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June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

A little while ago now the glaze test tiles came out of the kiln. I was unsure of the results at first and have had them tucked away in a drawer, bringing them out occasionally to have another look. I brought them out this afternoon, moved them around into different combinations, took some away, and sat with them for a while.

I don’t know what happened to the whites: pretty much, they came out either cream or non-existent. It’s difficult to see from the photograph but the bottom middle one might be workable.

With the other colours, I was struggling with the top three. I think it’s the single colour aspect that I’m not keen on and the high gloss, although there is quite a lot of depth to them. I had all the tiles mixed in together and couldn’t really see any of them clearly. I felt that the tiles were too small and had been planning all week to make some of my own (these were done on the last remaining generic tiles at Kirkgate). Then, this afternoon, as I was photographing them for this blog entry, I put the bottom six together and realised that there was a sympathy between them.

It’s hard to see from the photographs (I couldn’t get as clear a representation of the colours as I would have liked) but they are variations on blue, blue/green, grey and black. The blues and greens break into yellow and orange, and grey smudges across their surface. To me, they are believeable representations of the colours in the sky. And this is the palette that I want to work with.

It’s interesting that this showed itself in this way today, as over the last week or so I have been looking at the work of Jim Malone and reading an essay about him by David Whiting. In the essay Whiting writes, “[Jim Malone] has long prefered to work with a limited batch of shapes and glazes which he can then get to know intimately, exploring their full and extensive range”. And I wrote in my sketchbook, ‘White and sky colours (blues, greys, blacks, pinks)’.

I had been feeling slightly in awe of the range of possible glaze colours, frozen in the headlights of too much choice and no reason to choose one colour over another except that I liked it, which seemed particularly arbitrary. Now, I feel more in control, with a framework around which to build my decisions. I can go into Kirkgate next week, make up a larger batch of these glazes and dip some of the pots that are beginning to accumulate.

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June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

At the Saltaire Arts Trail last week, I met my very good friend and craftsman Hugh Leishman. He turns the most wonderful wooden objects – bowls, porridge spurtles, garden dibbers… – with a finish that can only be compared to silk. Whenever I sit and talk with him, I constantly turn the various objects of his around in my hands discovering the surface of each, it is impossible to resist.

Hugh kindly gave me a catalogue from 2005 about the work of the potter Phil Rogers. It is published by Goldmark, titled New Pots 2005, and is truly an inspiration.

There is an essay at the beginning of the catalogue by David Whiting and I just want to quote some extracts from it, which talk directly about the process of making, and that I want to take with me into my own pottery.

“With experience, there can be an almost semi-myopic, unconscious approach to making that operates hand-in-hand with the more consciously willed decision-making. As time passes the two integrate, and the results only increase in freshness and spontaneity. It is a deepening search, not merely a widening one.”

“Phil Rogers’ work is not about imposed concepts or clever ideas, but concerned with the lasting, continually reinvigorated, value of shapes and surfaces that guage the possibilities and mysteries of one’s materials.”

“It is about creative interaction, not coercion, of working with your clays and glazes, and not dictating terms.”

“Herbert Read … talked of the ‘organic vitality’ of craft pottery. But this is a vitality that extends beyond the formal, beyond the visual. It is to do with touching and handling, feeling a pot’s weight, experiencing its mass and the adventures of its surface.”

This last quote makes concrete the sensation I have as I sit with Hugh my fingers smoothing the surface of the beautiful wooden objects that he has turned.

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