Between coast and moor...handbuilt ceramics from the heart of Devon

ABOUT

Starting a new piece is always exciting. Whilst knocking the clay about in preparation I think about what sort of shape I’m considering. I use all sorts of techniques although coiling remains my default.

Slab rolling is versatile, sometimes draped over massed loo and kitchen roll centres ( shades of Blue Peter ), sometimes restrained under weighted boards to get a perfect plane. After allowing it to dry out a little I can then start shaping the piece and adding to it. Ceramics for me is totally immersive and tactile. Each piece evolves as I work and often ends up far from my original thoughts.

I always work with crank stoneware as this very quickly supports its own weight and can take virtually any form. A short experiment with paper clay was abortive - I found it very unsympathetic and a real pain to work.

Glazing was always a lottery, initially I had access to reduction firing and that did produce some subtle, interesting results along with lots of sludge brown - not so good.

When I eventually obtained my electric kiln I launched into glazes very enthusiastically, reading many books on the subject. Obviously a bit of a failure as a chemist, I retreated to just a couple of reliable recipes, but mainly keeping forms unglazed, often with a very weak oxide wash. This worked well with crank, resulting in warm toasty shades complementing my sculptural forms.

Recently I’ve been experimenting again with glazes with rather better outcomes but its always a lottery, and opening the kiln remains a nerve-wracking exercise.

My chief restraint is size - I love building and sculpting large pieces but am restricted by the height of my kiln. I’m always trying to work out how to break down my pieces into acceptable component parts and join them successfully after firing. Must report - long way to go with that!

I always remember at art college that we were told “before you start a piece, you must visualise the finished work down to the last detail”.

Sadly, I invariably failed miserably at that. We were very fortunate in Bath that we part time students slipped under the radar somewhat and were allowed to rather do our own thing. Perfect!

I feel very privileged that I have ended up in this perfect corner of Devon with the time and space to follow what to me is so completely immersive and absolute bliss. Lucky me.