I work within the classic tradition of wheel-thrown ceramics. My medium is porcelain and I use a blend of Limoges, mixed with other porcelain bodies to achieve a high level of translucency. I seek painterly effects in my glazes and prefer the natural characteristics of reduction firing to augment the decorative process. Whilst I aim for control in my forms I attempt to induce elemental or spontaneous qualities in my glazes.
My work is an ongoing process of study and experimentation. This results in a high level of kiln failures, however I feel that this is an inevitable, but acceptable outcome, that has ultimately enabled me to express my ideas in many different ways.
I have always loved colour. In painting my inspiration comes primarily from the Impressionists. Other painters such as Rembrandt and Rothko used layers of transparency and colour in their painting technique to create luminosity. I approach glazes like copper red and celadon in much the same way.
My recent work demonstrates my current preoccupation with mark-making and splash effects. The randomness and apparent spontaneity of this particular glaze game comes from a practised technique of application that has evolved through a number of mutations over the past three years.
Its appearance is entirely contemporary, however its origin lies in the study of the brushwork of Song Dynasty pot decorators, the wild application of paint by artists like Jackson Pollock, and my visualisation of the exuberant randomness of an herbaceous border in full flower.
1. How would you describe yourself as a potter?
Independent, curious, investigative, dogged.
2. What drives you to make pots?
Donít really know any more Ė It has been my life and is the only thing I know how to do and make a living at. As a young man I didnít want to be a chartered accountant. When I started making pots I found I could throw straight away. My art teacher encouraged me.
3. Where does your inspiration come from?
Everywhere. I absorb ideas from a myriad of sources and adapt them to form or glaze or both in combination.
4. What do you think about when you are making pots?
I start thinking about the pot from the moment that I begin to wedge up the clay. I see the finished piece in my mindís eye and have already worked out what glaze will fit the particular form I intend to throw. The night before I will have thought about what I wanted to make the next day, drawn diagrams and made notes about the intended glaze for later on.
When I come to throw the piece I am focussed and enter into a state of deep concentration visualising the finished piece as I throw it Ė this is why interruption is so off-putting as my flow is broken. I concentrate on the potís innards Ė its interior contour, which defines the final shape after the piece has been turned.
Perhaps a month later when I finally come to glaze the pot I can refer back to my notes to remind myself what particular glaze effect I had planned for the piece.
5. When you are working out your glaze recipes, how do you arrive at a combination of ingredients?
Until recently semi-educated trial and error. I now have a dictionary of materials and techniques which tells me the characteristics of particular ingredients. I create a basic glaze, into which I can add or subtract quantities of oxide Ė it is a kind of balancing act. One gets clues from published glaze recipes or captions of images, however these are merely starting points, and it is important to use a combination of lateral thinking and patience if one wants to invent new glaze variants.
6. What do you think about when you are firing the kiln?
Because this is reduction firing, primarily the kiln atmosphere and the rate of climb (temperature). I refer to my kiln book at regular intervals to record temperature and other developments, and make comparisons with previous firings that have contained similar packs (glaze/shape) i.e. what was the position of the damper at a particular time, what was the rate of climb, colour of the flame (indicates how carbon monoxide-rich the kiln atmosphere is). The most attention-demanding glaze is copper red.
7. How do you feel when you get a really good pot?
As if I have proved an equation. All my calculations, guesswork, and the processes have come together. Initially I am really pleased, but then later I want to improve on the result.
8. Why are you so keen on classic forms and glaze types?
Whatís time got to do with it?
9. What is it about throwing (and not hand building, or coiling)?
Once you have put the effort in to learn to throw properly there is an immediacy and connection. When you throw on the wheel you can make things flow.