I’ve posted before about my evolving use of dandelions and how they have featured in so many ranges of my ceramics and homeware, both current and archived. Here I’m going to explore the many ways I’ve used nasturtiums in my work. Their shape, form, colour and vibrancy are an endless source of inspiration and fascination. As with all my botanical design work I begin with observed drawing.
Drawing the flowers from life is my starting point for a whole host of designs across different media: transfer printed bone china ware; hand illustrated wheel thrown porcelain; colourful printed tea towels. You can see how just a handful of drawings can be put into so many different contexts and with such variety of end results.
In contrast to this individually hand thrown, hand illustrated range – where each vessel is similar but unique in the exact placement or combination of flowers, buds and leaves – is my range of transfer printed bone china ware. For this I use a professional ceramic transfer print studio to digitally print my designs for me, which I then apply and fire on to Stoke-on-Trent bone china ware in my studio.
The outcome is so different from the hand thrown ware, and is infinitely quicker to produce which is quite a relief. Popular thought the hand made range is, I don’t produce much of it as it is a very lengthy process with the layered colours and drawing which also makes it quite expensive. I do have a secret admiration for the uniformity of the bone china ware version too! My other major output with the nasturtiums is textile-based: bright, colourful tea towels in three different colourways.
And from the archives here are a couple of shots of my first ever nasturtium designs, produced using the traditional technique of slip decoration with sgraffito (scratching into the clay) to describe the outlines.
Well, Covid19 has put paid to a lot of things…amongst them the regular markets that As the Crows Fly used to attend. But all is not lost! You can visit our new Etsy shop here 😊
It’s also been a summer project of Tea Green events to create a new directory for all their local makers. You can visit it online here.
There are a good selection of ATCF ceramics ranges available, and more and more are gradually being added to the Etsy shop. If you can’t see what you’re looking for it may be sold out – production has been really challenging these last months. Hope you are all keeping well and happy this crazy year!
So, it’s been a busy year of upheaval here with As The Crows Fly… I’ve taken the plunge and uprooted from Bristol (where I’ve lived for the past 17 years) and relocated back to my home town in Scotland. It feels good. I’m beginning to meet other fantastic artists and makers and establish a new life here. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a perfect studio space at Fire Station Creative in Dunfermline. It’s vibrant, friendly, professional and *warm*… No more leaky roofs and concrete floors to make winter working so difficult.
The video at the top of this post was created especially for the event by one of our artists Kelly-Anne Cairns and her son Connor, who have worked really hard to visually profile all the studio residents for this year’s Open Studio event.
I’ve been working hard developing a new range this year. I wanted to blend the graphic qualities of my slipcast porcelain – bold colour block pieces that rely on the form and design rather than surface decoration – and the handmade individuality of my thrown table ware. Also, from a technical perspective, something I’m constantly learning about in ceramics, I needed to make my volcanic glazed ware more stable in their firings and finally found a combination that works….and so to range building!
I wanted each piece to complement in black and white and finally found a smooth black porcelain body to throw with that I like as much as the white porcelain I use. The surfaces became really important. Each pieces is sanded with three grades of paper after both the bisque and glaze firings to give the outer surface a very smooth and tactile finish. While the interiors invite the eye with their graphic black and white glazing effects. So pleased with them:
I wanted to create unique pieces with a theme of shape and a feature handle; the jugs remind me of fat pigeons!
I had a fantastic few days by the coast in St Ives during summer and immersed myself in the amazing art that’s on tap there – Barbara Hepworth’s studio was awesome. Incredible combinations of form and texture in a monochrome palette. So inspiring for this range of work…
I’ve trialled the capsule range now at a few markets and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out and the positive response from clients. It’s very simple: espresso mugs with sugar bowls and creamer jugs. A set of ceramics designed to create the perfect coffee moment.
There’s a story here…I’m not entirely sure what. But I do have an endless fascination with the humble dandelion. I was reminded of it’s beginning when a friend in Germany sent me a photo of her morning coffee in one of my terracotta sgraffito mugs – the range I began my ceramics business with.I recently photographed a new selection of dandelion specimens just to remind my drawing brain what they really look like after a winter of illustrating from memory. I only throw and illustrate porcelain now – a very different look from my earthy terracotta pieces. The dandelion lends itself just as well though and, despite the hand cramps, I never tire of drawing it…I also produce fine bone china wares – firing my illustrations on to ready made pieces instead of creating each vessel from scratch. It’s a different feel and I like the utilitarian uniformity and perfection it gives the pieces. It also means I can produce matching tea towels – a source of great satisfaction to me. Some artists relish the giclee print and the framed work but I love the idea of my designs finding their way into my favourite room in the house, the nurturing kitchen at its heart.Above you can see slip and sgraffito decorated earthenware mugs in dandelion thistle – I no longer make them but a client commissioned them to add to their collection of this work. My first dandelion tea towel is shown below with a 50s colours and feel. I’ve updated the design for 2018 in fresh slate and citrine on white, increasing the scratchy mid century modern look. It’s pictured at the top of this post. Below is an alternative dandelion bone chinaware motif – again it has a mid-century feel with ochre highlights this time.Everything starts with pen and paper and botanical specimens for me – I love the rigour of drawing from life and trying to catch botanicals in the best season. One day I’ll manage to get my sketchbook out before the Forsythia flowers wither and fall…
As the Crows Fly is very much looking forward to being part of the Make 17 exhibition at Devon Guild of Craftsmen this year, as well as being featured artist on their publicity for the event. Really excited about this. The private view (see below for details) will be on Friday 17th November from 6-8pm so if you are in the area please do come and meet us as it should be a lovely evening. Otherwise the exhibition will be running from Saturday 18th November until Sunday 7th January 2018.
New wares are beginning to trickle out… I’m excited by the colour palette and feel of these fresh new slipcast pieces in stained porcelain. The charcoal grey vase form is cast from a lathe-turned form I created while in Denmark. I like the possibilities of the grey canvas for fresh simple white slip decoration – here a midcentury modern inspired sunburst pattern, set off by pompom hydrangea blooms.
I’ve been keen to experiment with coloured porcelain for a long time. After trying out some own-made black clay on the wheel I decided that the chemicals used in colouration (raw oxides and metal salts) were best kept in minimal contact with the skin, and so began my delve into slipcasting production… I’m really pleased with the initial results and they have certainly had good reactions from customers so this range will be something I am working on quite heavily this year. I love the strong colour palette in the pieces above and I’m also tapping into the subtlety of marbled slips and pared down surface decoration.
I couldn’t resist, while in Denmark, the chance to create a direct link with the minimal, pared down scandi-chic trend that’s consuming UK interiors shoots at the moment. These lidded vessels are based on casts of plain glass storage jars from Denmark – they are the store cupboard equivalent of the kilner jar and I was really taken by their shape and design.
At the beginning of March I packed my bags and hopped on a plane to Scandinavia for the first time. I flew into Copenhagen, looking down on snowy, fragmented islands gradually massing together to form land. It looked flat, and it was cold.
I arrived at Guldagergaard international ceramics research centre, pronounced Gool-ay-ago, by train and bus and foot, welcomed into a mildly chaotic world of 40 hour long wood-firings, unbridled artistic expression, huge amounts of expertise and a fantastic community of learning, sharing, warm people.
A tiny world inhabited only by ceramicists, where you don’t have to explain or excuse yourself. There is just acceptance. It’s a magical place…and there are sculptures and objects from the tiniest porcelain chair model to the most enormous tiled archway, just bursting from every corner of the place. I feel so inspired here.
I came to Guldagergaard because I want to expand my practice to incorporate my own-design slip ware. So, I signed up to do an Intensive Plaster workshop week in March, taught by the wonderful Harriet Caslin, and now I am back to complete a month’s residency for the rest of April, working with the skills I learnt.
I’m currently working very hard on a project to produce my own coffee set – a tall coffee pot, a slender jug and an angular cup. The first stage is scale drawing on paper, the second stage turning a positive form on the lathe, then adding components such as spout or handle or surface detail, the third stage casting a mould – the negative; the final stage pouring slip into the mould to form a porcelain positive to fire and use. Currently I am turning on the lathe, hand carving and adapting using precisely scored and folded acetate areas, to fit my design drawings. It’s a lengthy process, and I’m not sure what the outcome will be… The photos below show plaster being mixed; the coffee pot ‘stock’ on the lathe during the initial stages of turning; the finished coffee pot form waiting to be carved and fitted out; the jug model with grooves carved in and acetate being fitted; the coffee cup form on the lathe, ready to be cut off.
I’m also indulging my long held desire to work with stained porcelain, casting a small kitchen ware range using found objects in a pastel palette, and using marbling on two elegant hand turned designs that I did during the workshop week – a tall beaker vase and a wide, conical serving bowl.
Introducing a new set of bone china wares that I’ve been sketching, colouring, getting printed into decals and firing onto some beautiful Stoke-on-Trent bone china ware. Here are some shots of the finished pieces, followed by an explanation of the work in progress.
The flexibility of being able to accurately reproduce detailed drawings on ceramics using this method really inspires me – it’s a completely different approach from the handmade pieces and I love it as it allows me to produce consistent products that all work together.
This little lot has been in the pipeline since July so it’s great to be getting it ready in time for all the Christmas events this season.
Here are a few snapshots of how the designs begin, on paper. Sometimes in the garden with tea and sunshine, sometimes in the studio using blooms and seedheads gathered while walking.
I love this process. It makes me feel so connected to the work I do. It also allows me to be creative with the raw materials. Currently I am creating a couple of tea towels to go with the above designs. Because I can manipulate the images in whatever way I want to I am free to put them together in new ways. I got really inspired by the Fifties in the colouring and style of the drawings so I took it a step further for the Dandelion tea towel and turned elements of the sketch into a colourful repeat pattern.
It’s at the printers right now, so here’s hoping it looks good on unbleached cotton!