Stringing “Connectivity”…

“Humanesque” in appearance my “Pod-like” forms are cast in fine porcelain from plaster moulds. The models for these moulds are created from a plaster block which is turned on a plaster lathe. When turning this plaster on the lathe it is important to ensure that it is neither too wet or too dry I liken this state to that of a good aged parmesan cheese. The plaster should be shed from the process like shavings of this hard cheese and not stick to the chisel like clotted cream, as when its too wet, or create a cloud of dust as it would if it were too dry. Once the piece is turned to my satisfaction it is cut away from the chuck which holds the block to the lathe and then trimmed, altered and sanded, thus creating the formers for making the moulds.

These pieces are then cottled up and the mould is cast of it using fine quality plaster of Paris. Depending on the complexity of each piece these moulds can vary from one piece to several, each involving more cottling and casting, for this project I created nine moulds each one consisting of five pieces. This was a very lengthy process involving much repetition but attention to detail was so important here and a high level of understanding of the process was imperative, luckily I have gained much experience over the duration of my studies and this had become second nature at this point.

Once cast each piece is modified further, fettled, holes cut and thread holes pierced. Fired to a low bisque of 950oC these pieces are individually sanded giving them a very smooth finish. Ensuring that the surfaces are dust free a thick layer of resist slip is then applied to the inside and outer surface of each piece by dipping them in a bucket with this mixture which is by volume three parts China Clay and two parts Flint. To these ingredients water is added until the mix is of the same consistency as double cream.

After leaving the objects overnight to dry one can see that the resist slip has cracked nicely. Avoiding displacing the flaky slip from the vessels I then spray each piece with a medium coating of glaze. The glaze is a simple one and consists of 45% High Alkaline Frit, 45% Standard Borax Frit and 10% China Clay the consistency of this one when adding water should be that of single cream. The pieces are then left once more to dry slightly and then placed in the Raku Kiln which after firing to around 1000oC and the glaze has developed a decent shine the pieces are removed and placed in bins tightly packed with sawdust ensuring a heavily reduced atmosphere and dark smoke markings over all the forms. These are left to cool naturally in a well ventilated area.

When cool the pieces are removed from the now burnt sawdust and cleaned gently removing the glaze from each object which has been prevented from sticking to the vessels by the thick application of slip. Once cleaned and dry the pieces are warmed to 100oC in a domestic oven and polished with beeswax. The next step is to thread each piece both inside the objects and to join the pieces together for installation into the space, this is a very long and complex process which I personally find therapeutic. The finishing touch to each vessel are the Bright Gold Lustred “Soul-wells” which are placed on the top of each piece. These small disks are symbolic of the human spirit, which is bright and untarnished despite the obvious degradation of the physical body of each piece.

I am greatly influenced by the modernist movement around the time of the second world war especially the works of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo. Having like me been exposed to the ravages of conflict and seen first-hand the wanton destruction which such events unleash. They looked as do I to the cathartic values of art (for me ceramics) to help heal the mental wounds which we have suffered. When looking at contemporary artists I feel a close connection to the socio-politically charged works of Claire Twomey, the creations of Claire Curneen which are deeply religious of meaning and finally the storytelling aspects of the controversial ceramic artist Grayson Perry. A mix of the creations of these artists embody what I regard to be the best of modern and contemporary ceramics. I would in my wildest dreams aspire one day to be recognised such as they.

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