My work uses a single pure jar form as a canvas to map my observations from an ongoing study of my surroundings. I incorporate stone and locally dug clay into my work to create a narrative, one that conveys a unique sense of place. The unpredictable nature of each jar comes from the inclusions and their metamorphosis during firing. This individuality and tension between materials speaks of the human condition and how the landscape shapes us as individuals.
Landscapes have inspired artists for generations but for me a landscape has to be felt. To depict it is always going to fall short. I was inspired by archaeological theories that the Menhirs of prehistory are a veneration of the landscapes that surrounds them. With my site-specific work I too am venerating the landscape. By placing a Jar at a particular location within the landscape I hope that it will make us look beyond the object to its surroundings.
My work is also about change, about natural cycles and the transience of human endeavor. Part of my ‘Earth to Earth’ project is to illustrate one cycle as a metaphor for all. I placed a raw, unfired Jar at the top of Carn Treliwyd in Pembrokeshire. Made from the earth; the wind and rain will return it back to the earth. Clay in turn is created from the weathering of igneous rocks upon which this unfired Jar stands.
Paths are a motif I use to represent my actual and metaphoric journeys through a place. To understand a landscape is to move through it, to give it context. Paths are like common routes of experience, guiding us through the landscape. They are connections through time, to others and to the land. Ultimately my work is about being present within a landscape.
The studio was purpose built in 2006 as an internal space within an old farm barn, which also houses my kiln and a couple of donkeys. I did the work myself after completing my course in Ireland. It is well equipped with three wheels, slab roller, extruder, electric kiln and of course my 80 cubic foot wood fired kiln.
All of my work is made in the studio except when the weather is good I take the wheels outside and throw in the sun. Partly because it’s nice but mainly because of the speed with which the pots dry, making me able to get a lot more done.
I have a designated glaze research area where I try to develop new glazes, experimenting with local materials that I have collected from the surrounding area.
I built my kiln at the beginning of 2007 from plans supplied by Joe Finch. It was a great project and an important one that gave me a deeper understanding of kilns and how to fire them. It is a large kiln at 80 cubic feet (or 4”x4”x5”), which I fire with off-cuts from a sawmill in the nearby Preseli Hills.
The kiln fires to stoneware temperatures of 1300°c. Due to its fast fire downdraft design firings can be as short as nine hours.
Firing a wood kiln is very involved, the constant stoking giving you a strong connection to the process that turns raw earth into glass and stone. The direct contact with ash and flame brings a subtle earthiness to my work. The unexpected nuances in each piece resulting from the firing reinforce my works connection with the natural environment and the unique processes that shape the landscape.
The collection and use of local materials is integral to my work. I intentionally source my own local materials, using them unrefined to show my personal relationship with the landscape, the materials within it and my past experiences from where they were collected.
My research into local materials is ongoing. I have tested a number of local clays dug from the nearby moor-land, which I either blend with other clays or apply to the surface of a pot as a slip. The beach aggregate I use is a coarse black sand from the coast behind the studio, where I also collect seaweed.
I am constantly bringing different stones back to test. My next investment will be a ball mill, which will enable me to make powders from local geological samples, for use in glazes. It is a great pleasure to get out of the studio and into the beautiful surroundings to collect new samples.
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