June 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am, finally, a happy man… For those of you that read this blog regularly, you may have noticed that I have had an issue with some of my glazes. I have had a problem with pinholes – and I have been trying to remedy it for what seems like an age, reading about it, talking to people (anyone who might listen…) and experimenting. It had become a bit of an obsession because I couldn’t find a solution, no matter what I tried.

On advice from books and people I spoke to, I tried soaking at the top temperature; applying the glaze more thickly; more thinly; adding zinc oxide; exchanging Wollastonite for Whiting… Nothing seemed to make any difference – the pinholes remained. I spoke with a number of people about it at The British Craft Trade Fair thinking that someone was bound to say, ‘Oh yes, you just need to do such and such’… George Ormerod thought that it might be something to do with the turned surface of the bowl. The pinholes are only evident on the outside of the bowls, not the inside or on any other form, inside or out.

Well, it turns out that he was right. Dianne Cross and Gill Smith said the same thing.

This is the surface I was leaving after turning the bowls. You can see that there is not an even surface for the glaze to adhere to. Dianne recommended using a kidney to rub it down after turning, or spraying a tiny amount of water onto the bowl and rubbing it with the kidney – this reasserts the skin of the clay.

My solution has been to sponge the surface down when the bowl is dry. The surface is not smooth but it is even, and it works a treat. I sponge my other pots down when they are dry to remove any finger marks and it was this that gave me the idea. Just a light sponge does the trick, otherwise the surface becomes very rough.

According to Bernard Leach in ‘A Potter’s Book’, the other thing you can do, if you only have a few pinholes, is fill in each one with a spot of glaze, then rub the spots off when they are dry. This works well, also.

The issue with pinholes is really only with the high gloss green/black glaze. I feel that because of the gloss the surface needs to be even and blemish-free. I have a new glaze, this blue glaze, where the pinholes show through as yellow under the blue, which adds beautifully to the overall patina.

It is such a relief to have found a solution to this thorny issue. The ‘p’ word is no longer on the tip of my tongue…



June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

After last week’s post, I was thinking through what I had written about the detachment of art and the usefulness of craft. It’s a subject that I come back to frequently, as I studied Fine Art, eventually deciding not to pursue it, and recently became a potter. In the last post, I said that I had been reading ‘thinking through craft’ by Glenn Adamson and how in the book he discusses the detachment of art from cultural life, and that according to Theodor Adorno, in his book ‘Aesthetic Theory’, this is necessary in order for art to be free and uncorrupted.

It is this detachment of art that I struggled with in terms of my own making as an artist. There are many works of art that I love and that inspire me…

The process works of Richard Serra.

The works by minimalist sculptors, like Donald Judd.

Experimental film-making, like Empire by Andy Warhol.

By the nature of their making and their exhibition, they are detached from the world in which we inhabit, the world in which we navigate daily. Artworks are detached by the frame that surrounds them, the pedestal that elevates them, the gallery that houses them. These devises are constructed to signal a work of art. They separate you from it. They indicate that an intellectual engagement is necessary. With few exceptions (Jeremy Deller, Andy Goldsworthy…), they remain at arms length and if you want them in your life you have to buy the exhibition catalogue or a postcard to stick on your fridge.

Craft objects, on the other hand, cannot be like this, because they are fundamentally about use. Their potential is realised only in use. The chair, the suit, the rug, the knife, the pot… All reside in the world in which we exist. They are inextricably linked to the human body and need that body to become vital, energised. They need a context, an environment, a scenario. Craft objects should be beautiful, should be given all the considerations that a painter would give a painting, a sculptor a sculpture, but in themselves they are pregnant, a possibility. It is in use that they become. We understand them through our hands, against our skin, under our feet.

I said in the last post that craft objects should disappear. It was a quote from Adamson, and maybe it is a little strong. But unlike an artwork, which is autonomous, independent and distant, craft objects must co-exist in harmony, intimate and personal.


June 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

While waiting for my order of books, which I lodged last week with the efficient and very friendly local bookshop, I picked up ‘thinking through craft’ by Glenn Adamson.

The first chapter, called ‘Supplemental’, is an exposition of the ideas on art of Theodor Adorno set out in his ‘Aesthetic Theory‘. Adorno believed, according to Adamson, that art, if it could be held separate from what Adorno saw as the ‘dehumanising conditions of advanced capitalism’, could offer a base for critique of the culture industry. Art needed to remain detached and uncorrupted in order to achieve ‘a truly free arena of discourse’. Adorno concluded that , ‘Art must turn against itself’. As Adamson says, ‘Art’s continuous subject for critique is art itself. It must constantly struggle with its own being…always carrying within itself the implication of its own undoing…the ferment of its own abolition’. As a consequence of art’s necessary autonomy, it will ‘inevitably frustrate the expectations of unsympathetic audiences. To put it bluntly, avant garde art really is elitist and difficult to understand… [and] Adorno insisted on the necessity of that fact’.

This dialogue sets up the rest of the chapter, which discusses craft’s relationship to art through the notion of the supplemental, something necessary to another ‘original’ entity but nonetheless considered to be extraneous to it – for example, a musical score to the music it records. Adamson says that craft, ‘is always essential to the end in view, but in achieving that end, it disappears.’ Whatever the function of the craft at hand it ‘draws no attention to itself…lies beneath notice, allowing other qualities to assert themselves in their fullness’. Within the field of craft ‘technique is cheap’ and is a means of describing a form well.

I like this notion of craft in relation to pottery. It is not detached from everyday life, it is not an intellectual experience caught up in its own self-regard. It is supplemental in the sense that it has a function and purpose, a job to do; and that job is to be the vessel in which food or drink is served, or flowers displayed. At the moment of delivering its greatest energy, in use, it should disappear and what remains is the food, the company, the spirit.


June 2, 2012 § 3 Comments

It was a lovely day today for the first day of Bradford Open for Art. We are open again tomorrow and until Tuesday (5th June), from 11am – 4pm. It works well having Lis Holt’s pieces in the workshop, too. Her work is much more sculptural and is a nice counter to my simple, functional tableware. Lis will be in the workshop tomorrow and on Monday, when she will be demonstrating how she makes her ceramics.

If you are in the area, come and see a pottery working in the heart of the community. The address is 2 Westgate, Shipley, BD18 3QT.

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