Thursday, 28 February 2013

potty for pots!

Mud, glorious mud! I’ve been rediscovering the pleasure of working with clay and successfully throwing my first ever pots in the process. Why? How? It happened like this... I was teaching on the 3D Design course at Camberwell College, speaking to Grace, a final year student who has been working on a series of pots with wooden handles pierced through them and secured with leather and bark lashings. Lovely work! I told her I’d never been able to successfully throw anything on a potter’s wheel.  My last failed attempts were some 20 years ago at least, after which I gave up. After our chat I found myself in the ceramics workshop and decided, rather suddenly but with determination, to leave my (hurt) pride behind and have fresh go at the wheel. These are the results, and I now officially have the bug for mud!

I lost the base of my third throw after badly damaging it when sliding it off the wheel - a tricky manoeuvre, especially when you like throwing ‘wet’ like I do. Rather than recycling the clay, I removed the base completely and squashed the uneven rim to form an oval, then dipped it in slip and transparent glaze.

This did prompt a few comments in the ceramics room. What use is a pot without a base? Well, my feeling is if it’s good enough to look at, that is purpose enough for me! Besides, with a base each, how would these three fit so snuggly together? Apart from loving wrestling with mud, all this has reminded me of an old passion of mine, the collection of pots, bottles and vases painted by Giorgio Morandi. So, these first ever pots of mine are my own private homage to him, with thanks to Grace as well of course.

Monday, 18 February 2013

the ABC of architecture

the birth of architecture - wattle without the daub

A winter bug prevented me from going coppicing at The Ranges in Shepperton a few Sundays ago.  Big shame! It was a beautiful day, and I had big plans too!  On my last visit I busied myself with cutting the last couple of year’s growth of Salix vinimalis with other volunteers.  Sally Fletcher who owns the land and runs the project informed me on that occasion she planted around 20.000 willlow cuttings on the site 12 years ago, and this is what it looks like now below after annual coppicing.

During that cutting session I planted my own willow from the freshly cut prunings  - see top picture.  I had in mind the first buildings ever made, essentially baskets - sticks woven around stakes in the ground to create pens. The architect and historian Gottfried Semper in his essay ‘the four elements of architecture’ considered the relationship between weaving, textile and architecture, noting that the first architectural structures made by man defined space for the purpose of defence and protection.  Working this ancient craft I laid the foundation for a circular 'yurt' shaped construction, with the live plant standing where the hearth would be, my own personal take on the circle as a symbol of unity, wholeness and the infinite.

Going to The Ranges again would have given me the opportunity to add to the single miniature ‘dwelling’ and possibly added to it towards the making of a small hamlet.  Oh well, chose remise as they say!  I shan’t be leaving it too long though as spring is near approaching and the plants will need this time to root before going into leaf if they are to grow into healthy specimens.  I am a novice at growing willow but this much I know! I’ll keep you posted shortly on future willow works.  In the meanwhile, this is to be remembered:

A is for architecture
B is for basketry
C is for coppicing

The three practices seem indeed to have been related since the origin of time.