Home made sink clay trap

The one thing I’ve always missed in my studio is an effective way of dealing with all that gloopy clay water.  Cue drum roll….a cheap and very easy to make under sink clay trap.

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Its basically two linked buckets within another container.  The idea is that the water drains into the first  (left hand) bucket and then slowly drains into the next bucket and then out into the larger container.

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The right hand side bucket has a series of holes drilled into the side which the water seeps out of.

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Each set of drain holes is lower than the previous ones so that the water flow is slowed down to allow the sediment time to settle out.  The whole construction is easy to remove and to clean.  The outlet from the large white container can be plumbed straight into the drain.  Funny how the simple things in life can make such a difference.

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Inspirations

I’ve been out bush seeking inspiration and collecting more samples.

Disused nickel mine slag heap

Disused nickel mine slag heap

We went to Kalgoorlie and to see the Anthony Gormley sculptures at Lake Ballard.

Iconic outback road

Iconic outback road

Words fail me (almost!) It was remote, dusty, lots of flies, storms (both conventional and sand). The landscape was vast and the human presence insignificant. I find myself wanting to capture the feeling I had standing in the middle of Lake Ballard in my work.

Spot the figures if you can

Spot the figures if you can

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How to capture that essence of stillness, of calm, blinding light and hostile environments?  To me it said something very profound about the futility of human existance. To see those figures stretching out into infinity was very moving and very thought provoking.  We spent some time on a disused station, a hundred kilometres from the nearest other human being and it was sublime.  The silence was heavy.  To be able to get so far removed from society is a rare opportunity.  I find myself wanting to explore that sense of stillness in my work.  Some of the landscapes around Kalgoorlie are so beautiful yet so unforgiving.  We visited salt lakes where the vista would take your breath away yet the heat and the flies are maddening.

Lake Deborah

Lake Deborah

You could so easily die out there.  I am full of admiration for the traditional owners and their ability to survive in that country and for the sheer stubborness and resiliance of the early European settlers.  I am trying to find the courage within to experiment more with putting my mark onto my work.  I find it so hard to break away from letting the clay, the materials and the action of making create the work.  I prefer to let the process guide me rather than trying to impose on the materials.  I want textures. I want to see jagged ripped sheared edges – Can you tear porcelain?

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How can I capture this lightness - the dancing of the sparks?

How can I capture this lightness – the dancing of the sparks?

Perhaps the way forward is to work more with the interaction of clay/embedded materials and glaze?  Or to explore the unpredictable results of my attempts at reduction firing?  Perhaps I just need to tear things up?  Who knows.  Interesting times – watch this space…

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Duality Exhibition at Freight Gallery, Fremantle

Please come and check out this multidisciplinary exhibition.  It promises to be a corker.

soup invite soup3

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A month of ups and downs

Life, its a funny thing that tends to bite you in the bum when you least expect it!  After the excitement of the Here and Now 2014 exhibition opening, being interviewed for Gallerywatch on our local TV channel and a feature in Journal of Australian Ceramics (Vol 53: No 2, July 2014: page 54) I managed to trip over my feet on the way to the shops and achieve a suspected fractured wrist. Such a glamourous accident!  Two weeks in a cast, followed by two weeks in a splint has somewhat curtailed my creative activity and ability to type!  Thankfully I can report that it wasnt broken and is now feeling much better and I am slowly getting my mojo back.

The aforementioned mojo better hurry up as I am part of a panel giving an afternoon talk at Lawrence Wilson Gallery, UWA this coming Friday at 3pm.

Please feel free to join my fellow conspirator Andrea Vinkovich and ProfessorAndrew Rate (from Earth Sciences) on a discussion entitled  ‘The Art and Science of Ceramics’.  The gallery does great tea and biscuits.

It has been thought provoking process to distill why I like to put found materials into my work and to examine my personal collection for items that have influenced the direction of my work.  I can feel the enthusiasm coming back even as I type.  If only I could muster the will to tidy and reorganise my studio….

 

 

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Here and Now 2014 Exhibition Invite

Finally we are almost there.  Can’t wait to see everyone’s work up in the gallery.  It’s soooo exciting!

H&N14 + Glitter + Wildflower eINVITE

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The importance of mentors

I wanted to write this post as a thank you to my mentor, Stewart Scambler, who has done so much to encourage me and to pass on his skills and enthusiasm for all things ceramic.  I started clay classes as a hobby and it quickly became apparent to me that it was a passion.  Due to personal circumstances I was not able to attend a structured learning program such as those that used to be offered at TAFE (higher education for non Australians).  In some ways this has frustrated me as I have wanted to learn as much as I can and always felt that a structured learning program would enable me to do this.  However, in hindsight, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the freedom to master skills at my own pace and to focus my learning on my own work rather than facing deadlines and assessments.  I have always tried to attend as many classes and/or workshops as I can and have really enjoyed working with local ceramic artists – Sandra Black for her porcelain skills, Greg Crowe for his throwing and Stewart Scambler’s Fremantle Arts Centre class.  I have also gained a great deal from attending the Ceramic Arts Association of Western Australia’s bienniale ‘Potober’ event.  This has enabled me to meet and learn from a wide range of international and national artists.

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Stewart loading the kiln at Fremantle Arts Centre.

During the last year since I was selected for the Here and Now 2014 exhibition at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, I have struggled with making the leap from enthusiastic amateur to emerging professional artist.  This rationale for this exhibition is to challenge emerging (and emerged) Western Australian ceramic artists to extend their artistic practice by experimenting with both technical and conceptual approaches.  As part of the process the University of Western Australia allocated me a mentor to help guide the way.  I have been lucky enough to work closely with Stewart over the last year as he has gently coaxed me from blind panic to a coherent body of work.  For this, I am incredibly grateful to both UWA and to Stewart.

 

 

 

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The process of making

Questions I get asked – ‘how do you get those lines in the pots?’ ‘Do you put them on afterwards?’ ‘Is it difficult?’

The answer to the above is, ‘with lots of practice’, ‘no’, and ‘yes it can be’.

The technique I use is a variation on theme of agateware.  This is described by Wikipedia as “Agateware is pottery decorated with a combination of contrasting colored clays.  The name agateware is derived from the agate stone, which when sliced shows multicolored layers. This pottery technique allows for both precise and thought out patterns, and free random effects”.  I was particularly inspired by a book ‘colouring clay’ by Jo Connell which lays out techniques for incorporating coloured clay into your work.

It is fairly simple.  First I mix in some of the colour (in this case the soil or samples I have collected from my travels.  It requires a squirt of water in order not to dry out the clay and is then kneaded so that the colour is evenly mixed in.

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The next step is to sandwich the coloured layer between two non coloured layers and form into a ball. The trick is not to get any air bubbles sandwiched at the same time as this can cause issues later.  It is also important to get the coloured clay and the non coloured clay to the same consistency otherwise it can put you off balance whilst throwing.

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I am fairly ad hoc about the positioning of the colour – extra sprinkles can add to the effect.  The way that you position the colour within the ball  and the amount of coloured clay you use can make a huge difference and is dependant on your throwing style. I adore the way in which I can begin each piece of work in the same way and it can turn out different every time.  I think that this element of the unknown is one of the factors that drives me to keep creating.

This ball of clay is then thrown as normal, into whatever shape you are aiming for.  It is often impossible to see the pattern emerging during throwing due to slip (liquid clay) coating the walls.   The thrown work is then carefully and slowly dried (this is the part that is fraught with potential disaster – in Western Australia, the summer is hot and the clay dries fast and unevenly putting stress on the structure!) The pot is then trimmed and it is only  at this stage that the pattern is revealed. The bowl below was dried too fast and cracked.

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Thankfully with practise, my success rate has increased from less than 50% a year ago to about 90% today.  I have become very good at recycling!

 

 

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