A Ceramic Sculpture Diary
My ceramics practice is one of two halves; I have my slightly makeshift studio at home (it used to be the dining room, and still is when occasion demands) and I go to learn stuff at a large group studio on a Monday night. This means alongside making my smaller pieces at home I also spend time with other people making ceramics of all kinds, and it’s a real social as well as a learning environment. It means we get to see each other’s, and the tutors, work. We are inspired by it and bounce ideas off each other in a supportive atmosphere where we’re all making stuff – whatever it is.
I decided this term – and probably into next – that I’d concentrate on making as large a ceramic sculpture as would fit in the big studio’s kiln, and make my smaller pieces at home where space is limited (kiln and bench top and a my family’s ability at being in a house full of pots at various stages of making). I haven’t made anything really large since the blue bottles of (2018, I think!) and I could feel a real pull to get back to it, that feeling of excitement and tingliness which comes with the crystallisation of an idea you know you must follow!
Inspiration and planning for the sculpture
I’m not sure how long this idea had been fermenting around in my head. I look at natural forms all the time; seed heads, grasses, curves in the landscape, ancient walls overcome by the wild. I love big round pebbles; grey ones with a white quartz streak, creamy ones shot though with red, knobbly flint nodules fresh out of the cliff face and “hagstones” most of all – I’ve only ever found a couple of these -When I do find them it’s the ones that, as Alex Woodcock notes in the article linked above “look like miniature sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, […] worn by the sea into smooth ellipsoids, the hole offset in a pleasing asymmetry” that I want to keep.
My love of Barbara Hepworth’s art, and my lack of success at finding many of these holed stones – I’ll have to start going to the right kind of beaches more often – made me want to build a huge ceramic sculpture with a Hepworth-esq hole in it. Not only with a hole – or holes – but a sculpture with something inside the hole. Like the germ of a seed, the yolk of an egg. Something that would make an observer look twice, to draw them in and look. I started to call it ‘The Podling’.
A sketch, a model and clay choice
I did a sketch, just one – I’m not a ‘drawer outer’, I like to get my hands on the clay as soon as I can, I can’t properly imagine a thing in 3D on a 2D page. With this in mind, after the very sketchy sketch, I made a little clay model of what I was vaguely heading towards, in the full knowledge that this is going to change as I go along and find out what the clay wants to do as I build.
The building will be done using coils, one of my favourite hand-building techniques, from clay with lots of crank in it to better hold its structure, crank is super strong, reasonably warp-proof and doesn;t shrink much. I’m using Scarva Earthstone Crank for the outside of the sculpture and Terracotta Crank for the inside.
That’s the start! I hope you’ll follow along with this process, If I know you’re there dear reader, I’ll feel duty bound to keep this diary going. I’m hoping it will be highs rather than lows, though with clay you never can tell. After all, even Grayson Perry’s sculptures sometimes crack in the kiln.