I make thrown ceramic vessels, occasionally some domestic functional ware but my main passion is for one-off art pieces. I strive to create surfaces which are interesting and varied, rarely glazing the whole vessel, I prefer to leave areas where the clay body itself can be seen and felt in contrast to the smooth glossy glazed areas, I feel it gives the clay space to breath and the light a chance to play across the surface, reflecting in some areas while being absorbed in others.
I aim to make work that has contrasts, plays with the seen and the hidden, the glimpsed & the mysterious. I love Japanese woodblock prints of Kabuki theatre and landscapes and often find the work I create has a subtle nod towards this, be it in its form or choice of palette. At the moment I’m finding myself drawn towards deep glossy blues contrasted against a matt red blush, using a warm toasted clay body.
I am also interested in alternative firing techniques like raku and pit firing, where I use waste products like avocado & banana skins, muscle shells, dried dung & seaweed to create colour and interest on the pots burnished surfaces. The pit fired vessels I make tend to be small spheres which feel wonderful cupped in your hands, their surface sometimes has the appearance of marble its so smooth & the patterns created by the fire are so free and organic, the potter can decide what ingredients go in, but then it's up to the flames to create the work, you have to relinquish control and that is quite freeing in contrast to firing in an electric kiln which you can programme how fast you want the temperature to rise, how long it keeps top temperature, the rate of cooling and so forth, but with a pit firing nature has a huge influence - wind speed, the type and dryness of the wood, whether or not it suddenly starts to rain mid-firing, there are so many more variables which the potter has no control over, it makes every firing unique.
I’ve been wanting to make larger work ever since I visited the studio of Stephen Parry two years ago, he makes gas & wood fired vessels some of which need winches to lift, and he was so generous with his time and knowledge (if you’re into pots and going to Norfolk he does the open studios event there and I highly recommend a visit!) I made the most of the lockdowns by measuring the inside of my kiln and setting myself the challenge of making pots that completely fill it which was great fun and a great workout too! So this year there are some much larger pots here than usual. The widest I can fit in the kiln is 40cm diameter by 60 cm tall, I had an anxious wait for one as I’d gone a bit wider than I had realised, each day I’d measure it as it dried to see if it was going to shrink enough to fit, I ended up having to remove the temperature sensor from the kiln in order to get it in but it got there eventually! I do love working at that scale, there’s something so comforting about a lovely curved form which you can wrap your arms around, however space is at a premium here so I’ll always be producing more modestly sized pieces as well.
I've always been interested in art and making things, I think I get my creative streak from my Grandfather, he drove London trolley buses by day but he was an artist at heart, he painted oils, carved wood, made tapestries and was forever turning the bathroom into a darkroom for his photography. He loved to see my creative efforts so I decided that building a studio with the inheritance he left me would be something he’d approve of. I used to have a kick wheel under a lean-to by the back door and use water from the garden tap which was always freezing, so my criteria for the build was that it had to still feel like I was potting outdoors and it must have hot running water! The build was 4 years ago, and whilst it was happening I exhibited for Artweeks as part of the King’s Sutton group show. I was chatting to a visitor telling him about my new studio-to-be and how I hoped to run a few classes in future and it turned out he was from the Northamptonshire Business Growth Hub and he told me there were start up grants available if I needed more equipment in order to start teaching so I applied and that was how Fired Up Studios came about. So now the studio hosts regular daytime & evening ceramics classes as well as pottery experience days and group workshops. I split my time 50:50 between producing my own work and teaching. I love the teaching as I get to meet so many interesting people and they often have ideas for builds that I wouldn’t have made in my own practice. It's also lovely to be able to see people’s skills progressing over time, some people have been coming since the studio opened and now they can work independently, some have even gone on to buy a kiln and set up their own studio space so it's lovely to have more “pot-heads” nearby. I’m also quite a messy worker so thankfully having people coming to use the space each week means I can’t let it get in too much of a state!
You can find out more about Fired Up Studios at: www.firedupstudios.co.uk
Throughout Artweeks (1-23rd May) I'll be doing "Introduction to throwing" workshops, 10.30-12 noon and 1.30-3pm daily, booking is essential.
Cost £40 for 1 person, £60 for two, see www.firedupstudios.co.uk for more information & booking.