During the second year of this MA course I was particularly interested in how art operates in a therapeutic context. I felt myself drawn to places where there was a ‘need’: the day patients at Hospice in the Weald, the homeless community, even friends and family who were in some way suffering. I was approaching their need and my perception of their desire for artistic encounters. Yet simultaneously it was fulfilling my own needs, and in both the art and the creative human contact it was inevitable that it would benefit all those involved! I was as much a beneficiary as anyone. And to bring the essence of the collaborations to my work; to retain the spontaneity and surprise, there was no other option than to explore (perched on the edges of) what I know to be true.
As any potter will tell you there is a beautiful anxiety in closing the kiln door on works knowing that they will never be the same again. Their state in returning to you is fundamentally changed. The colours sometimes alter dramatically – becoming unfamiliar and at times disappointing. Layered glazes work out their own hierarchy. I imagine arguments taking place in the kiln when it is at peak temperature with the paler colours being beaten back by the solid metallics and heavy glazes. I loved the description of experimentation here:
Risking the very life of your pot seems counterintuitive, but hey, who doesn’t occasionally enjoy the twin delights of wilful destruction and new order. ‘Stone explosion’ or ‘ishihaze’ would normally occur by accident when impurities such as sand or small stones in the body of the clay burst through the surface of the pot during firing. Recently, however, it has become a deliberate technique, where grit, small pebbles or large stones are added to the clay to encourage entirely random and potentially beautiful effects. Grit laden ishihaze glazes will subtly rupture the surface, while the inclusion of larger stones can result in fabulously interesting cracks or part of the pot literally being blown apart. This technique has also been extended, as demonstrated in some impressive international shows this autumn, to the inclusion of chunks of precious metals such as gold and platinum, which are pressed into the surface and then pop and ooze rather deliciously through the clay.
‘Wilful destruction and new order’ are certainly part of what I am developing. The work is intuitive and I frequently tell my practical rules-heavy brain to pipe down. The creation of works which may or may not survive (even air drying, nevermind until they reach the kiln) has filled my current work with a rich ‘edge’ . I am collaborating with myself: the part of myself that does not know or care about the rules. The part of myself that wants to scream about current politics and processes through construction and deconstruction. And I can tell you, there has been a LOT of deconstruction!!!!! Like Greek plate smashing at times, only occasionally in front of students who look slightly on edge and wonder if I am, in fact, losing it!
This (above) is my baby – a theme I keep returning to. She is Gaia. She is already crumbling before I get her as far as the kiln. The symbolism of this pleases me as much as it pains me. I can work in an utterly autobiographical way which exposes nothing. In this, and in anything that touches the kiln… there is magic!