Sunday, 30 December 2012

Almost 2013...

Now that the Christmas festivities are done and dusted I've started looking at the diary for next year. It's been good to get a short break from the studio as its certainly been a hectic year..! This time a year ago I was starting to plan the new studio and think about what kind of space I would need and how it would all take shape. We've had some lovely people through the doors and worked on some great projects..hopefully more of the same this year :) 

Its also meant a huge change in my working practices; spending much more time on admin, teaching, preparation, marketing and more marketing than making work. But when I have got my new project underway I've really enjoyed it; have finally had the space to draw again and have loosened up a lot in the objects I've made. I've been reflecting a little on early work, and in some respects revisiting elements of it in terms of looser gestural brush work, monoprinted mark making, and recently returning to red earthenware clay. Although the clay is covered with layers of slip, there is the warmth of the clay colour coming through and the red colour on the inside of the jars. 

I've also been working on a chapter for a forthcoming publication 'Travel, Tourism and Art'. Its co-authored with Kevin Hannam and offers an insight into my previous project The Albertan Animal series. Final amendments have just been made and so all being well it will be going to the editors and then the publishers soon. Details to follow! 

There are a few shows planned for next year; will post details of these soon.

Monday, 26 November 2012

New work, open studio and experimental glaze development

Recovered from the hectic weekend of open studio last week; which went really well! Definitely doing it again next year. Lots of lovely visitors, thanks to everyone that made it along.Always nice to meet the public directly from time to time, and to give people an insight into how and why we make things. Quite a few older pieces were sold (always nice to make way for new work) but I've got more if anyone wants a reduced piece of work...
A few images below before the crowds arrived. There is work by my partner Chris Donnelly, Clare Andrews, Sally-Ann Provan, Hatti Pattison and Lyndsey Jean Henderson also in these shots; just a few of the other lovely Beaverhall residents!
More details on the Beaverhall FB page:

The first new finished pieces were sent to Contemporary Applied Arts for their Christmas show; image below. Work over the last year has explored natural history collections, with different series of specific forms such as plate the focus. This new series focuses on collections viewed in UK based museums. The lidded jar or container is associated with collecting and containing historic specimens. It is sometimes directly connected with the animal (18th/19th century tobacco jars made from rhino feet for example), and so was chosen for this project (as yet untitled). Like the animal specimens themselves, the jars are hollow and function to 'contain' and permanently fix the images of the animals, frozen into their poses. 

The jars are intended in a sense to commemorate the animals and reflect their characteristics. Drawings were made of various specimens, which were then made into transfers layered over painted and printed surfaces. Selected photographs have been used, although the focus with this work is on the drawn image. Abstracted backgrounds refer loosely to the museum setting. They are handbuilt and individual, although part of a larger ongoing series which will develop over the next few months. 

And finally here is a image of some work made by product design post-grad student Jaume Miro at the studio; he is developing experimental glazes using reclaimed and recycled computer parts. I've built the vessels to his requirements based on traditional African pots (the black ones), and he has created glazes from scratch using the extracted raw materials...deceptively simple, but a lot of work to get to this stage and some exciting results so far! its been a really interesting process to work with someone else to help them develop their ideas and practical outcomes. Useful I think as an artist, when you are used to working on personal or specific concepts and themes, to step outside of this and create things to someone else's specifications. To date it has been a rewarding process to work with others at the studio and get differing perspectives on ceramics. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Open studio

Forgot to add the details of the open studio event on the last here it is...

New work and open studio event

Hadn't realised it has been quite a while since I posted anything...time has certainly been flying by, and its been fairly full on at the studio! My new work is slowly evolving, and I'm getting used to only making work on a part time basis as most of the emphasis at the moment is running the studio. It does however make you really appreciate focused creative time. I have found spending more time working with other people on their various projects rewarding; and seeing how others interpret and utilise the materials and processes. So far at Cyan Clayworks there has been a wide range of individuals making everything from slip cast cups, handbuilt vessels to tiles, and material testing /glaze development using recycled materials. Students from Edinburgh College of Art have been in to create ceramic projects as well. This really highlights the diverse possibilities of clay; with its uses in the fields of product design and sculpture for example. Definitely to be encouraged I think, as there are still those who think that ceramics belongs solely in the field of craft...
Few images below of work in progress. Coil built lidded jars, with multiple layers of image and colour. There are lots of stages, from the initial building, to refining, then slip application through painting and printing. Once fired the glaze is applied and fired, then the decals applied. These are developed from my drawings. Hopefully will have some images of finished pieces next time...

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New project beginnings

Lots of things on the go as usual in the studio. Various taster sessions were held this month, a couple of one off workshops, student projects finished and discussions underway for other projects.  Plans are also underway for a print and ceramic workshop which I've been invited to hold in Margate for the Pushing Print festival in October. My own classes will start at the studio in September.Cyan Clayworks is now officially registered as a Community Interest Company, which will hopefully open up various possibilities...!

It also mean I can separate my own work to some extent. In between teaching, firing/glazing and filling out application forms, I've started my own work after a long gap. 
This will continue with the natural history theme. I've started things off by a visit to the National Museum of Scotland to look at and document the animal collections there. Various test pieces have been made to explore potential forms- lidded containers and surface imagery. The lidded container was used as a starting point after seeing a Victorian tobacco jar made from a rhino foot in Traquair House, and jars used to store specimens in museums. My versions of animal themed containers will be simplified forms and will make a more subtle reference to these sources.

All my new work now is project and research based. A lot of time is spent initially gathering source material, exploring and defining ideas, images and forms before beginning to make resolved objects. I've also bought a Victorian tanager bird to draw in the studio...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Update from the studio

Hard to believe its August already...the year is going by very quickly! So far in the last month we had the open event at Cyan Clayworks which went really well. Student projects are almost complete..just the final glazing and firing to do this week. More equipment was bought so we now have a newly renovated slab roller.

Have even managed to start some of my own work...will post some details in the next blog. I'll be continuing with the natural history collection theme, but exploring some new forms and images. I find the process of working through ideas by making small test pieces really useful; often the ideas start to really develop through the making process. Quickly made small scale objects are used to make decisions about proportion, variations within a particular form and how they interact as a group. I like to separate form from surface at these early stages, with imagery developed in the next stage of development.

It will be interesting to see how my work evolves in this new space; a larger scale is now possible. I'm looking forward to having the room and the kiln size to make larger scale work again. The addition of the slab roller will enable relief printing so opening new possibilities for printed images. Each time I've worked in a new space, whether temporarily during a residency or in my own studios, I find it has quite an impact, often generating new ideas and approaches. No doubt spending more time working with other people will have an effect as well.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Open Studio event

To officially open the studio now that everything is set up (including the lovely new workbenches...) we will be holding a launch event. 

So if you're in the area on the 28th you'd be welcome to join us. 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Studio progressing

A busy week so far...
New studio is almost finished...our own work benches still to build and a few other bits and pieces. But the teaching space is up and running. Its a pretty big space to get set up, however despite moving from a very small space we have managed to expand into this one and fill it up quite easily.This week we have had product design students working on a project with Chris and myself to create moulds and cast pieces. Lots of test pieces are also ready for firing - its been great to get my hands on some clay for a change! 
There have been other people moving in to Beaverhall recently...the word is spreading about the great spaces on offer. A couple of us have set up a facebook page so we can collectively promote our projects/workshops etc.
There are also vouchers available for people to buy for tuition and short courses. Please email for info. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Forthcoming exhibition

Details below of a forthcoming show I'll be taking part in.

There will be six of my pieces based on a trip to Alberta, investigating taxidermy collections there.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Cyan Clayworks

Finally everything has been moved from the old studio and into the new one. Everything clay-related seems to be very heavy...Now it just needs to be unpacked and organised! More workbenches to be built and other things to buy. It's been great to start with a blank canvas...

Details of the forthcoming classes are on the website, or give me an email for info; The studio email is misbehaving at the moment...should get that sorted out soon. 

Will be running some taster sessions in July and August. Always wanted to have a go with clay? This is an opportunity to try handbuilding and decorating in a short one-off session.
We are also keen to work with other artists/designers/students on their projects; there is facility hire and or technical support. 

We'll be having an open event at some point, once things are set up. Lots of other artists and designers are resident in the building, and are still moving in, so hopefully we will hold a shared event! although the new place doesn't have a shop area, you will be able to see and buy work at open events or you can arrange a visit to see the studio. 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cyan Clayworks

Work has started on the new studio space this week- firstly the old carpet pulled up so the floor can be painted. Lots more to do before everything can be moved in; kiln delivery organised, shelving ordered and delivered etc...the list goes on.

Website is now live: Please take a look and see what you think...later on in the month we will add payment details and a booking form for classes. But in the meantime there's lots of information about what will be on offer!  Everything should (hopefully!) be set up by the end of June. Details to follow of the official launch.

The space will be divided up into different areas with my workspace, Chris's and the teaching area. Lots more room, and natural light...
There are lots of other artists, designers and small businesses in the building which is on Beaverhall Rd, Edinburgh.

I have a new email address:, so do get in touch if you would like more detail on the tuition or other services that will be available.
You can also follow us on Facebook:

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Various things

A good week so far...attended a Cultural Enterprise Marketing day on Mon run by Abigail from really informative and pretty full on! 

Really helpful for thinking creatively and practically about your approach to marketing, what is involved etc. I won't go over the whole event as its pretty detailed, but would recommend it for any creative businesses/artists/designers based in Scotland.

New studio is almost ready to move into; should be getting the keys early next week and can start to get shelving and workbenches sorted.
Putting the finishing touches to the new website..this will be ready for a preview soon as well!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Images of new work - 'The Albertan Animal'

 As part of the Craft Insiders marketing/pr service which I'm currently part of ('ve just had some images taken of new work by Shannon Tofts. Please see below...

Have been working on the website and facebook page for the new studio this week...these will be going live soon! There will be details of the services on offer and tuition available during the year. Updates will be posted here, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Enclosed plate diameter 25cm

Group of plates, largest 25cm in diameter

Details of pieces; cut out sections and layered imagery

Rectangular enclosed plate, w. 24cm 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Forthcoming exhibition

Details of an animal themed group show I'll be in, for anyone that's in the area.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Plates and studio update...

I have just finished the last few plates of my current series referencing taxidermy collections in Canada. Should be getting some more photos done soon, in the meantime here's a preview just out of the kiln! That's the last of making work for now, so I can concentrate on my written article and on getting ready for moving.

The lease for the new studio is signed, so while the remaining work is done on the space I can start work on a new website. The studio will be within a larger studio complex at Beaverhall Rd, just off Broughton Road, Edinburgh. Once the name etc. is finalised I'll post up more details. Looking forward to getting settled in, and having my own kiln (currently stored) back in action! Unusually for a ceramic workshop, the space has central heating (!) and plenty of natural light. 

To help towards funding the project, I'm applying for Fund 101 from Enterprise Nation. In order to get the money I would really appreciate your vote...
How this works is: go to the link for my page on their site, register with Enterprise Nation (only takes a minute and they won't send you lots of spam), and then go back to my page and click on the 'vote' button. If you get the page with no image on - just text, double click my name and that will get you to the voting page. If I get enough votes, I get the funding!

Many thanks for your support :)

More studio updates to follow. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Various things...

Details below of the forthcoming open weekend at my studio; the last one I'll be taking part in before moving. I'll have a variety of work for sale, including lots of older pieces reduced!

The search for a suitable building is underway...hoping to view some later today! Was reminded of all the previous assorted studios and locations I've worked in, amazing how adaptable artists are when it comes to workspace. 

So come along to the Pottery during the next couple of months if you can't make it to the open weekend, and you'll be able to pick up a very affordable piece of my work...going to be having a big clear out before moving!

Thursday, 8 March 2012


New enclosed plates just out of the kiln after their third firing. 
These will be included in a couple of different exhibitions later in the year, including at Just Art, Fochabers. Details of this show to come later. 

I'll make a few more plates to complete this series before getting ready to move studio. Starting to view buildings this month now that I have an idea of what will be needed. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Plans for 2012!

A quick update to say that my plans for this year include setting up a new studio. Scary venture, but exciting...! This is still at the planning stage; but will include workspace, teaching space and an open access area for a variety of projects. At the moment I'm working out plans for the classes/workshops, amongst other things. 
As the project develops I'll add updates on the blog, my facebook page and twitter... 


Watch this space!

Friday, 17 February 2012


New images of my current enclosed plate project (photos John McKenzie). 

Working on a series of these, alongside writing about the work and the source material which will be developed into a chapter during the year. This will be in an edited book exploring tourism, travel and art. 

Now just over two years since finishing my M.Phil, I find the combined processes of writing and making suit my practice and way of working. And really, the two aren't that different...