I have been having a bizarrely wonderful day experimenting with very fragile pieces of clay. Some are fired, some unfired. Some are broken, some may become broken, as I am testing them beyond measures I know to be ‘sensible’. They are in different states which prevent me from having any kind of certainty about what will happen to them during firing. The process (if not the outcome) is exquisite. By any measure, the unpredictability is exciting.
I was working on a number of pieces today, moving back and forth between them. They all feature a central band of mixed glaze, glass and mirror fragments, smashed ceramics used in ‘standing’ position, as well as nails and other objects I know are likely to be able to withstand the firing process. Some were completed on fired clay, others on drying clay which is much more likely to crack once heated. All works are now in a ‘drying’ firing which will take some, but not all moisture out of the works. Certainly the larger pieces are more vulnerable to collapse or explode whilst sections of the work are drying at different rates. My justification for this is that the more likely the work is to change during the firing process, the more I am distancing myself from control: rationalising that the less control I have over the final piece, the more it may articulate something instinctive and authentic. I am excited that this is true in many philosophical ways: that we do not ‘know ourselves’ and that this may be more autobiographical, more of a self-portrait because I have been liberated by the materials-led practice and playfulness. As opposed to adhering to conscious or subconscious rules, I am permitted to exercise mindful practice. It is incredible how playful this work was. Yet my hands and eyes were utterly certain about where each fragment should go, where each nail should pierce the clay and where the glaze should be solid; to have overthought it, or agonised over it would have been to betray the method, to complicate the process. It was instinctive but without boundaries.
I worked on two other pieces which I did not complete and therefore did not photograph. I also made some decisions about how to make progress with these works. This is definitely the work I want to make progress with for now. The glazes work well for me in the context of being a painter. I reserve the right to also use oil paint on the surfaces of the works. The colours will change dramatically. Anyone who knows ceramic glazes knows that they change radically in the heat of the kiln. This also depends on the number of layers and in most of these works I poured the glaze onto the surface rather than brushing it on – this will inevitably lead to deep layers of glaze in some areas. The unpredictability of the subsequent colour changes is extremely exciting.
These works are raw: they are bruised, bleeding, damaged, torn. But they are also show-stoppers. They want to be noticed. Somewhere between a car crash and a tiara. They are tremendously ‘needy’ works, screaming LOOK AT ME. They are more me than I am, I’m fairly sure!
So, what happens next? More vessels, more experimentation with materials to use inside them: glass beads, crockery found in charity shops, cutlery, wires that can withstand high temperatures, the most beautiful blue glass melted like rock pools, sculptures inside sculptures. I am excited by simple things. The sculpture below was what was left of my ‘baby’:
Dad always told me to eat the burnt bits. Ceramic
And I LOVE it!