Sunday, 21 August 2011

Super wavy


This weekend I started work on the full-size versions of the wave forms for Blue Reef;  they will be something like the models above. I've decided to make 3 large waves, all in rough crank clay and have them stand close by each other, thus creating passages for fish to swim in, as in the picture on the left.

As I've said in previous posts, making items out of large sheets of clay is a difficult process: handling and moulding the form is hard because clay stretches all too easily under its own weight.  It's essential to support all surfaces of the clay during any movement of the entire piece.  I've been using old pillows and tablecloths to rest the work on whilst manipulating it into shape.  Pillows are great for this particular work as they're soft enough to allow me to add the wavy shape into the pieces and supportive enough so as to keep the clay in position whilst it dries out.

Preparing and rolling out large clay sheets in the first place can also be quite a pain.  I've learned from experience that the easiest way for me to do this (lacking a slab roller at home) is to work the clay on two separate cloths, flipping between one cloth and the other between each roll of the clay.  Clay can be stretched that little bit further, by rolling, each time it is flipped, so it's more or less unavoidable that the clay will need to be flipped a good few times for large surface areas. The cloths mean that the clay can be turned and moved whilst supporting its entire surface area, thus meaning an even thickness throughout as the clay is rolled.  Lifting the clay without the cloth underneath it causes stretching and some areas inevitably become thinner than others - or worse still the clay might rip in half as it's lifted up.

Getting a large quantity of clay prepared for rolling takes a bit of muscle power. I have resorted to all kinds of methods of beating big lumps of clay into submission. If the lump gets the better of me, or my arms get tired from wedging, I often just load it all back into its orginal bag and then walk all over it until it's flat, and then take it out, cut and reshape it as necessary, then back into the bag and walk on it again!  I'd say the best method of wedging clay that I've found so far though is to persuade a willing man to do it for me :-)

Lying down, this one reminds me of a ray.
So... I embark on another period of anxious waiting now to see how well these great slabs of clay dry out and fire, and whether they'll stand upright on their own without need for further support....

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Update on Blue Reef Aquarium Sculptures

First of all: cave news.  Here they are!  As seen yesterday sitting in the electric kiln following their first (biscuit) firing.  All appears to have gone well with only a few minor flaws at places where I joined the individual caves together. I think these flaws will be eradicated during the reduction firing.  All in all, I'm really pleased with the results and looking forward to seeing the fully fired piece next week.  Phew!

So, on to the next piece... 

The 'anchor chain' is now finished and ready for firing also.  As it's unglazed earthenware, it'll only need one firing and so should also be complete next week. I did make a slideshow of how it was made, step-by-step, but then I realised that Blogger will only allow graphic file formats so I can't add it in here except by referencing it from elsewhere on the Net.  I'll do that when I get time, but not tonight!  In the meantime, here's an idea of the beginning...

loadsa clay rings

starting pieces and model in background for scale

.... and the completed work

This was immensely good fun to make!  I have really enjoyed all the work I've done for Blue Reef so far. I think, as I've said before, that part of it is that I'm imagining fish swimming around in my work whilst I'm making it! 

A few notes about the work, whilst they're fresh in my mind:  small scale models are not necessarily a good indictator of how a finished piece will look nor are they always helpful in determining how to approach construction.  I am beginning to realise that there is a lot to be gained from constructing sections of a work in full size in addition to making entire models.  In particular, with this work (and the caves), the weight of each component was far greater than in the equivalent model piece and this meant that downward force had a much more significant effect on the piece as a whole.  This required a change in overall design.

Fortunately, I remembered to build this piece directly on a kiln shelf this time, so I'm expecting it will be a breeze getting this piece into the kiln.  Shouldn't say that, should I? ;-)

I have a million other items I need to upload on to my blog.  It's been a real Summer of Art.  I wish there were more hours in the day.... 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Post Potfest Disorder...

I am suffering from a bad case of PPD.  Post Potfest Disorder is a syndrome with both psychological and physical symptoms. I've just returned from 3 days at one of Europe's most outstanding ceramic art events: Potfest in the Pens, having been lucky enough to be an exhibitor myself this year rather than just a punter.

To explain the physical disorder: it's taken me 48 hours to sort out the chaos of boxes, tools, camping gear, display materials, etc that travelled to Potfest and back with me, and were then spread around my house from Sunday evening, when I arrived home too shattered to properly unpack them. 

Over the past couple of years, I've really come to appreciate that Potfest is a truly incredible event. Apart from the overwhelming diversity of art works on show (all made from the same basic material: i.e. mud!) the logistical and organisational processes behind the event are, in themselves, quite stunning.

The general public who come to enjoy Potfest don't know the half of what goes on behind the scenes before and after the events. There is such a lot of hard work involved with getting the pens set up.... and then with taking it all down again. Not to mention the matter of engaging with the public for 3 very 'full-on' days when most potters are used to working in solitary confinement in a quiet studio...

Packing at the end of another very successful event

Fetching, carrying, packing, dismantling, tidying...

My involvement with the event this year came about when Steve Nicholson, my good pal from Newcastle College, in his final college year, was given a free 'pen' for himself and fellow students in return for running 'some kind' of ceramics workshops for Potfest visitors.  Geoff and Christine Cox, who are the organisers of Potfest make great efforts to help student potters make it commercially.  Steve's work went down a storm!  He was inundated with customers and nearly ran out of work to sell on the last day.

The sign I made to go with Steve's work.
I have to admit to having enjoyed running the workshops more than trying to sell my work, even though it was very tiring.  I talked to so many lovely people and met so many enthusiastic youngsters who were just desperate to get their hands on a lump of clay and start making! As we didn't have the facilities to fire the work made in our workshops I promised all the young budding artists that I'd showcase their work here on my blog, so here goes...

Hannah Furnival - first to try my workshop and definitely a potter in the making!

Hannah's lovely printed tile

The above are only some of the lovely things there were made.  Many folk took their work away with them before I got chance to photograph it. 

So Potfest is packed away for another year....

....and I am feeling a little lost without the vibrant, cheery company of 150 other potters. I don't know quite what to do with myself...   I suppose the best way to cure my PPD is to just start getting ready for the next one... :-)