Plaster Residency at Guldagergaard, Denmark

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.

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Beautiful Nina Hole Sculpture, wood fired in situ, outside the farmhouse.

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.

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Wonderful work in progress on genius NZ sculptor, Jim Cooper‘s desk.

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.

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My coffee pot design, an elegant mid-century modern style tall form.

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.

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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.

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Marbled yellow slip, just poured into handmade tall beaker mould.

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Sodapop jugs and containers in a pastel colour palette.

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Marbled and plain slips, all drying and waiting for first firing to test colours.

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Marbled tall beakers waiting to be fired – the colours will become more vibrant after the second high firing, although hopefully still subtle.

 

 

 

Hedgeflora and beyond

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.

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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.dand-tt-crop

It’s at the printers right now, so here’s hoping it looks good on unbleached cotton!

Volcanic Yellow…and Storm Blues

The experiments with colour block brights and layered leopard print effect glazes are coming along too. I’m really excited by this range and once a few firing difficulties have been ironed out I’m going to be making this my primary product I think.

I’d never really tried doing anything with out surface illustration before – that is my area of expertise and what I’ve always loved doing. Having the freedom just to think about shape and colour and the graphicness of the 3D objects themselves is really exciting to me and a bit of a breakthrough in my practice. Refreshing not just to simply see the vessel as a canvas for mark making.

New work arrayed…

My new porcelain hand thrown wares are building for the market season, as well as winging their way soon into the Platform Gallery in Lancashire for their Northern Star winter exhibition and Found Gallery in Dunbar in time for their winter show.

The Peapod and Dandelion versions of these thrown ceramics have cemented into the two designs I’m happiest with so it’s just going to be a case of trying to get faster at throwing them… Since getting back from sabbatical in January there has been a lot of work in the pipeline and it’s satisfying to see it finally in the outcome stage.

BCTF Harrogate

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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. 

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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.

Acer Bowl in Ceramic Review

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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.

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Mr Peacock Legs

Introducing the fabulous Mr Peacock Legs mug… Designed to fit in with the fabulous Peacock Tea Towel already in the As the Crow Flies home ware range, Mr Peacock Legs comes in several different guises. In the larger size (9.2cm high x 8.5 cm diameter), you can choose from a black or the new summer magenta version; each one is printed front and back with hand-applied decals, plus playful gangly legs dangling on the inner rims. The magenta version also has his name inscribed in scroll script on the outside. What’s not to like, as they say?

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Markets this season…

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It is, dare I say it, only about 6 weeks until Christmas…. An immensely busy time for makers all over, and it wouldn’t be worth it without getting out into the world to sell our products.   Continue reading