Into the Fold – Harriet McCarmick

At this week’s ‘Into the Fold’ lectures, a recent MA Ceramics graduate presented her Degree work, future plans, Fireworks studios and participation at exhibition at ‘Made in Roath’

Harriet McCarmick is interested in investigation and using natural elements such as deer antlers, legs, feathers; as well as taxidermy, and translating all of this into ceramics, through abstracted forms.
These then acquire metamorphic, and narrative qualities – with help of using colour, shape, position and light.
Through this she questions how objects are perceived in space, and impact on the visual connections with natural world.

2D, sketchbook work was always important to her, and in MA, colour starts to creep into her work.20151016_12381320151016_124111
She is creating cast for all her objects, and casting using stained slip, never any glaze, but fires them slightly higher for her distinctive finish.

Harriet’s career in ceramics started when she missed her interview for Fine Art course, and came to the BA Ceramics at CSAD instead. She then stayed for her MA and now she is part of the Graduate Residency at the Fireworks Clay Studios in Cardiff.
Exhibiting her MA work in September, she is trying to exhibit as much as possible, setting up a gallery with other MA graduates at the Made in Roath festival.
Her ambition is PHD and possibly lecturing in the future, which I hope will be a success as I found her lecture and work very captivating.

It’s a great inspiration listening to a successful and interesting recent graduate, with a such great body of work, sketchbook pages and explorational journey.


A visual research into shapes


While undergoing intense workshop into the basics of throwing and turning in the first term, I started to lean to and try to repeat some similar shapes in particular – trapezoid, a cooling tower shape or a hyperboloid structure.

To aid and direct the objects I am producing during the first term’s project, I’m researching work of Bernd (20.08.1931-22.06.2007) and Hilla Becher (2.09.1934-10.10.2015); as well as looking at other images, and my drawings emerging from them.

From series - Cooling towers, Germany 1964-1993 by Bernd and Hilla Becher
From series – Cooling towers, Germany
1964-1993 by Bernd and Hilla Becher

Bernd and Hilla Becher are an artist duo documenting German’s disappearing industrial architecture in 1959.
Their work is presenting engineer’s structures, like sculptures – monuments of strength and stability; they are sincere and objective-less: documenting and capturing the present, which can disappear (and which did – disassembly and moving factories and industries to Asia).

Like a technical drawing, showing the great skills in photograph-making, they are trying to capture the image with no distortion, and brimming with information.
That’s why their photographs are sometimes criticised as cold and ‘inartistic’, especially in the time when art photographers wanted their pictures with an effect – high contrast, soft focus, etc.

Bernd and Hilla Becher Gas-holders Germany, Belgium, France, Britain, USA, 1966–93 Each 40 x 30 cm
Bernd and Hilla Becher Winding towers Germany, Belgium, France, 1965–98 Each 40 x 30 cm











Cooling Towers, 1983 Gelatin silver prints Twelve parts, each: 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm) Gerald S. Elliott Collection 1995.31.a–l



Cooling tower ink sketchWinding tower ink sketchCooling tower ink sketch

Water tower ink sketchCooling tower ink sketch

I created a number of quick sketches from these photographs, looking at the overall shape and pattern structure within.
I want these to direct my work into similar shapes, patterns and concepts.
As the photographs being a sincere documentation of present mastery, my work will be at the end of this first brief a honest snapshot of my development and mastery of the craft.


The ideas of stability and the present also interest me, as well as the historical significance of moving most of the industry from Europe to Asia and how the economic changes impacted today’s population of the West.



thrown-3 thrown-5thrown-4These are my first thrown objects this term, in Ash White, turned and most of them lightly burnished or scratched.
They can stack up to create a new structure, but they doesn’t fit well.
I do treat them as first experimentations, practice maquettes and first stages in my development of both practice and concept.
I want to be more consistent in the shape, to translate the stability and industrial power. The stacking up element to create new sculptural pieces from them, securely fitting into each other. And the overall quality of the object: cleaner finish, mostly with the rim; walls consistency and overall balance of the weight.
In the near future I will look at surface decoration: printing, scratching, colour, glazes, pattern, metal features.

  Information and photographs drawn from:

Slab Building – Building a Sagger

On our Workshop day last Monday, we were introduced to the basic techniques of Slab Building by our wonderful Technical Demonstrator Matt Thompson. By the task of building a sagger for our future combustable and experimental firing, we acquire the essential skills through practice.

The session covered all the basics of slab building techniques, of which I was already aware of, but it was good to recap on them.slab
I have just finished reading book from our required reading list – Slab techniques by Jim Robinson and Ian Marsh, so I was very keen to test it in practice.


I had some issues with planning my time and started making my sagger a bit later, rushing it and therefore the result is of slightly decreased quality than anticipated. Mostly in the absence of a proper lid. However, that shouldn’t be a big problem as the lid needs to have some air holes, which my one has sufficiently enough around the edges.

I went for a simple box shape, using hand rolled slabs.

Each side is decorated with my exploration of patterns linked to my research into industrial functional architecture.
I’m very fond of the geometrical, triangular patterns; I’m just afraid how will I be able to translate them into a thrown piece.

Jen Hawthorn – Making Sculpturaly, Building Large

This Wednesday it was the first lecture of the Vicarious Wednesday series, where students and practitioners share their techniques with others through life demonstration of their skills.


Spending some time in Sweden in her second year of BA Ceramics, Jennifer learned a technique, an adapted coil building for a large structures.
The technique involves pressing a coil inside and stretch/massage the outer wall up and in, fusing with the inside coil. Going too thin and fast might be a problem, but essentially this technique allows building of a large sculptures and structures relatively fast.
When not smoothed, the coils make an interesting, layered pattern.
In her workshop stretched over several weeks in Sweden, they produced a very large artefacts in a gallery space, from unfired clay, just to be thrown down and recycled again. However, this process was rather enriching in learning and letting go of own creations.
Jennifer tried to create a large scale bowl with this techniques, but even with strong dedication, the walls kept falling. Creating special supports/scaffoldings with the clay and same techniques, gave the bowl original characteristics, but haven’t fixed the problem fully.
The final piece, alongside the supported bowl, was an abstract form, almost as a resting creature you can lean on and relax with.

It was great to see fellow students of BA Ceramics try and present their new skills in front of others. Getting practice at presenting, confidence, and inspiration for others, creating a great community feel within the studio.


We are asked to reflect on our academic progress in a form of blog posts, and as an account of our thinking during the Keynote lectures and study group seminars.

This will help me with my reflection on the ideas consumed during Constellation sessions, and possibly link them to my Subject or Field practice.
I want it to be a space for me to agree or disagree with the arguments; or look at them more deeply and expand on them.
I hope this reflection will help me assess my strengths and weaknesses as a learner and critical thinker, and deepen my critical thinking, knowledge in art and philosophy, and help me become a better independent learner and thinker.

But what is Constellation anyway?

“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson

It is the theoretical aspect (module) of my Bachelor of Arts degree in Ceramics.
It is an opportunity for me to contextualise my practice as an artist and designer, and place my own work in relation to wider theoretical concepts and debate.
I hope it will expand and raise my ability to look and reflect on my ideas and practice critically.