’s statement written (but not by me) in fluent Danish, I think back on how much I’ve learned and developed in only four weeks.
I’m surrounded by all my new Guldagergaard friends as we celebrate the opening of 'FRESH Lines', it feels the perfect way to underline and conclude what has been a truly memorable experience.
This latest update comes from my gloriously sunny studio space as I sit surrounded by drying work. On Friday I will fire a 1000 litre kiln that contains my newest large vessel form (nearly one metre tall), two large bowls and numerous smaller pieces packed into the corners and gaps. I’m so pleased with the work I’ve made here and will be keeping my fingers crossed that my upscaled forms survive this first firing unscathed.
In addition to the technical demands, I have found that working at this larger scale has been a real logisitical challenge. The simple processes of filling and draining moulds, moving work around and other elements that I usually do without thinking, now need to be planned and considered. The new mould requires two people to lift it and the casting slip needed fills a barrel. When my latest print vessel was removed from the mould it took five of us working in formation! Fortunately Guldagergaard is just the place for this type of teamwork, with skilled staff and helful resident artists on hand at these crucial moments.
My solo exhibition at the Guldagergaard gallery space opens on Thursday the 12th May. My preparations have been interspersed with an exploration through the wonderful studio ceramics collection held here. I’m so looking forward to seeing my finished pieces in this space and to marking properly the end of this fantastic residency programme.
I can’t believe I’ve been here for two weeks now – I’ve been very busy, but there’s still so much I want to do before I leave. My residency culminates in a solo exhibition at Guldagergaard’s ’Apple House Gallery’ so the pressure is on to have a collection of beautifully finished and exciting pieces to fill this contemporary space.
This past week has involved a lot of testing clay bodies, coloured slips and glazes whilst my plaster moulds dry out. My way of making needs a casting slip and throwing clay with very similar shrinkages in order for the pieces not to crack or break apart in the firing - this will be particularly important for the large vessels I’m planning. The clays and slips available at Guldagerggard are different to the ones I’m used to working with at home so I need to test them thoroughly before I start work on my final forms.
I am also taking the oppurtunity to create some tests for the soda and woodfiring kilns that will be fired over the next few weeks. This is an area in which I have only a little experience so I am really looking forward to being involved.
One of the joys of Guldagergaard is being surrounded by a staggering amount of studio pottery and ceramic art. Setting the table for dinner is a pleasure – sifting through an endless variety of beautiful handmade tableware. From my bedroom window I look out over the gardens to Paul Scott’s wonderful tile installation set perfectly within the landscape. On a more modest scale I stumble across hidden pieces as I go about my work; salt glazed tiles set in amongst the stones of the path or a tiny ceramic tableau tucked into a niche, out of immediate eyeline. One full week into my residency and I am still discovering new pieces and with them, fresh inspiration.
In the studio, work continues on my large mould. After adding and turning away what seems like acres of plaster, I have reached a profile I’m happy with and the model is finished. On Monday I will pour the plaster mould and by the end of the week I hope to begin making these new, statement vessel pieces.
Welcome to my first blog post from Guldagergaard, the International Ceramics Research Center, Denmark. This blog will chart the progress of my month long residency here and the work it generates.
I arrived in Copenhagen on Sunday and travelled south to Guldagergaard through sunshine and a distinctive palette of matt blacks, sparkling whites and vivid ochres, greys and reds. These colour combinations are very striking and will make a beautiful starting point for some glaze tests later in my stay.
At the Center I am surrounded by ceramic artists from around the world, all sharing ideas and experience. It’s a wonderful atmosphere and as I arrange my favourite tools that have travelled from the UK with me, I begin to feel at home.
One of the main ambitions I have for my time here is to substantially increase the size of my hybrid vessels forms. The first stage to achieving this is creating a customised plaster mould about 65cm wide and 45cm tall to form the bottom section of my pieces. With the help of talented studio technician Harriet, we fashion a wood and plaster extension to the current whirler dimensions. Forming the large plaster model begins tomorrow – I’ll report progress in my next post.