Personal Development Plan…

Having been a part of this journey now for a number of years, I find myself constantly exploring new avenues in the development not only of my skills and personal practice but also introspectively as a human being. It has certainly been an interesting process and I have discovered that most of my projects have taken on a deep and profound meaning. This is an experience which is helping me express myself, ensures that I grow as an individual and that I continue to explore the healing values of my personal endeavours.

I have visited the works of many different artists not only within the field of ceramics and sculpture but also I have explored the wider realm of arts, crafts, design, music, food and even theatre. All of these, for me, play a quantifiable role adding value to my continuing experience and positioning as an artist.

The two most heavily influential artists I have discovered so far are Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Modernist both, they are the distillation of the very values which I yearn for in my own works. Artists who have been inspired to create, individually, an astounding breadth of work, from the handheld to the monumental. They have totally mesmerised me with the sheer simplicity and often heartfelt narrative of their achievements.

I have come to realise that maybe I share much in common with these artists, both of them had seen and lived through the atrocities and wanton destruction of war, as have I. We have all of us lived through both fear and hope, experienced love followed by heartache, enjoyed times of plenty and of hardship. These artists both used their work as a narrative not only to express their thoughts of what was going on around them but also, as I, use this as a cathartic vehicle to carry the burden of a damaged soul.

Enjoying smooth curves and straight lines, I pull thread tight creating tension. Form must be delicate and yet robust, even and free of blemish, unless designed to be so. Seeking meaningful expression in clay, forever a reflection of an emotion I feel deep inside. Sketching for hours to find the perfect curve, stitching and unstitching thread endlessly to find the most intricate of patterns, spending days sifting slip on a quest for that all elusive hue. I am a perfectionist at heart. Methodical, I will work until I have achieved my aim and with determination and sheer bloody-mindedness, will persevere with tasks until the outcome meets what I have been seeking, and then I will do some more. A fault maybe? No doubt down to my training and years spent in the French Foreign Legion or my occupation working as a freelance chef. Dedication and perseverance are keys for me, hopefully unlocking that door of achievement and understanding which I hunger for.

Exploration moved me away from throwing functional vessels on the wheel to hand-building large-scale sculptural forms. From here on to make the most delicate of bone china paper clay constructions and now, more recently, I have come to mould making and slip-casting using this method in a variety of ways. Having explored the qualities of a multitude of clay bodies, slips and glazes of many colours and variety of characteristics. I have melted and tempered many types of glass in the glass kiln, from wine bottles to safety glass even light bulbs with explosive results! Enjoyed the firing of works in oxidation, reduction, saggar, raku, smoke-firing, salt-glazing, pit-firing and even experienced the heat of a wood fired anagama kiln. Having finally, I feel, acquired a real comprehension of what it is to make, decorate and fire ceramics in such a diverse way which is wonderful to me.

Skills honed as a ceramicist I feel now I well and truly possess, however something more stirs deep within my soul. Yearning for more expression, more deliberate underpinning of my work, I am experiencing an overwhelming desire to create something bigger than myself. A real thirst for knowledge, and a deep desire to gain a far more meaningful understanding of why I and others like me, driven as we are, feed off the work we and others create. Through all of this preliminary exploration into the values and qualities of clay and its uses I intuitively sense the true awakening of the artist of my being.

In this final project I will undoubtedly push myself further than I have ever done before. Moving away now at last from the individual object to the dramatic spectacle of ceramic installation. Creating a large body of individual works interconnected by colour and joined by a myriad of threads. An installation that would cover and interconnect walls, floor and ceiling in a way that engages the spectator and draws them into this space. Which urges them to discover and enjoy the immersive connectivity and simplicity of the work. All I have done up until this moment has been teaching me the means and honing my skills for this final step. The only question now is whether the audience will follow me…

Johnathan English.

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