Personal Development Plan : Constellation (Dissertation).

This journey has by no means been an easy one for me personally, though that said having shown resilience and after much determination my persistence has paid dividends and I have now completed this milestone. I have found myself on this journey constantly exploring new avenues in the development not only of my skills and personal practice, in the way in which I document these outcomes, 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, not only through the medium of clay but also in a more literary sense. Thus ensuring that I grow as an individual and that I continue to explore the healing values and understandings of my personal endeavours.

I have visited the works of many different artists within the field of ceramics; Elizabeth Fritsch, Sara Moorhouse, Sandy Brown, Claire Curneen, Jan Lewin-Cadogan, Claire Twomey, Livia Marin, Barbara Nanning, Nicholas Rena and Edmund de Waal are amongst some. I have also explored the wider realm of arts, sculpture, 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 not ceramic artists at all, 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. Documenting these processes in writing and on film has been a true revelation.

Being a perfectionist at heart, and 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 has 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.

I have learned to successfully express myself not only in clay but have, I feel, gained a rich vocabulary through exposure to different artists and practices, during my time at university. It has helped me grow as an individual and has given me the tools I need to articulate my opinions in a far more meaningful manner. 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.

Having left school at a young age I found the writing of my dissertation to be a real source of dread for me since the start. I felt I had little understanding, to commence with, of how to put down my thoughts cohesively and I have floundered somewhat along the way in the writing of this piece. I realise now that should I wish to undertake further learning I must progress in this area in order to succeed with more ease. This said I have, I feel grown along the way, the use of writing and documenting my thoughts and actions has helped me greatly in my more practical endeavours.

I would like to consider a possibility of continuing my studies once this process is completed and venture on to study on a masters programme. I feel that I have much to learn still, and would like to understand in a complete way how we as individuals are drawn to art and why the material of clay is such a cathartic material.

Johnathan English.


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