17th Burnham Art Trail
Saturday 19th June to Sunday 27th June 2021
Day 4 Tuesday
Today we begin with a visit to Midge’s Studio…
“Ceramics, my influences & materials“
I first became personally involved in the making of ceramics in 2015 when I visited the studio of Catherine Dodds, an artist and ceramicist based in Wivenhoe. She had made a beautiful golden bowl that captivated and inspired me. From that time on I was determined to become a potter.
Ceramics are usually Earthenware, Stoneware or Porcelain. Each material requires clay to be shaped, fired and usually glazed. I personally work in Stoneware which means my pieces are fired to 1240°C making the pieces dense, durable and suitable for everyday life and usage (ovens, dishwashers, etc).
I like to sculpt as well as throw clay; the latter involves the use of a wheel whilst sculpting is by hand. When I started to throw clay I was told it would take seven years to become completely proficient so I still have another couple of years to go! Practise definitely helps with size and accuracy. When you produce a piece on the wheel you first have to ‘centre’ your clay, then you ‘open’ a hole and ‘pull’ the sides. Once you have your shape you lift it off the wheel and let it dry ‘leather hard’. Next you tidy and ‘trim’ the shape and let it dry completely. To complete the process the piece is bisque fired (I go to 950°C), glaze is then applied and lastly the whole piece is fired again at a final high temperature (in my case 1240°C).
Hand-built pieces often take even longer to create than thrown work as the drying process needs to be carefully controlled. Once clay has dried you cannot easily re-shape it. Also the forms must be hollow or else they will explode in the kiln.
I like to glaze all my pieces and experiment a lot with different colours as well as different clays. Some clays are very ‘groggy’ which means they have bits in them which makes the clay more robust, although it can also feel like sandpaper on your hands when the piece spins on the wheel. Finer clays tend to be smooth and often white, the finest of course being Porcelain. Clay can be tricky, it has a ‘memory’ so cracks and errors are quite common; sadly they often don’t appear until after the firing process.
Going back to Catherine’s golden inspirational bowl, creating this sort of glaze is very difficult. Not only is it toxic to fire but ‘lustres’, as they are called, are temperamental & expensive. This explains why I am still trying to make my own golden bowl. My latest attempt turned pink!
Many ceramicists eventually focus on a particular style/look/process but I still enjoy experimenting. I sometimes add elements like wood, rope or other materials to my pots or sculptures and I enjoy making tiny as well as large forms: for example pottery flowers or shells through to large composite forms like a whale.
It seems to me there are endless opportunities to experiment with ceramics: colour, form & function being the most obvious. Many people enjoy the science of clay & glazes, others focus on repetitive production skills, some like to hand-build whilst others like the symmetry of the wheel.
Making anything in clay can be a messy process and to be a studio potter you usually need your own wheel and kiln. I’m lucky enough to have both in my studio in St Lawrence Bay, as well as an understanding husband who tolerates me disappearing for hours, eventually re-emerging dusty, usually happy and always ready to try again.
Using the gang at Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary in Asheldham as inspiration, Ashlie creates bold digital prints. Other media and styles of artwork can be seen on her website: www.ashliegash.weebly.com
Living the Dream
I always loved jewellery. When I was in primary school, I used to make jewellery from paper fasteners, when I should have been learning my times tables! I dreamed of one day having my own jewellery shop.
As I grew older though I did not pursue a career in jewellery making as I was never confident with my skills at art and drawing and had always assumed I would need to have some drawing ability to study jewellery. So, it was not until I was in my mid-twenties that I started jewellery making at an evening class, just for a hobby. I quickly got the bug and took more and more short courses before going back to college to get my City & Guilds Diploma.
As soon as I finished my studies, in 2006, I moved into my first studio space near London Bridge and started my business as a designer/maker.
While working from my London studio I exhibited my work in jewellery and craft galleries and some of the most prestigious UK jewellery fairs, including in the British Museum and The Goldsmith’s Fair.
One of the many things I love about jewellery making is that the basic tools, hammers, saw frame, drills and workbenches have not changed in hundreds of years. I love the traditional techniques used to form and join metal and set gemstones.
I am hugely inspired by the materials I work with. I will design a piece of jewellery around a specific stone, letting the stone guide the direction of the design. Stone setting is one of my favourite skills as a designer/maker, it can be incredibly nerve wracking, especially with a valuable stone, but it is so satisfying when you have set your stone in a final piece.
One of the other great loves in my career is teaching. For the last 4 years I have taught at The London Jewellery School in Hatton Garden and I hold silver jewellery making classes in my studio here in Burnham. I enjoy passing on the skills I have accumulated and hopefully my enthusiasm for the medium and its traditions.
“I work primarily in oils and look to the wide horizon of the East Coast for my subjects.”
Wendy has been experimenting with various media and styles after a 20 year break from art and is now looking to develop a personal artistic style. This is her first Art Trail.
As a keen knitter Marianna enjoys making characters to enjoy and treasure. This is her first entry into Burnham Art Trail.
That’s all for today.
Our next post takes us to New Zealand with Kevin Harber and then looks closer to home with Jenny Newman and Steve Springall. We showcase another six local creatives…