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.

 

 

 

Volcanic Yellow

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:

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Volcanic Yellow collection in the studio.

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:

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Volcanic Yellow on display a the Frome Independent market.

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Logo-ed base of Volcanic Yellow mug

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:

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Travels in pottery

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:

Bhaktapur ancient pot

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:

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Pots drying in the square – these are for the local market and are functional pots for use in the home:

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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:wood firingready to fire

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:

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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:

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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.

Christmas is coming…

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:

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Hand coloured Porcelain Doilyware

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:

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The Bristol Magazine, December 2015.

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Henleaze and Westbury Voice, November 2015

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!

South Bristol Arts Trail

Really looking forward to this event on Sat 16th – Sun17th May! Our venue is going to be absolutely amazing… As the Crow Flies will be taking over the kitchen space with ceramics, illustration and home wares. Fuller maps will be exhibiting their utterly unique and brilliant map artworks of Bristol and beyond in the print room. Esther Curtis designs will be creating a lovely ambience with her beautiful graphics at the front of the house where you may be lucky enough to get a mini massage treatment from our lovely hostess Sam Lacey… all in all it’s going to be a complete sensory experience.

big mugs loAbove: As the Crow Flies illustrated bone china mugs © As the Crow Flies.

gareth mapAbove: a tiny snippet of the incredibly intricate Bristol Map, as featured on the BBC © Fuller Maps. Below: graphic illustration © Esther Curtis.

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We’ll be showing at 17 Ashton Gate Terrace, Southville, BS3 1TA so come along and find us. Follow the links below to find out about the other artists at the venue:

Sam Lacey – holistic massage therapist: 

www.relaxrestorerevive.com
https://www.facebook.com/RelaxRestoreRevive

 

Fuller Maps original artworks:

Fuller Maps

Esther Curtis design:

http://esthercurtisdesign.blogspot.co.uk

Find out more about the trail here: http://www.southbankbristolarts.co.uk/

Partridges in a Pear Tree…

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…

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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…

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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Brand New Doily Ware

Particularly pleased with the treasure I found in the kiln this morning…

new doily bowlThis is a new colourway and vintage lace design that I’ve been trialling for my ever-popular Doily Ware range.  The tactile smooth porcelain with it’s warped curves goes beautifully with the intricacy of this hand made lace. Colours include pure cobalt and copper oxides as well as a limited palette of carefully chosen underglaze colours. Shown below is the doily mug and large bowl, with a cobalt blue doily jug using the classic striking vintage lace pattern. I think they complement well.new doily ware 1 Continue reading

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