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.
I’ve been inspired for a while to try and create a sulphurous yellow glaze as I am a bit mad for yellow at the moment. I’ve also been working hard at throwing porcelain for my illustrated range – but felt it was time to try something a little different that relies simply on the surface effects and colour of the vessels in relation to the thrown shapes and the qualities of the material.
I completed a small body of work using some new glazes before going on sabbatical earlier this year and felt really pleased with how they came out of the kiln:
I took the pots to Frome artisan market this month, selling out before I’d even had a chance to take any proper product shots! I must admit I was quite surprised at the level of positivity to them. Here are a few shots of them before they went:
I’m really looking forward to getting back into the studio now and developing this range further – I’ve already thrown a new shape of jug to play with. Shown below, they are just now drying out ready for bisque firing. Maybe it will be part of the new Volcanic Yellow range, or maybe an illustrated piece, I will be test-firing a few different ideas:
Arriving back in the studio after a substantial time away in various parts of Asia, I thought I’d post up a little taste of the visual plenty from the trip, starting with of one of my favourite places – Bhaktapur.
This town in Nepal is a mediaeval city with a very strong artisanal tradition and a charming and laidback approach to life. Only an hour from the craziness of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is full of friendliness and a lively traditional, and very visible, culture. It’s a Newari city and it has it’s own special caste of potters – the Prajapatis. Historically this was a very low caste but it was heartening to meet young potters raising their heads high and proudly continuing their traditional heritage for a new era. By embracing social media, finding out about new techniques and researching new niches in their business they are moving away from occupying a challenging strata of society as the demand for simple bisque-fired, purely functional, single-use pots slowly dwindles. Below is an example of a traditional urn, situated on a street-corner sitting area:
I had the privilege of watching and engaging with a remarkable master potter too. His ‘studio’ is simply an unsheltered area of a backstreet off Potters’ Square, next to some rudimentary storage space for his goods and materials. He works in the traditional style, throwing functional homewares such as rakshi brewing apparatus as well as myriad moneyboxes, as seen below – each of these pots is thrown in less than a minute on his huge momentum wheel, which is simply stirred into action with a wooden staff:
Pots drying in the square – these are for the local market and are functional pots for use in the home:
Here a potter tends to one of the wood-fired kilns, before getting ready for the next firing. In preparation, women file through the square bearing huge bundles of straw to pack around the pots. Beneath is a shot of a kiln ready to fire. How the whole district doesn’t go up in flames I have no idea:
Pots of yoghurt stacked in a traditional curd shop. A buffalo milk delicacy, cooling earthenware bowls are still the preferred vessels to sell in – sadly they are discarded after use:
Below are some more shots of the square. You can see the huge stack of straw ready to be transported to the kiln firing buildings; pots ready for sale; pots drying out in the sun, each maker arranging them in a perfect grid of work; there is even pottery graffiti on a wall as you enter the Potter’s Square:
I would love to spend more time here and feel the whole process from start to finish and speak to more of the traditional artisans still at work.
January and February…the fairs are over, the festivities finished and the earth is hibernating and readying itself for germination. Much the same stage has been reflected here at As the Crow Flies. A really valuable period of reflective thought, sketching ideas, drawing on the ideas touch on in 2015 and pushing them further.
I’ve really enjoyed the chance to process carefully the throwing aims I’ve had, working towards cleaner shapes in porcelain, practising the motions of throwing and enjoying the smooth clean feel of porcelain after working in terracotta for so long. First out of the initial test firing was a Wild Pea serving bowl:
Seeing the initial effects coming out on a few pieces enabled me to refine and progress the ideas…gradually more things came out of the kiln, building the bones of a new range of Dandelion and Wild Pea shapes; some of which are pictured below:
I’m also pleased to have produced more satisfying wine tumblers and the first forays into vase production, but photos of these will have to come later. The final thing I played with was transposing my popular Nasturtium design from terracotta to porcelain – in tea cup form. Looking very Art Deco with it’s conical shape, I particularly like this example:
All in all, I feel ready for this year…although I’ll have to put my anticipation on hold for a little while as I am taking a sabbatical from mid-March to mid-July to walk through Mustang in the Himalayas and then cycle the through the Pamirs in Tajikistan up into Kyrgyzstan. I’m sure the inspiration will be myriad so I look forward to posting when I get back.
Wow, what a year… since my last post which was inexcusably long ago, As the Crow Flies has been very, very busy! New outlets at the Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery, 20/21 Gallery in Scunthorpe, Platform in Cleethorpes and Found in Dunbar have kept me very busy with my order books, add to that the crescendo of Christmas market madness over the past month and computer-related work outwith the studio has been at a bare minimum.
I’m looking forward to two final markets in ATCF’s Bristol hometown – first up is this Saturday, 12th December, 10am-5pm, for Christmas at the Orangery. Pleased to see this shot of my doilyware being used as a promotional piece:
A really lovely selection of fine local makers at one of Bristol’s best known Christmas fairs – Christmas at the Orangery is taking place in Henleaze at the Bradbury Hall. Very excited to be taking part for the first time, and to see the Doilyware range featuring in a lot of local publicity:
Hope to see lots of local Bristolites there! Or if you can’t make that one then our final date will be Whiteladies Road Farmers’ Market on Saturday December 19th from 9-2pm. Have a wonderful festive season!
This winter in Stroud has been a lovely one – ATCF has been gracing the main square at the Farmers’ Market over a few dates in the lead up to Christmas, culminating in last weekend at the Goodwill Evening on Friday 4th and the Produce Market on Sat 5th. Thanks to the market team and all my lovely customers in Stroud – it’s been well worth the effort of foraying out from Bristol.
Had an entertaining moment at the Goodwill Evening when a photographer from Stroud News and Journal stopped by to comment on how unusual the wares were and feature me in his pictorial of the evening. Thanks to photographer Simon Pizzey who took the time to stop for this shot:
As the Crow Flies will be back up in Stroud for some markets later on in 2016.
Well, what an amazing week it’s been – so much to learn and so much inspiration gained from the British Craft Trade Fair last weekend. I’ll be posting up more fully about all the other ceramicists I had the chance to meet and chat to. For now, though, here are a couple of shots of my stand at the show. As the Crow Flies was in the Newcomers Gallery, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the other traders there and making friends with people producing everything from contemporary jewellery to beautiful knitted textiles.
So many thanks to all the team at BCTF for creating such a great event, and to Angieof Craft&Design magazine for sponsoring the Newcomers’ Gallery and giving such a good talk and advice at the traders’ breakfast club.
So, shortly I’ll be unveiling some new designs at the British Craft Trade Fair event in Harrogate next month. My partridges are now busy getting sampled as tea towels and new mug transfers, which I’ll hope to be firing onto some bone china just in time to pack them off! Here is a sneaky peak at what they will be looking like…
Above are two sets of mug designs – English partridges under a pear tree, and french partridges in a chorus line, how apt. Tea towels will be in a two-colour screenprint in vibrant burnt orange and viridian, while the mugs I’m sampling in a retro ochre palette and a more jubilant magenta palette. We shall see what hits the spot when they’re ready in a week or two…
So excited to see my acer serving bowl gracing the page of Ceramic Review this issue. Such a shock I nearly dropped my coffee! It’s featured in an advertorial for the British Craft Trade Fair which I’m taking part in next month. So pleased, it’s a new design in my hand painted and sgraffito decorated earthenware range.