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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Cyanotypes

At one stage in my life I decided I was going to be a photographer.. in the end I didn’t pursue that thought very far but I’ve always been really fascinated by ancient photographic processes.  For an overview of this kind of thing and the wonderful and ethereal images that can be produced there’s still an online resource connected to the fantastic British Library exhibition from around 2009-10.

The other day I finally fulfilled my ambition to do a class in cyanotype printing – an early form of photogram producing delicious deep blue and white images using very simple and easy to use chemicals.  I didn’t take many shots during the class but admit that I got more carried away with the mess on the emulsioning table as it slopped about and developed in various stages.  I’ve included a shot of the work as it was coming out of the darkroom – a selection from our whole class…

Afterparty

well… what a weekend, an emergence from hibernation, a getting together of many beautiful people, a whooping up, a gathering of far flung folks before they spin off into the wider world, unlikely to ever be all in the same room together again… what a thought.  It seems Bristol is emptying; a diaspora of its own diasporees… Alice and Matthaeus were back for a few days of triumphant post-wedding multiplicitousness, expecting twins to pop out in but a few months.  How lovely, how ‘normal’ to have them here, ready to meet for teas, dinners, drinks, saunas, chats.  Still, Munich is now their home – in fact, I must get back on the bandwagon and try to procure some tickets to see them before too long.  Kate and Ollie, our illustrious Canadians, not forgetting Fin, soon to resume being Canadian, are presently leavinge for pastures old and new in the east of Canada…

What a party they had last Friday.  The Polish Club, resplendent with its 1970s Polish football club posters above the bar, long-suffering bar staff and capacious dance floor held the first leg of the farewell tour…which later took us to the horror of Luna Clifton, a positively frightening club beneath the 10 o’clock shop, full of well-watered ladies in the twilight of their middle years sporting a uniform of ill-advised t-shirt dresses, peroxide or jet black coiffures and craggy facepaint… and finally to Ben Neighbour’s flat to waken the dead until 5am, entertaining ourselves with a plethora of fine hats…amongst other frivolities. I was proud to be the last person to wish Ollie goodnight, given my rare all-night party record.

I found it difficult to wear many of the hats at Ben Neighbour’s house due to my being dressed as a snowflake (dress code: what does Canada make you think of?), with a large pastry cutter lashed to my head, amongst other things… this is what I found left of the melted snowflake girl on the morrow…

Paintworks Spring Art Market

Well, the sun shone brightly on the day of the market – possibly for the first time with any true gusto this spring, which could account for the slow trickle of art and craft lovers milling through…. However, there were lots of lovely make and do-ers there to meet and peruse.  Here’s how my bike-powered stall was looking in early March…  Soon might be trying to tout my wares at the Bristol Vintage Velo ride fete and perhaps even Colston Hall’s ‘Made in Bristol’ market later this month.  Must admit I’d almost rather be taking part in the vintage dress-up country bike tour rather than trying to sell things!

 

 


having so much fun with photos…

well, what a day of fun…virtually unheard of in recent months at work (sorry LBL, very disloyal, but have any of us been having fun?).  I even got to work within the realms of 9am just at the prospect of spending the afternoon waltzing round Montpelier park attempting to create funkalicious photos with which to populate a schools’ education pack i am designing… Not the most usual LBL activity.

So, after a morning of the usual stuff I met up with my friend Sy and went to take photos of his skate shoes…  I’ve never tried taking portrait shots before, weirdly its actually more self-conscious making being behind the lens than in front of it as you have to be in charge of the situation and have avision of what you want to create and then communicate that.  I think in retrospect I may stick to the very large repertoire of inanimate, or at the very least mute, subjects available in the world so that they can’t scrutinise my techniques.  However, the results were pretty good.  Also think I need to move away from the fish-eye lens fascination as, entertaining though it is, the novelty is bound to wear thin at some juncture.

Sarah, LBL’s wonderful intern who I have discovered writes a very delicious looking blog about tea and cakes and all things nice, was extremely obliging and ditched her beautiful floral gear to climb into her brother’s swimming shorts and boyfriend’s cricket jumper and proceeded to gamely jump off climbing frames…What the results of this will all say to today’s disaffected teen in terms of cool I am not entirely sure but I think the photos look great.  Whoop whoop, how to sell the idea of ethical sportswear production using two people who are not exactly ambassadors of sporting prowess or urban nike-toting bling.  Oh well, making good use of sunshiney afternoons is always a good thing.