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I studied pottery at A level and subsequently spent time in a French pottery which inspired me to attend art school in the 1970s. I studied sculpture for a year before going on to graduate in Theatre Design at Wimbledon School of Art. My early career was designing and set decorating in theatre, film, and television. I subsequently turned my attention to garden design and have been a practicing garden designer for 20 years, winning several awards for my designs including a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2002. Now, I find it extremely satisfying to have come full circle and returned to ceramics.
I make tactile, zoomorphic pieces. My influences range from the ancient ceramics of Peru, the Far East and especially Amlash pottery from Iran dating from the Iron Age. Amlash ceramics are vessels which are predominantly animal and bird forms believed to have been for ceremonial use. They have a naïve charm and simplicity that gives them a timeless quality.
I primarily produce unglazed stoneware sculptural pieces. Each one takes several days to complete as the clay body must dry to the right consistency for modelling and burnishing. Often, the eventual form is dictated by the feel of the clay in my hands. The texture of the clay and the organic emergence of the form is a highly satisfying experience. My personal connection to the work gives each piece meaning and I endeavour to instill the result with its own individual personality. I derive great satisfaction from knowing that I am continuing a tradition that has been in existence for thousands of years: forming an object from mud and baking it in a fire.
The archaeological feel of my work is continued in the surface decoration. I burnish each piece to a soft sheen, before allowing it to dry, and applying several coats of terra sigillata (a fine suspension of clay particles). The work is then fired in an electric kiln to make it durable before being exposed to flames, smoke and intense heat. Finally, I coat the piece with ferric chloride, or sprinkle it with copper sulphate, salt and organic materials, before firing in a pit, bonfire or metal dustbin filled with combustible materials. Once this firing is completed the work is cleaned and polished to restore its integral colour and sheen and make it highly tactile.
The second firing is an exciting event and takes place in woodland in the Hampshire countryside. As I am working outdoors, I am constrained by the weather and must adjust my firings to suit accordingly. I find this primitive low-tech approach and my immersion in nature highly fulfilling.
The final patina is a combination of intention and chance as I relinquish much control to the flames and smoke, not to mention the weather! Fire is such a primeval force and its reaction to the clay is satisfyingly intuitive, in sharp contrast to mass produced items in our everyday life. As a result, each piece is unique, because it would be impossible to create another with the exact same colouration.
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