Category Archives: Feb ’17

Our Dreams….

Today I was looking at a few of the remains from my collaborative project ‘Our Dreams Are Not So Different’. I am still receiving photographs from participants in this unit and plan to spend some of the summer mapping the location of all works. These fragments (below) have slept on my desk throughout the last few months and I wanted to make some work which is connected to my current theme but also nodding to the collaboration.

I decided to make stacks out of old work and fragments of current work. I put a box of pieces out on the table and had the most enjoyable time finding, re-glazing and stacking these together. They are hopelessly unstable but the glaze should secure them together during the firing process. I feel they are logical – almost a Princess and the Pea reference with these little sleeping faces balanced precariously at the top of a formidable stack of oddly arranged ‘blankets’. Or the broken remnants of buildings?

I will be offering these as unique works to be auctioned for charity to provide funds to charities supporting the homeless. I recognise that these works resonate fairly clearly with this. I thought about whether they should have titles but decided simply on ‘Bed’. Each will look completely different after the firing process, as ever and they will then become part of this current body of work. I am a huge fan of the stacks, irrespective of whether they have faces at the top or not: they are extremely aesthetically pleasing, given that I know my colour combinations and yet cannot predict what the ranges of different clay and blends of glaze will become at 1200 degrees. Elements of a Made in China bowl set have been installed within the work and I have no idea whether this will survive. If one part fails, the whole tower tumbles. Exciting stuff.

I have recently discovered the artist Bouke de Vries:

Bouke de Vries is a Dutch-born ceramic artist currently living and working in London. He has lived a life that is much like his artwork — a mash-up of old world skills that he uses to remix, reorder, and deliver overt contemporary satire and social commentary. The  reverse of Ai Weiwei, who dramatically dropped the Han dynasty urn to make a point about the loss of history, de Vries puts the broken back together to re-contextualize the past.



Bouke de Vries. Goddess of the Fragments 2. 2015


Bouke de Vries. Fragmented Vase 1. 2015

I had already used some pieces from a set I had bought in a charity shop with Chinese pattern work on the surface – some of those pieces can just about be found amidst the fragments of my own broken ceramics. My work is neither trying to achieve anything similar to Ai Wei Wei or de Vries, however the powerful nature of something either being destroyed or being regenerated is transfixing. It reminds us of our attachment to objects and the strength of emotion we can feel when we see a pattern familiar to us (perhaps even from childhood). The damage can feel actually visceral to some. I have seen people react similarly to a book being doodled onto, or a CD not being returned to a case. Damage is something which makes some feel deeply concerned and uncomfortable – that this is downfall, crisis, out of control. And, moreover, that items that exist should be in some way cherished and revered. The worth of any item remains a negotiation between historical and cultural market monetary value and that of the sentiment: that raw, gut twisting sense of broken promise, broken dreams, the fragility and temporality of existence itself.

I already have plans for some ambitious works which will happen as and when I get studio time and space. I also have boxes of broken and fragmented pieces from old works as well as some that I continue to demolish and return to the box for reincarnation.




Who says?

New shores are drawing me towards them! I have become fascinated in the unexpected; of working on the edge of knowledge. I’m breaking the rules. WHO’S RULES EVEN ARE THEY?! Self imposed. What kind of crazy is that? I have been imposing rules on myself for the whole of my life. The last two years have forced me to meet this reality face to face and to challenge it. Today I was painting onto ceramics. I did this in Year 1 but because I wanted the ceramics to look more like flesh. I was going for expressive realism. Now I’m going for authentic impulse. Mindful work. There is such an enormous difference. 


The making is in every sense awesome. It is instinctive, playful, destructive and intentionally seeking the unknown. I best describe the work as having a personality: it fights with me, explodes, breaks, comes out of the kiln a colour I do not recognise. I am the maker but my product is a constant surprise: I don’t even know what direction my hand is going to go in as I add paint or glaze to the work. There is no planning stage. I am learning not to overthink it. The work is the experience and the outcome. I am recording both. Looking at other artists who work on the edge, with processes they cannot be fully in control of. 

This is the freedom and fun that was needed. This is deeply pleasing and so much more accurately a self-portrait than anything recognisably ‘me’. Simultaneously the works are totally disconnected from me. They survive and tell their own narrative. I’m completely in a love-hate relationship with them. It is war: finding reincarnation possible via the destruction of work. New ideas flow as I meet the shattered remains of something that once existed. And then my eyes turn to the work with love in them: it is my baby, my song. “Is it possible to be ‘lovingly violent’?” I was recently asked. The answer is……

Beach combing and stone stacks….

Norfolk beaches are stunning. They have my heart. But, if I’m honest, they are pretty brutal in this weather!

So we walked to find stones and various pieces that had washed up on the beach which included fishing wire and seaweed. I also stopped to stack some stones. I think this is surely a ritual for every child on the beach? However stacking stones reminds me so much of Goldsworthy’s work. Even when I am only managing five stones.

I have a bag of stones to experiment with indoors, and some willing volunteers to collaborate with. 

Blog Pt 2 to follow…..

Funny how different people react to stones; what their instinct tells them to do, what motivates them to reorder, to reclassify or change a collection. 

“I just take it out on the clay!”

Free me from this benevolent dictatorship. Ceramic. 40cm approx width

“It just makes me so cross!” she said, sipping her red wine as though it might soothe her sensibilities. “How could they, I mean, how could WE?” And it doesn’t take long to work out what anyone is talking about at the moment. Trump and Brexit (the name still makes me cringe, like it’s a child’s toy or a fun cereal!) dominate the news, and my social media newsfeeds, AND so many conversations; fuelled with high emotion. Everyone laughs when I tell them that I am developing my coping strategies by smashing up china. But, that is exactly what I have been doing. Plate sets are easy to smash. Old sculptures harder. They have thicker edges and sometimes absolutely refuse to yield. Even under a hammer. Titanium sculptures!! My experiments continue.

Pieces from one work are smashed and used in another. Work is glazed multiple times with colours developing their own dynamics. I cannot wait to open the kiln; to see what has changed. 

Work whilst still in the kiln.

Nothing comes out again looking remotely as it did when it went in. Pieces are secured together by the glaze, belonging and finding their place securely within a montaged new work. Conversations around me are inspiring and moving. Titles snatched from eavesdropping. There is nothing pure. It is reincarnated, upcycled, damaged and broken. It is a ghost of what it once was. And therefore it is richer, more fascinating, and bizarrely more alive. There is narative and history. There is layering, an abundance of different clays, textures, colours. It is fast becoming the most pleasurable activity. And these are my children:

Both (above) works in progress. Ceramic and mixed media.

“[James Johnson Sweeney’s] symbolic reading of Burri stresses this corporeal aspect strongly: “Burri transforms rags into a metaphor for bleeding human flesh; breathes fresh life into the inanimate materials which he employs, making them live and bleed; then heals the wounds with the same evocative ability and the same sensibility with which he first inflicted them.” Sweeney, Burri, 5-6

I couldn’t be more honest when I tell people that I’m just ‘taking it out on the clay’. The clay is my absolute refuge at the moment. I am escaping to it, talking to it, cuddling it, stroking it, smashing it, piecing it into something new and all the time there is promise. Promise of something good coming out of it. Of the pain being cathartic – necessary in order to symbolise the awakening of those who are sleeping through this life in a bubble; removed from external realities and won over by lies and false platitudes. I am lost. Bewildered. Where is common humanity? Where are the peacemakers? They are in there and all around us but I NEED to see them, more and more, setting their goals for unity, for collaboration, for collective acts of random and organised kindness. In the meantime I will continue to make my own ‘beauty’ from extreme destruction. I accidentally cut myself three times making the last piece pictured above. There was nothing cathartic in that: it just hurt. But today I wandered whether it was the sculpture biting me back!

I can’t think….

Free me from this benevolent dictatorship. Work in progress. Ceramic and mixed media.

My brain is FULL OF ANXIETY FOR THE WORLD. It is full of headlines and images of that man. I’m absolutely full of dismay. Plato wrote that when citizens have enjoyed democracy for long enough, they could be persuaded to turn away from it. This is a reality and it scares me. I’m buying into the media hype, and hysteria. I’m obsessed by the marches and protests. I need to see them to have even a glimmer of hope, to believe that there are more people who believe in diversity than in building walls. Where is the global citizenship and love? It is, as ever, all around us. But divisiveness has never (in my lifetime) felt so overwhelming, so desperate. With so many of those who have, being prepared to risk so much for perceived ‘greatness’. There is no glory in racism and xenophobia. There is no pride in exploiting fear. There is no peace in building barriers, blaming faith groups, targeting mosques, telling people to f*** off home.

We are all home. The Earth is our home. We are Global Citizens.

Just a few photos and thoughts.

You don’t speak for me. Ceramic.

Untitled (currently). Ceramic

Untitled (currently). Ceramic

I can barely describe my excitement opening the kiln these days. What will I be greeted by? I’m loving this kind of outpouring of experimentation: though I am conscious that it comes from a place of a fair amount of experience. I am not completely blind in my trials. But I am allowing things to occur, pushing boundaries, allowing possible destruction, exploring paths I have previously avoided, working spontaneously and without any plans. And I’m really enjoying myself. So, I’d like to introduce you to my new baby:

He pretty much fell apart on the way to the kiln (this was unsurprising), but he is in the kiln and will be reincarnated if he doesn’t come through in suitably ‘physical’ form.

Another artist and I are hosting an event next week with the title “This Thing We Call Art” in which she will present some installations and I will work on a collaboration with anyone who joins us. There will be wine and laughter and photographic evidence. I can’t wait.

Precious gem of a piece on the kiln room floor (ideas for presentation: on crushed pottery? A ‘bed’of ceramic dust?) 

Masters Level Magic

I just ended a blog post with the words ‘and in this…..There is magic’ because I feel it accurately describes my wonder and amazement at creativity in general. I often jest with others when they are asking how the kiln works “magic!” because although it is very simply heat and chemicals, the combination of these is ……..Is there another word for? I’m pretty sure nothing describes it in such a way: the mystery,  bowing to forces and powers, change behind a closed door! Speaking of which….
My Pride group met last week. One of the group wanted to share their legal name change. Another announced that he had “finally” come out to his parents. There was such celebration. And at the time we were all using clay. I’m not saying it facilitated these offerings, but it was lovely to be so hands on with materials whilst sharing these emotional news flash moments. I spent the rest of the day on a high, making ceramics, building up new works, fuelled by joy for others, bathed in lightness.

The magic is real. It belongs to me. It is just my way of saying that I remain in awe of the artistic process on almost every level. It is my life companion…… And in this….. There is….