Pergola et cetera

Bridging my ceramic practice with gardening.
Exploring features, terms, and processes.


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Joining the “Beginning Approaches” project with Masters, I took another opportunity for a more site specific project, to further explore ideas in my making.
Seeing huge number of polystyrene blocks being thrown away in the skip destined for eternal life on a landfill, I had to hoard a number of them to help me build big quickly.
For a while I had the urge to build higher and bigger and faster (since the workshop in G39 making rocks), and most importantlyI had the urge to build a pergola. As a classical garden feature, it has interesting connotations not only as a support and framework for growth, mostly for climbing or trailing plants. The word comes from the meaning of ‘coming or going forward’, as well as an ‘projecting roof or extension of roof’, creating an invitation and shelter for visitor or life; or creating a space within? A space in-between?

Balancing writing dissertation for assessment; I only had a few hour so build the pergola, so a quick sketch, grab of some wooden sticks and saw from a workshop, and a tall flimsy structure was erected. I definitely need to work on my skills (mostly structural) when working with block of polystyrene, but I think I want to refine it, as I prefer it to the more lengthly, time and material consuming chicken wire and papier-mâché.


I explored nineteen different terms/words that a hypothetical ‘Ceramic Gardener’ would use. I hope they will be able to guide me in my processes as well as become a language to talk about my art.

Deciduous Bolting Broadcast Cloche Cordon Cross-pollination Cultivate Fertilise Germination Grafting Haulm Mulch Pergola Planting Pollination Propagate Prune Rake Rhizome Sap

My main approach in building is kind of skin grafting – joining clay slabs slapped on my palm by pinching and smoothing them together. The final form retains the texture from my palm – bulging veins travelling through the surface, only to be interrupted by delicate circular imprints of my fingers as I pinch the slabs together, pushing the vein like lines underneath.

Another approach I enjoy is making coils by controlled squeezing of the clay in my fists. It produces rather uneven coils but full of tension, movement, with regular texture and angulations created by my palm’s wrinkles and fingers. The result looks a branch like, however others mentioned fingers themselves or bones even. They are perfect to cut with pruning shears!

I feel I need to have more time to be playful and diversities my approaches interacting with clay, as gardening is not just about one process. Tutorial with Duncan made it even more clear, with good suggestion of using a throwing wheel too, and looking at primary sources too.

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The Growing Exhibition at InkSpot for Made in Roath, Cardiff

A week of site specific building, challenging my skills and technique for hand building.
Organising and invigilating an exhibition as part of a local, contemporary arts festival.


We had an amazing opportunity, a seed planted by Natasha’s interaction with Made in Roath and Potclays, to participate at this year’s festival of local arts – Made in Roath.

My work from last year fitted best in the staircase area, not only due to not fitting in the cabinets, but the transitory nature of the space.
At the end I decided to build in there too due to the space being more outdoor than indoor, or something in between, and a space that needed some cultivation.

A small gap next to the stairs was really the only safe, unused space to build on, after clearing some stuff away. I kept a small table without the top in there, to give me some instant hight to the build as well as a shape, a seedling to start with. The shape was really influenced by the awkward space and an object already present. As it creeped through the site, it changed; adapted and explored the environment with the maker and the viewer.

We haven’t had many visitors over the week, and due to the awkward position of my live build and small sculptures, many people missed it.
However, when I was building there I could welcome straight away all the visitors coming, the kids loved how the live build looked like a horse, and few of my small sculptures/glaze test pieces have been stolen (I’m taking it as a compliment).

 

Colour in Slips technically

Starting with Slip technical, exploring colours in slips with Morgan alongside Field module.


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I started with a search across library books and the internet for base, white slip recipes of which we mixed 7.

We applied them on terracotta and White Saint Thomas tiles in 3 various layers fired to EW and SW temperatures, half glazed. Also fired on its own.
The blobs of slip were created by piping about 20ml of the individual slips onto plaster bat and gently smearing them. However, they proved extremely fragile after drying, some of them quickly cracking in the process of drying. Anyway, the colour was the same as 3 coats on the tiles; on the other hand, we wanted the blobs of slips for more interesting and easier presentation of our outcomes, giving us possibility to use them to create an installation piece.

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The experiment allowed us to see that the simple recipe used in our glaze room: 50/50 of Ball and China clay has the best result in producing white slip in EW temperature, meanwhile using Porcelain powder slip is whitest for SW temperature.

IMG_7383Morgan’s temperature test showed us the colour changes in number of oxides and staines in EW and SW temperature.
Using the chosen 50/50 slip he stained it with Red, Yellow, Purple and Synthetic Iron Oxides, as well as Coral stain and Chrome Oxide.
Half glazed, they reveal a dramatic change in colour.
This test made us stick with EW temperatures, with added bonus of reducing cost and environmental impacts, but being aware of increased fragility of EW products.

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To further see the colour response of each slip recipe, we added 10% of Yellow stain to each recipe, bisque fired and half glazed at EW temperature, on terracotta tiles.
Most of them look the same, except 1 weird recipe that melts on SW.

These experiments gave us really just the starting point, establishing processes and testing techniques, as well as backing up choice for base slip and temperature.
Rigorous testing of combinations of stains and oxides.

We want to be able to produce a specific colour pallet in specific shades, similar to Jin Eui Kim’s carefully mixed tonal range of his engobes, to create an illusion of curves and voids. ltvs-jineuikim-5.jpg

Sculpting

I wanted to extend my interest and experience in sculpture by sneaking into 2 workshops by incredible Claire Curneen, looking into figurative clay forms.


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In her workshop into building heads, she could talk so beautifully about the expressive and representational forms we were asked to crate. Lose ourselves and stop thinking about realism.
She also directed us to acknowledge the natural properties of the clay and how we can use it for our advantage, not needing to faff and smooth and play with the surface unnecessarily.

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With slip we could add another layer and narrative into the figure, with simple sgraffito and layering colours. Thinking about simple feeling, narrative, and trying to translate it onto the figure.

I created this almost tree trunk looking face, thinking about my autumnal bicycle ride back home from university, through a wast park with an allay of trees.

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Another demonstration I managed to catch was her never work of tree like/figure like forms.
It is always so fascinating to observe her ways of handling clay, and her ideas translated through it into the sculptures.

I want to explore and extend my main Subject and Field through sculpture in some ways, to inform even my functional practice, and exploration of the public space.

Progress on throwing & turning skills

Throwing on and off for about 2 years, I really want to extend and perfect my skills in throwing and turning vessels in this first year project.


throwing with 1kg ball of cal

These are my latest trials in throwing with a larger, 1kg ball of clay of White St Thomas.

By this point, I found centring and pulling up the walls relatively easy, as well as centring and turning leather hard vessels.
Being so scared turning my pots before and always thinking how impossibly hard it is; by now I must say I am looking forward to turn every single vessel I throw on the wheel.
However, there was significant collapsing and failing when adapting the shape of a larger cylinder, showing me that I need plenty more practice.


trying to throw identical cups
That was after setting a small challenge of producing number of identical cups
from 400g of Ash White. Drawing the design and then using a ruler to measure the width and hight while throwing, I managed to produce 9 reasonably same cups.

 

turningturning
This exercise was great to limit myself into a one, slightly inward curved shape, and repeat it over and over; focusing my skill to develop in areas important when throwing: controlling the hight, width, thickness of the walls, curvature, etc.

However, I still feel that I don’t have full control in ensuring the shape and size is identical, therefore I shall repeat this challenge again to be more consistent in my work.

I also turned each cup to finally learn it, therefore the result was always slightly different, not really limiting myself but rather just play and get practice in the pure timing of the leather hard stage and centring and not cutting through the walls or bases.



extruded handle
I pulled handlealso tried to apply handles onto the cups. First pulling a handle, which proved to be rather tricky, but after a few attempts the result was acceptable.

Extrusion
Nevertheless, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the result; so I touched the extruder for the first time.
The result was even less satisfying, with the extruder disk providing too thick handles for my cups.
However, the immediacy and industrial, like a pipe or cable look was desirable, so I’ll have to look at producing my own extruder plates later.

Here are my earliest thrown object from 500g balls of Ash White and Terracotta at the beginning of this year. Always going for as thin and light walls as possible, but still rather modern, industrial and rather minimalistic look.

In the very near future I have to look more on functionality of my vessels. In their shapes as well as features such as handles, spouts and lids.
earlier throwing practice earlier throwing pieces