Monday, March 28, 2016

The Processes

I have finished all the work for England and it is being packed up now ready for the trip from Spain to The Jonathan Ross Gallery in London the details of which are here.  In preparation for the exhibition let’s revisit how I make the work. The process is probably over complicated by me and it is certainly a longwinded making process. Someone said to me when they saw the Mivvi jars all in a row a few days ago, ‘Oh wow and you do this on the computer then stick it on?’ And I suppose it does have that quality of looking somewhat seamless, but really that has just come with years of practice and getting better at it.

Every step and process is done by my hand and it begins at the potting stage when I am making the shape. All the jars and vases are hand built with coils, slowly and carefully. The ZOOM 1976 vase below is 55 centimetres high and took me 5 days to make. The painting took me a whole lot longer though! Why 1976? Well, it was a very good summer, but it will mean different things to different people.

People who have visited me in my studio are probably surprised to see that as part of my creative process I start with what can only be described as piles of papers, but that is because deep down I am a collector. For years, I have been filling up boxes and folders with saved scraps of paper that interest me. It is these papers that eventually end up as the starting point for a new pot or collection of pots.

Normally, in my ordered folders things stay among their own kind. Bicycles are with road markings and toy guns are, at a push, with water pistols and ray guns, but separated.  Storing pictures and information for my artwork is very important and this super organised system works, but only as a depository. When I actually need to do something with them, I need a bit of chaos.  The images and scraps that I have gathered together are like the ingredients for a recipe that need to mix and start talking to each other.  I think it is when the interest in the collected subject (s) becomes overpoweringly compulsive that I begin to move pieces from that pile to join another. This then begins a new, potentially explosive, mixed pile that I might work with. However if a mix doesn’t work out then everything gets separated back into their own folders for another time.

This is exactly how it happened with the latest collection with the Zoom lollies and the peace symbols, latterly joined by the ray guns. This mixed box is still active and is on my work bench now.  All the original colour copies are substituted by line drawings so that they can be replicated and re sized and so that I don’t spoil the original images.

See below the current mix, new additions are the eyes (best copies), used once before in the vase of 55 eyes.

It is a peculiar way of working that has evolved from my early days of childhood scrap book making. This was an activity that I loved; Gloy glue that you oozed out of funny red rubber top with a slit (I once tried it on my lips because it looked like lipstick).

It all comes full circle to my being a collector of information and material. Early childhood conditioning showed me that to own the paper copy of the coveted item was as good as the real thing and actually probably better.

So, it is interesting how this early “hard wiring” of the personality is still core to the way I interpret and manage all the "stuff" that is out there.  Once things are in my scrapbook, box or folder they are mine and I lay claim to them. Many of the objects I am attracted to now have been with me all my life as memory, by collecting the paper versions I am sorting them out. They are quite literally the fabric of who I am.

Ironically, in the end, the true collection is what remains in my mind. The pieces of paper remain, but they become so disorganised once worked with it can take years for the process to throw them up again.

According to Susan Stewart in her book “On Longing”, a collection seeks a form of self-enclosure where history is replaced by some form of classification. She says; “The collection is a form of art as play, a form involving the reframing of objects within a world of attention and manipulation of context.  Like other forms of art, its function is the creation of a new context, a context standing in a metaphorical relation to the world of everyday life.”

For me the collection is a continuation, an intrinsic part of life and creation.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Ray Guns

New Ray Guns for the forthcoming exhibition at Jonathan Ross's Gallery 286 at 286 Earls Court Road, SW5 9AS London. I am just in the last throws of firing everything ready for the show on 12th April. These plates here are all unfired in the photographs, when fired they will each be box framed, I am hoping to have 9 ready for the 12th, but I have lost 2 to cracks so as usual it is an inexact science!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

From Santa to Star Wars

Hello ,
In a Christmas nutshell the festive season is upon us. It is actually a great time for me to get on with making pots and I also have the best excuse to wriggle out of any duties because I have an exhibition coming up in London in April. This is a terrifying yet welcome form of distraction from darting about purposefully with useful biro-ed instructions on my hand. The latest shock was discovering the word "Turkey" on my hand. This caused me more than a moment of disbelief and suspicion as I pondered; was it a reference to an idea involving the country or had I completely lost it and decided to go all traditional on the day. One or the other...
So pre-occupying myself in the studio is the place for me to be, a break away from the pre-Christmas cacophony; ("I want Alex Marwood’s latest book. I want a thermal vest. I need some fluffy bed socks and by-the-way, the cat's broken a tooth") and to spend a quiet Christmas in the pottery. I've thought ahead and everyone knows what to expect including what to cook and I’ve got The Archers on permanent podcast.
Even Star Wars is booked (English Version Original in Granada). The event is possibly not going to be quite the theatrical experience I was hoping for, dressed as Obi Wan (its cold in there), Leia (daughter, with extra hairpins and lacquer at the ready) and Indiana Jones (he’s got it slightly wrong). This viewing luxury will be just that; as a party of three in a cinema that holds 200 accompanied by just a few other random English viewers. Although there will also be the usual small group from FAAS; Federación Andaluza de Asociaciones de Personas Sordas who in their deafness will be experiencing the film via Spanish subtitles. A jaunty saunter through rosy-cheeked crowds in the cinema foyer will take us all of 10 minutes. It’s a big foyer!
My Exhibition date for your 2016 diaries:
12th April 2016 at Gallery 286
286 Earl's Court Road
London SW5 9AS

T: 07747 807 576
I will be showing with Jennifer Binnie painter and Alex Binnie Tattoo artist and printmaker.
Full details to be released soon.
Merry Christmas from the pottery!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Getting Ready for the Kiln

The problem with working on such big pots is that they take so long! This one is almost ready for the kiln here, but it is still waiting for a lid to be painted and dry. I am also working on some very new things that I will be posting soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lost Dog finds a New Owner

Before I moved my workshop to Spain I taught in a prison in Sussex. It was a job that I thought I didn’t want to do, but what did I know (nothing it seemed). I was talked into it by the then head of education and he was right to. I also took on the work of organising the prison art awards with The Koestler Trust a national prison arts charity. It involved working with anyone interested in submitting their work each year to Koestler hoping to win an award. Such amazing talent and potential came out of this and it did change lives. At that time all the work had to go to Wormwood Scrubs for judging and I had to take it there, which was a big eye-opener!
Even now I still hear from my students of that time and those who turned their lives around though art and so when I was asked to donate a piece for work for the exhibition “Art as Opportunity” (showing now Downstairs at Mother at the Biscuit Building, Redchurch Street in Shoreditch) I did. 100% of sales go directly to supporting their work for the future. My pot has sold I am happy to say. “Lost Dog” from 2007 was a piece I wanted to keep (I don’t keep many), but when this opportunity to send it forward came along it seemed like the right moment to hitch the lost dog with a new owner. After all it was made when I worked as a prison teacher and it had all the connections to that time buried in its meaning.
Sales are all in the gallery and on-line here:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Another Terrifying Kiln Experience

Reference to the last post; my kiln is on its own mission to give me a nervous breakdown. I have had a series of near misses in the kiln again, this time; "Shaky Firing Number 2".

In the kiln was this pot, an important piece that I really needed to get out in perfect condition. There were a lot of hours racked up in "Ray Gun Jar", particularly on the painting front.

The initial problem was that the first firing aborted due to a power cut in the village that took out everything for about 10 hours. This is never a problem on the biscuit firing cycle as I can re-start it. At glaze level this would spell a definite wipe-out, no one is restarting a glaze kiln and emerging pretty.

The repeat of the first firing was set off a few days later, but this program over-fired (see last post) and so I had broken all the rules again for that first biscuit firing which should be lower than the glaze firing and never exactly the same as in it was in this case, reaching 1100, with a 20 minute soak for good measure. The reason for this is so that when I come to the last stage of glazing the pot in the liquid soupy suspension of glaze the porosity of the surface enables a perfect covering of the surface; even and fine.  This jar was over fired and with a high ping/ring when flicked with finger and thumb and about a porous as a rubber tyre.

My method is to dip glaze by holding by the foot dangling over a big bucket, take a deep breath and down it goes, count to 3 and out it comes, covered in powdery white glaze. Well, I went ahead and did it, after all it worked last time and low and behold it did come back up covered in white powder. I can only think the ambient temperature here in Granada of 41 degrees Celsius must have something to do with this, it is tinder dry out there and a loaf of bread becomes desiccated bread in about half an hour if left out!

So, result….. bloody perfect pot! 36 centimetres tall, 15 inches. Views all around the pot below.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Bit of a Shakey Firing

These two made it through the firing, it was all touch and go for a while though.
I lost my electric connection to the kiln and had to have in reinstalled, this meant that I needed to be upgraded to a huge metal meter box, in the meantime all the armoured cable was stolen from the triple phase spur so this had to be replaced too.
First firing I thought was going to be easy, but I overfired by 100 degrees leaving the contents very strongly fired and potentially a problem to glaze. With no other choice other than to take a hammer to them I went for the dip and glazed them. With a heavy heart the kiln went back on. Surprise result last night to see them absolutely perfectly glossing and without a blemish in sight. 
So, do I do this method again? I think I might. For the potters: 1107 Celsius for the biscuit and 1107 C glaze! Shouldn’t have worked, but it did.

This is Jeremy Chivers the pottery cat who got in on the photography and felt that he should be featured as he is of the opinion that the plate behind him is all about his contrary ways and stunning personality!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Big Lipstick Vase

I have been working on this pot for a few weeks now, although we are looking here at Day 5 of painting. There has been a lot of preparation for this one and working out the colours and sizes of lipsticks has been painstaking. I had originally wanted add the names of the colours, this still may happen, but I am not sure where, there are going to be 53 lipsticks!

The numbers are important. On average, we are given 123 different pieces of advice every week, from sensible government guidelines, like what to eat or the most idyllic places to visit and so on. Actually, that's probably not strictly true: I found that statistic on the Internet, but it rather proves the point that you can assign a number to just about anything. Numbers work because they get our attention.

Lipstick always has a number, but when you buy it is the name is usually asked for, because there is nothing more empowering than going up to the makeup counter and asking boldly for "Magnet Red".

There is more to come on this subject, in words and pigment.

A very strong image below, Frida Kahlo's lipstick imprint on her letter to Bertram Wolfe, March 24, 1936.