Thursday, March 6, 2014

What’s going on?  Heaps darl! – for everyone but me, or so it seems.  I am rendered almost useless by a lingering shoulder injury, I can handle that but the fact it has prevented my making new work in the past year is eating me up.  I got a commission of porcelain replica ammonite fossils sorted easily but it wasn’t anyway challenging.

Note: the highlighted text below indicates there is a link to follow if you click on the text.

Teaching newcomers to throw on Saturday mornings is such fun, (I am very careful with my shoulder) I have a wheel throwing class at CIT and by week two they were producing what I call ‘round stuff’.  They’re whooshing past wedging and centering challenges, rapidly into making actual pots and are so proud of them.  Giving up a Saturday morning for clay shows their dedication.  Week two - round things! I can’t say I was that on target at the beginning of my own clay career.  I credit Greg Daly and Janet DeBoos at ANU for teaching me the common errors we make when throwing and how to avoid them. I’m told my way of teaching is very technical. I observe what they are doing and guide around whatever hiccup is preventing their success.  Next week we will cover trimming and maybe a little joining.  I’d love to see them take off with making pots to join together.  CIT is a brilliant venue for classes in clay.  All the while we work alongside Warwick Palmateer as artist in residence in the CIT studio making very large pots for a future exhibition.  It is truly inspiring. 

My Monday evening class at Perth Studio Potters are a lovely group and voracious for information.  I’ve been squeezing in some mini tutorials on some surface treatments and print techniques.  It is much easier to do with a small class.  I’m kicking myself to be missing Bernard Kerr’s upcoming Morphology workshop at PSP Cottesloe on 29th & 30th March which I’m sure will be hugely rewarding for the lucky participants.  

Tonight I go to a CAAWA (Ceramic Arts Association of WA) study group talk given by CJ Jilek.  I’ve blogged about CJ, she is just lovely and her imagination and capability makes me want to never stop trying stuff out.  I can’t wait for her talk, then tomorrow night there’s a lecture by Award Winning Danish ceramist Helle Lund Hansen at the absolutely wonderful school The Clay House in North Fremantle (where CJ Jilek and Tony Wise are currently Artists in Residence. 

CAAWA's POTober 2014 is well and truly on the cards and has a very cool lineup.  I still haven't caught up enough to write up the one two years ago.  This is a teaser, I’ll tell you more next time.

But what got me back blogging and blithering was looking at Andrea Vinkovic's blog today.  WOW! My way of doing clay work is not remotely technical compared with the precision planning and execution of a large work by Andrea.  Her current work is remarkable in the mathematics and precision needed to create a Geodesic Dome in clay.  Subscribe to her blog to follow this amazing journey, she positively thrives on such a challenge and documents it in detail on  I adore all the processes involved in clay, models, moulds, slips, glazes, firing etc okay not the pug milling so much – but her work is all of that  - on steroids.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

PRINT AND CLAY SYMPOSIUM, ANU, Canberra September 2013

If you subscribe to my blog and read it regularly, then you'll know my posts are infrequent and usually pretty long.  I hope you enjoy them, your comments are always welcome.

I never paused to consider what a symposium is, until I'd been to one.  One definition says it is a drinking session after a feast.  Well in that sense, I have been to multiple symposia in my happy youth. Note the flash use of the plural to show that I actually listened once or twice in Latin class. Ignore the fact I did Latin tells a lot about my age.
The meaning more true to my interpretation is that it is a gathering of like minded people with a shared interest, presenting papers and hosting in-depth discussions on related topics.  That's closer to my experience recently at ANU Ceramics Studio's Print and Clay Symposium.
I heard about it on the ANU Ceramics Studio Facebook page and booked in like a shot.
Head of Workshop Greg Daly hosted the event with support from Joanne Searle and we were treated to talks and demonstrations by Janet deBoos, Anita McIntyre, Petra Svoboda, Kevin Petrie (UK), Stephen Dixon (UK) and Suzanne Wolfe (USA).
A lot but not all of the emphasis covered on-glaze decoration ie the use of china paint or decals, and production of decals.
Suzanne Wolfe
I like Suzanne's Work in particular, it is quirky and fun, vintage and cool - all the things I like, but mostly - it is very well done, plus, she's an unfazable, generous, humorous person who loves to share the enthusiasm and techniques.  Actually I think I just described all the demonstrators at ANU for the Symposium. These images are a selection from the exhibition of work generated throughout the symposium.

Each presenter had a volunteer 'assistant' on hand to pass the tools or materials, or wash screens as needed, they worked hard and were upbeat and fun.  Anita McIntyre demo'd her reverse inlay technique, showed how she achieves her eclectic freestyle surfaces using a range of ways of working, from slip on plaster methods to silkscreened maps.  If you click on her name above (that is why it is a different colour) it will take you to her handsome website which explains her profound interest in the Australian landscape and areas such as the Brindabella ranges and North West Kimberley's, areas which which affect her in a spiritual manner, and this shows in her work.  She combines
paper porcelain, monoprint, drawing, screen prints, terra sigillata to wonderful effect.  You wouldn't normally group those techniques together, porcelain and terra sigillata - really?  She manages to use the hot orangey ochres from her terra sig to convey the colour and light of the australian landscape. The screenprinting is used to attain the fine detail found in historical old maps.  Here she is, assistant beside her, laying slab after slab of soft porcelain clay down onto a prepared layer of porcelain slip on a plaster slab, to pick up all the printing and inlay she's previously worked into the porcelain layer. It is a palette I
love.  Images of Anita in action at ANU by Elaine Bradley, Images of Works by Anita McIntyre at Beaver Galleries courtesy of Beaver Galleries, Canberra   

Land Fish Anita McIntyre @ Beaver Galleries
Land Fish Anita McIntyre @ Beaver Galleries
Moths, Anita McIntyre @ Beaver Galleries
Pods, Anita McIntyre @ Beaver Galleries
Settled, Anita McIntyre @ Beaver Galleries
Weereewa vessel No.1, Anita McIntyre @ Beaver Galleries

Kevin Petrie was such a bonus to have on board at the Symposium.  He has written two books on image transfer, onto glass and onto ceramics and unsurprisingly he is Professor of Glass and Ceramics at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland (UK). His path is interesting, he studied Illustration  at the University of Westminster and Ceramics and Glass MA at the Royal College of Art. He holds a PhD from the Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, Bristol. His focus is new approaches to the application of imagery to ceramics and glass. His artwork has focused on landscape and recently explores how direct drawing can be translated into lasting forms. A marriage of one's key interests - how fulfilling is that?  He showed us methods of non solvent based materials for onglaze decal printing.  I'd guess most of us who work or dabble in printing on clay rarely get into a real printing facilitity but we had access to the ANU print workshop where he made a series of decals, getting the audience to take turns and later applying the resultant work.  It must be tiresome to be made spell out and display the labels of the buckets of materials and the suppliers websites, but he handled it all with a smile.  I have both his books, but I found a nice little PDF link of a talk he has given on image transfer to glass which may inspire you.   

I'll try to tell you more next week.
Now I am popping over to the Mud Colony of clay bloggers to see what they've been up to.  Once more I blog and realise I haven't said anything about what I have been making. I'll do a quick extra post on that in a few mins.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Serpentine Historical Society Tiles

I don't often wander far from home in Fremantle, Western Australia but I believe I will have to shortly to see the installation of some tiles I helped create last week. Rob Ewing of the Serpentine Historical Society had asked me about transferring some historical photographic images from their collection, onto some tiles to go into an outdoor installation.  I had recently done something similar to recreate Joan Campbell's tile installation on Bather's Beach Fremantle, the text and images on which explained and celebrated the diverse history of the use of that area.  History is fascinating to me.  Living in a place that was colonised by white settlers and that has evolved over the decades into what I see today is very rewarding. Every old building, every street name - matters.  The knowledge that a hundred years before, other people walked along the same street, turned the same corner, used the same rooms in very different times and lives is something that captivates me.  What was the room that is my studio in the Old Customs House, in Phillimore Street, Fremantle used for, who spent their working days in it and doing what?  While I work there, I ponder this.
Turner family 1857
Serpentine Bridge School, Circa 1900
Serpentine Bridge School, 1936
So when Rob sent me the images of old adverts from local newspapers and photographs of first settlers in the Serpentine area I was enchanted, as was my husband Henry.  As a job, there is not a lot of creativity involved, it was more a technical challenge, it was tricky getting those big decals onto the tiles and aligned correctly. I arranged for the images to be generated into quality digital decals, then I applied them to floor tiles.  They were fiddly, some were even recalcitrant - but we got there.  After 64 of them I was pretty over the novelty of the task and I laid them out to dry slowly, that is one aspect I never rush as being hasty usually comes back to bite.

decal'd tiles, drying before firing.
On the first kilnload I woke early feeling absolutely fraught that something might have gone wrong (it didn't of course) and had to make myself wait till the kiln was cool enough to crack open to see the 25 tiles inside.  I couldn't see a thing as they were laid on multiple closely packed kilnshelves with to narrow a gap to see in.  So I closed the door and walked away.  It took three kilnloads to get them all done in my trusty KilnsWest kiln (the one that took four men to get into place in a previous post).  The tiles were beautiful.  Can boring old beige floor tiles be beautiful?  Well the fired result of the images on the glazed surface and the fluxed coating over the images had fired to a glossy uniform finish.  The colour of the prints was a warm chocolate or dark sepia shade. So, many former Serpentine dwellers are now immortalised on those tiles, the farmers, the draymen, the motley groups of school children, the kids on their bikes outside the shops, the local buses, the local businesses, the bakers, the events.  I got really fond of the people in those pictures.  Only yesterday we were at a wedding in very old church similar to one on one of my tiles.  In fact the most recent things I've made with clay were bowls and tokens for the wedding party. Now I love modern design and architecture but a place that has been inhabited or used by generation after generation takes on a special feeling and sense of place.  So I think what I am saying is that I feel privileged to have been a part of that job for Serpentine.
Now please pop over to the Mud Colony of clay bloggers to see what they've been up to, and I wonder if they know about Sandra Black's new blog?
Decals and completed tiles.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Even the biggest party animal knows that some nights you must stay home to wash your hair.  Balance in life – where the hell do you find it?  I’m no party animal and I’ve never mastered juggling but this is my current struggle, work, family, health, fun, friends, food, laundry and walking the dog.  I feel like I am failing at most of the above, yet I never stop trying.  This weekend I’ve been discussing image transfer materials, mutual friends and catching up in Canberra next weekend with Anna Nangle (Chicos) 
Sharon O'Donnell and Anna Chicos with Anna's porcelain
Another ANU clay pal Vicki Passlow visiting from NSW dined here last night and told me of her very exciting new directions in her work.  I cannot wait to meet Milena Salustio next weekend and who know what other friends at next weekend’s ANU hosted Printand Clay Symposium back at the old Alma Mater, ANU Canberra.  We are all few years down the line from graduating and it feels great to catch up on the pals now and then. Meanwhile in Perth I have 1000 things to do before I get into my studio and do some throwing.  I'm on a mission.  I’ve been too busy tech-ing and teaching lately to focus on my own practice. This is purgatory. Blogging is my answer for keeping myself accountable, networking, sharing, making new friends and most of all, documenting my own work and that of others. See Carole Epp’s blog Musing about Mud to see all that done par excellence!  Carole is a catalyst in the clay universe for many potters and clay artists. 

Andrea Vinkovic - Arch 21
My friend and co-worker Andrea Vinkovic is a new blogger and and I'm so excited that we’ll be hearing more of the why and the how of her diverse clay work. I don’t know anyone who makes stuff like Andrea does, or anyone who gets as much done as she does come to that.  

I see blogging as slowing down a little to ‘smell the roses’ and renew the enjoyment of our chosen m├ętier.  It is a pity BLOGGING sounds so much like ‘Bragging’, the difference is enormous. Well, what a nerve and ego to want to share our enthusiasm for clay, what makes us think anyone would want to read what we have to say?  Plenty of people do, the proof is in the pudding!  Just click onto Mud Colony Blog which is a haven for clay bloggers to see the energy and diversity in our little creative underworld.
I was at Fleur Schell’s ‘The Clay House’ in North Fremantle last week where the Guest Artist in Residence CJ Jilek from the USA, generously revealed some of the processes necessary to attain her incredible surfaces for results that go way beyond the average. It often shows when a person has worked in another creative field besides clay, intersections happen.   

Examine the photographs of CJ's work closely, this is seriously thought out and worked.  No dunking in a bucket of glaze here, every surface is carefully considered and executed.  I find them utterly thrilling. Usually when clay folk get together it is all about the clay, glazes, methods and your tools, but really we know that it isn’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.  It made me realise once more that I’ve been privileged so often to witness and learn others’ hard won techniques and skills.  If I wore a hat, I’d be like an automaton and doffing it constantly.

Some of her work is literally 'articulated', rubber coated or tipped in soft fibres not dissimilar to the plant life which inspires her. Despite plants being complex and sexual, I resisted the tempation to allude to that in this post's title.  CJ and partner Tony Wise are in Western Australia for a long stay so we'll get to know both artists and their work in the coming months.  I love Tony's blog, it is great value - just like he is.  

So who knew that stamping and rolling and working into a surface with macro and micro scaled patterning could be massively effective, that the very type of brush used with underglaze, how it is loaded and applied to a surface can tell such a different story with the slightest alteration of pressure.  After talking to CJ I just wanted to go play and everthing I saw, a bowl of shells on the kitchen counter, the pen lid in the end of my backpack – all presented new surface possibilities. Nothing can beat Fleur's set of texturising implements - who else has a set of their grandfather's orthopaedic surgical instruments to play with?  It was incredible to have access to such things and such fun.

I was kind of thrilled to see among all the handmade mugs and beakers at the Clay House, one by Anna C,  CJ was drinking from it.  I have two of Anna’s mugs and I often use them at my Print on Clay courses to illustrate how such a simple image transfer technique an be amplified into exquisite works.  

MINE! made by Anna Chicos
But back to CJ's work, as with so many of the superb international and local Australian artists I have been lucky enough to meet so far in my little clay career I find myself so very, very impressed at the quality of work, the time and attention to detail given to a piece of clay work that sets it so far apart from the rest.  So to any students - don’t cut corners, go with your gut, put the time in, do those tests, try things out. What is the potter’s mantra?  TEST, TEST, TEST!  It is those tests that teach so much and are the foundation and confirmation of our directions. These are the lessons we need to pass on.  None of it comes easy, lots of practice and observation required, many losses endured and back to the work again with renewed vigour and a clearer vision of your goal.  
I'll sign off knowing you are going back to check out all of those links I shared, especially CJ's website and what The Clay House is all about and share some of my snaps of tests and trials made there last week.  Oh and see ya over at the Mud Colony blog.  
carving and water etching
underglaze options on texture
mishima over water soluble wax