Carving in wood seemed a natural extension to my ceramics despite being a completely different medium.
Using power carving tools, I sketch freely on the wood surface, making relief patterns before carving areas of depth. After the first rough cut, I continue to refine the design, then sand the relief surface areas, then refine again.
The smell of the cypress adds extra enjoyment to the process, lasting well after installment. As the wood ages, it turns a silvery grey colour on the north face towards the sun.
Artworks that ask to be touched…
I enjoy making functional ceramics as I get so much pleasure from using those made by others in my daily life. Eating or drinking from a work of art gives everyday actions a different perspective. And the choice of plate, mug etc depends on your mood.
For some, using hand made functional ceramics is not always an easy decision, as we are so used to the factory made products that are made to be perfect – each one a clone of the next, perfectly matching and sterile. Although I make sets of things, each one has its own identity and characteristics – like people.
When working in the studio, I try to make things with minimal outside help – that is to use my man-power wherever possible. I use a kick wheel (powered by myself) I mix my own glazes, and I ﬁre in a wood-ﬁred catenery arch kiln (which I built myself), using wood from our property.
We feed the kiln for about 36 hours, bringing the temperature up to over 1300°c. The ash and ﬂame from the burning wood kisses the clay, giving each piece an individual ﬁnish and sometimes making its own glaze – with ﬂashes of colour, shine and texture.
Look closely and you see something to catch the light, the shadow, the eye – a new experience whenever the light changes. Look underneath to see the path of the flame on bare clay.
The marks made on my ceramics are a response to the shapes and patterns made by light and shadow in nature – especially the extremes of early morning and late evening around my studio.
My work is based around the energy produced by people and their relationships with their surroundings and with each other.
Each of the wheel thrown balls is a person, showing their personality and response to different situations. We have our shiny, bright, colourful side which comes out when we are with people we don’t know very well – when we want to make an impression. Then there is another quieter, more interesting side for when we are with those that we love and know well.
They are arranged in groupings which reflect some of the different situations we find ourselves in – home, work and play.
Some of the balls are large and loud. Others are quiet, subtle yet complex, and interesting when you get to know them better. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – and colours. Each one is an individual.
The marks I make on these pieces is a response to the early morning and late evening light that shines through the trees. The light flows through, leaving strong shadows and patterns on anything it touches, which is echoed in the wood firing process.
During firing in the kiln, flame flows through gaps and around objects – often showing the path of the flame as it travels. The ash collects in or on the edge of the indentations – as light does on objects in its path.
In each sculpture, the relationship of each piece to another is important, as I feel we all influence each other to some extent – a passing meeting or a relationship may leave a lasting impression – this could be a shadow or a ray of light.
Why choose woodfiring?
My background is in graphic design – noted for its straight lines and clean edges – and tailored to a specific end result. In ceramics I am moving away from this to become more fluid and spontaneous.
To a certain extent, when working with clay, we need to be in control. We shape the clay, decorate and finish it, and place it carefully in the kiln with an end result in our minds. Then when we fire with a natural source such as wood, we have to relinquish that control – letting nature take over, creating its own effects and surprising us with the life it brings. The satisfaction of wood firing is complete – letting go of our domination over nature, and accepting what it throws back out to you. With joy.
The finishes I am looking for in my work could not be fired in any other way. I am looking for different finishes on every side of the pieces – showing where the ash has dropped and where the flame has left its mark, This creates a different mood on every side of each piece, depending on the way it is viewed, and by whom.