Monday, 28 October 2013

New blog and website

I have recently redeveloped my website-

I also now have a new blog, so all future posts will be added here-

This blog will remain online for now, but for new updates please visit the new blog.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

More new work

Somehow the time has flow by and its been a couple of months since I wrote a blog post...! Studio work has taken over with teaching, admin, the studio range of slip cast pieces, work experience placements and applications. Not to mention the new website which is under way, and hopefully ready to launch soon. We also had a visit recently from the lovely Make Works- as part of their tour of Scottish studios and workshops. 

I have however managed to fit in a little of my own work, so the images below are of pieces at different stages. 

 These lidded jars are heading to Byard Art in Cambridge very soon for a group show. Oct 12- Nov 10.

These bucket forms are ready to go to exhibitions in the next couple of months; will post up some more images once I've got them photographed properly.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Studio open day

Just a short post today with details of our forthcoming open day and studio sale. 

Will have lots of old and new work, and projects-in-progress...There will also be some of our collaborative work for sale. A chance to look around the studios and see behind the scenes...You may meet our work experience students Susan and Scott too! 

Monday, 15 July 2013

Collaboration and Design Market

Back to the studio after a well needed holiday, and we are now getting ready to launch some new collaborative work. 
Alongside the usual one off pieces, I've been working on a more commercial functional range of work with partner Chris Donnelly. This is quite a change for me, as I've focused solely on non functional sculptural work for the last 18 years or so. Although Chris usually creates functional work, this is the first time it has been slip cast. 

Model and mouldmaking

Photos were taken by Alistair Clark @AClark_Photo who is also based at Beaverhall Studios. The cups are approx 9cm in height, the bowls 12cm in diameter.

For this studio range we chose to explore simple clean forms with a small colour palette and abstracted surface patterns. It was important that the work had a strong identity, and that it had a different approach and aesthetic to our usual work. In contrast, this range is intentionally less complex and focuses instead on visual quality and function. Incorporating our combined knowledge and experience of the ceramic vessel, it is intended to be for daily use. The pieces were developed using very different methods to our usual way of working. Models were made in plaster with various forms investigated, and the final forms slip cast in white earthenware. A range of coloured glazes were developed. Patterns were drawn digitally, and are applied through decals. For us both, it has allowed a very different approach to our creative thinking and making. 

One of the things that has become increasingly important as I've become more established is keeping an open mind to other possible approaches and potential projects. So although my regular artwork is increasingly focused, I'm keen to explore other ideas as well and to try something new alongside this.

The new range will be on display for the first time this coming weekend at the Fruitmarket Gallery. Alongside this we will have a couple of pieces of our usual work, and details on forthcoming courses at the studio. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Project continues with work in progress

Most of the studio activity in the last month has been focused on teaching, and running one off workshops for businesses and individuals. We also have two students working with us on a work experience placement. Scott and Susan will be with us over the summer helping around the studio and making their own work; should be a good learning experience! So far lots of slip casting underway as we are developing a range of commercial functional work, much more design led than I normally do so quite a different experience. This will be launched in the summer under the umbrella of Cyan Clayworks. 

In terms of my own artwork, this is continuing to explore taxidermic collections. 
There are still a few lidded jars to finish, with the ones below ready for the transfers to be applied. 

I've also been working on some 3D 'sketches' or maquettes- these are how I start to develop forms initially, once I have the ideas in place and some rough drawings. Have included some images of these below to show something of the the practical developments and insight into the thought processes while creating new work. Its not always apparent when you see finished objects in a gallery how much development work goes before it, from reading to making lengthy notes and developing form and surface through various stages. 

These are deliberately loosely and quickly made; and on a small scale. Always good to have something tangible to work with and use as a basis to develop the final pieces. And by  not worrying about making resolved objects at this stage allows for the ideas to pull together more. These 'bucket' forms are chosen for their banality and 'everyday' nature. Will include more about the content of these in the next post. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Studio one year on

Hard to believe its been a full year since we moved into Beaverhall Studios, and set up Cyan Clayworks. Since then Beaverhall has filled up rapidly with a mix of lovely creative folk. We will hopefully be having another open studio event at some point this year. The new lease is signed for another year, which is a nice feeling...also a good time to reflect on how things have evolved over the last 12 months. 
Although a big commitment and a huge amount of work, it has definitely been worth all the effort. You can't beat the feeling of being in charge of your own business...! The move to setting up as a not-for-profit organisation seemed to really fit the ethos and approach of things at the studio, and is also beneficial in separating my own practice to some extent. 

The lovely lads from Northern Kilns installing the big green kiln...(after taking the door frame off)

..and starting to get thing underway in the studio

The classes are now in full swing, with the latest evening course starting a new block yesterday. There are also a few more short taster sessions coming up, for people to try either handbuilding or throwing for a couple of hours. 
A couple of people come along for individual tuition, and there is also the option for a bespoke one-off workshop for a small group or couple. These have been popular, with some students travelling from Hong Kong, USA and Australia. (Not just to come to do a workshop I should add...) 

Its been great to meet all the different individuals that have come through the doors, with a few returning to work on a more unstructured basis, to practice their throwing or make specific projects. 
And not to forget the students from Edinburgh College of Art:

Some of them will be putting their finished pieces up in the annual Edinburgh College of Art degree show, opening soon.

And finally for anyone interested in an intensive four day ceramics course, we will be running our very first summer school in august. 

More plans underway; this will include student placements and the launch of our new collaborative range of work. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Studio update

Following on from the last post, have included a quick snapshot of some of the most recently fired pieces. 

No particular plans for these pieces yet. I used to make pieces for specific exhibitions, but now I tend to work on a whole project much more slowly over several months, and then exhibit the pieces once appropriate shows come up. Also doing a lot less exhibitions than previous years gives me more time to develop the work in more depth. (Not to mention giving more time to running the studio..!) 

In the last month or so I've been spending time on other peoples work, which has given me time to think about the differences in creating personally driven pieces and creating work that is the product of someone else's idea. With this the focus is purely on craftmanship and communicating someone's intentions- not allowing too much of my own visual language to creep in...As this is not how I've worked in the past its been a really interesting process, and definitely something I would revisit. 
Most of this work will be on show at Edinburgh College of Art soon, so will put some more details and images of the final work later! 
The pots below are one of the projects, with sculpture student Kirsty Jones shadowing me while I made one pot and she made the other. 

So essentially a combination of teaching, collaborating and working to commission. Next stage is glazing...
Also been firing pieces with decals on for other students this week, who are keen to expand the scope of their art or design projects. 
Its encouraging, with the current climate of college department closures, that there are students that are keen to learn more and work with clay or ceramic processes. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Work in progress- different stages

Have included some more images of pieces at different stages of development and making...the first few are of partly or fully built pieces prior to  the application of slip. I occasionally get asked (particularly while teaching) about my reasons for coil building pieces. Which is a pretty valid question, considering there are quicker and less labour intensive ways of making work...
The main reason is really that I enjoy this way of working; the pace of it and the uniqueness of each object (which is my 'craft' side coming through...). By the time you have planned, built and refined the form you've got to know it pretty well. I like this investment of time, particularly in the context of today's fast paced technological developments. 
Not that I'm against these developments; quite the opposite...! But there is still so much scope for making artwork with traditional methods that can reflect contemporary ideas. 

The next stage is brushing on layers of slips to build up the base layer of imagery. I tend not to call it 'decoration', as the drawings are actually the starting point and the main focus of the work. They're an integral part in combination with the form, and not simply added later to enhance the form. For me decoration implies something less substantial (there is a place for it on some work of course where the form is the focus). The layers of colour will create a backdrop for the glazes and then drawings to be added later. At this stage I have a rough idea where the images might go, but make that decision once I'm applying the decals and so creating the final part of the composition. 

And the last couple of the jars fired and glazed. The interiors are left red with a clear glaze. I don't tend to get very excited by glazing I have to say; after many years of doing glaze tests and not using glaze for a long time, I now use commercial brush on glazes. 
The slips are the main source of colour and mark making. 

So once I have my decals back from the printers I'll be applying the drawings to these pieces and they will be finished. I rather like the contrast of this stage. Starting with the more earthy and messy stage of building leads to the development of digital images and the clean application of the decals. 

On a final note; I have some older pieces in a show at a gallery in Hull currently: Blueprint. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

New work for 2013

The year is flying by already...It's been pretty full on in the studio so far with classes and workshops underway, and students from ECA working on different projects from mould making to sculptural objects. There are the beginnings of a range of collaborative functional work with Chris...images to follow at a later date!

'The Contained Animal' 
The lidded jar series is gradually evolving, with some images of finished pieces below.

The project follows on from previous series The Collected Animal and the Albertan Animal. It continues to explore the themes of the taxidermic collection as seen in museums, touristic settings and other locations. Source material was gathered from UK based museums; mainly the National Museum of Scotland and the Natural History Museum, plus a museum in Canterbury. The specifics of the location of the animals are in a way not that significant in the work; it is the notion of being in a collection that is significant. The animals themselves are of interest on many levels. Like with previous projects it’s their specific characteristics that are appealing; fixed in time and place they are no longer evolving or ageing. They are a snapshot of a particular time, a three dimensional photograph in a sense. They evoke (a false) nostalgia of a previous age; a sentiment combined with unease. Our relationships with animals are complex and diverse; our views of the taxidermic animal mixed also. They are ‘cute’, they have  a physical presence, and yet they are simultaneously real and unreal/appealing and repellant. Although the skins are physically stuffed or created over a frame, they are hollow in a sense that they are no longer alive. They are surface texture masquerading as ‘real’, and are transformed to the status of object (and object with status).

Photos by Alistair Clark.