Monday, 22 August 2016

Contemporary Ceramics Course at NTU

Last week I attended the Contemporary Fine Art Pottery Short Course at NTU and it was a brilliant way to spend a week! I was taught in a small group of six with a fab tutor Jason Marks. In my mind I wanted to make my own Staffordshire animals, which I have fallen in love with since doing the MATS class earlier this year, but when the course began, I decided to keep an open mind and just spend the week exploring new materials, a new way of making and thinking. I spent the week playing, disregarded my pre-visioned outcomes and saw where the course (and the clay) took me.

By the end of the week, we had produced so much and explored so many processes and techniques. I made vessels by hand-building, using coils, created plaster casts and sprig molds, used CAD to 3D print a vessel, made tiles, learnt lots of decorative techniques with slips and tools and threw a few pots on the wheel! I wanted to share what I got up to - the finished pieces are currently being fired and glazed, so I have no idea how they will actually turn out - which I guess, is part of the fun of ceramics. 

On the first day, we spent the morning preparing our slips for the week and learning about the different types of clay that we were going to use, mainly paper clay and porcelain. We prepped our materials - made plaster of paris moulds and rolled out our clay ready for construction. 

During the afternoon, we went for an inspiration gathering sketch and stroll around the Arboretum in Nottingham to use in our ceramic work. The Arboretum is a beautiful park in the heart of Nottingham, with lots of trees and nature, statues, a big pond - lots to take inspiration from natural and man-made forms and an explosion of colour from plants, flowers and trees during the summer. For me, I was interested in the pigeons and the parrots. The pigeons were, roaming free across the park picking up dropped sandwich crumbs whenever they could, the parrots - among other birds were caged, chirping away, providing entertainment and fondness from the passersby in the park. Here are a few of my sketchbook pages from being in the park in the afternoon, I sketched the birds and started to refine them over a couple of hours:

On the second day, we looked through our sketchbooks and took some themes and motifs to carve into the plaster casts which we prepared on day one. It was really satisfying to carve into the plaster, much like lino cutting you can carried away with the rhythmic movement. I carved in my parrots: 

Once fully carved and clean, I used paper clay to press into the carving and had lots of clay with my illustrations raised on to the surface, which could be used to build forms. I also made some bird shapes which would be used to make sprig molds, which are plaster cast molds in the shape or whatever you want so that you could mass make the same icon or motif fast to decorate vessels and forms. 

Next was time to think about what I was going to make, we were challenged to make a vessel of some sort, but this could be practical or sculptural, traditional or contemporary. Inspired by the trip to the Arboretum, I started to think about the cages in the park and how my vessel could be a cage. I did some thinking drawings, thinking about what was important to me and trying to visualise in 3D, which is really  out of my comfort zone. I think mostly in 2D - flat, a sheet of paper, a notepad, a sketchbook. I rarely construct in 3D or transform something which is 2D to 3D and found this a challenge. I feel that this might have altered the outcome I produced, I possibly kept the design to something which I could actually visualise and therefore construct, rather than pushing the boundaries of the material, but - it was my first go! I decided to think about what was important for me: I wanted to make something that I could use, in my home and something which had a lot of character. 

 Using my thinking drawings, I cut out the parts of my vessel out of my parrot pressed clay, which I had painted with some slips: 

and started to construct! 

In-between the building of my parrot pot, I threw a pot for the first time which is pretty hard to do but SUCH fun. Below is my first attempt: 

Unfortunately it isn't the tallest pot in the world and does have a hole in it's base! But I do need a few more plant pots, so it'll be put to good use! 

Back to my parrot pot: 

Building it, thinking about the character of it. In the end, I decided on two feet only so it was have a jaunty stance and an angled slit across the neck. 

I touched up the details with the coloured slip in a painterly fashion, which I hope comes out well after being fired. I also used some of the initial sketches from my sketchbook and some older ones (hello cat pattern) to digitally print on to transfers which can be applied on to pre-glazed tiles, which is an exciting concept to apply illustrations on to more surfaces. 

It was a really fun and intense week of making and playing with new techniques. I'll share everything once it pops out of the kiln in a couple of weeks time! Fingers crossed for no explosions....

If you want to know more about this short course, including the full description and information about Jason, click here. 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Adding to the Staffordshire Pottery collection.

I'm back from a gorgeous holiday in Jamaica! Not missing the sun too much though, as are having a lovely little heatwave here in England, which is rare, so I'm trying to enjoy as much as I can! In the next few weeks I will be working at the Leeds College of Art 'Young Creative' summer school, creating printed work with loads of children aged 7 - 18 celebrating the Rio Olympics! I'll share as much as I can when the summer school is over in mid-Aug. In the meantime, I've still been creating and making. I've had an influx of exciting commissions, so will share when I'm able to and when they are signed off. I wanted to let you know that my website is up and running again! I took it off-line when completing my PGDIPE (teaching qualification) but it's back! I'd love it if you'd have a look and I'd love to know what you think. Have a peek here.

I've also been printing some new patterns and creations myself - still inspired by Staffordshire Pottery, I took some characters from my sketchbook which I created during the MATS assignment (which you can read more about here) and cut them out of lino: 

Which I printed: 

 Then, I made a pattern out of the prints: 

Exposed them on to a silk screen:

Dyed and printed some fabric:

And then whipped up a new cushion range to add to my Staffordshire collection! 

Hopefully, I will be re-opening my etsy shop this next week, so if you like these keep your eyes peeled!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Crafty Fox/Shut Shop/Bon Voyage !

Wow! It's been a crazy few weeks. I've been busy assessing my students' work, going to various meetings in London and working hard on creating illustrated branding and characters for a small business in Sheffield, which I'll obviously share when it's all completed. At the beginning of June, I was lucky enough to be selected to have a stall at the first CraftyFoxMarket outside of London. In 2013, I was invited to London to flog my creations and had such an awesome day, eating yummy veggie Caribbean food in Brixton and meeting lots of inspirational makers. The Leeds event was just as good. Set in the Black Swan on Call Lane, right in the centre of town, with fab makers/designers and fun workshops. I sold screen-printed pillows and cushions, prints, knitted cacti and notebooks. 

Here's a little snippet of my stall. I almost sold out of everything! I have limited amounts of stock left now, but have closed my etsy shop until July as I go on holiday in two days time! (so excited!)
Kayti Feather, the wonderful host and marketing manager for the Leeds market and creative director of Caboodle magazine purchased two of my triangle cacti/succulent cushions:
Then, a few days later I was tagged in a lovely photo of all of the goodies she'd purchased from the market - I wanted to share this lovely photograph with you: 

Every thing here (apart from that fab cactus chair which is from Oliver Bonas) is from the market! There is work from Maggie Magoo designsUpsydaisy Craft and StitchUp! 
After the market, I did a little stock count as I shut my shop, and have limited creations left. Which is good, as I have room for my new creations - mostly inspired by Stafford-shire Pottery, more under-the-sea things and my commute for work, I know I'm being vague ;) but I'll share more when I return on to British Soil in July. See you soon! 



Monday, 30 May 2016

Never Have I Everest Zine Fair // Floss Zine // Beaver Zine

I love making zines and enjoy collecting zines from makers, illustrators, tattoo artists, printmakers etc! They are a lovely insight into how people work, more considered and refined than a sketchbook, but still almost an intimate glimpse into some-ones working practice. They are also a great format to experiment with new ideas, characters, narratives without committing to a huge project. At the start if this year, I gave myself a challenge to make a zine a month and so far, it's going well - but I haven't publicly shared them yet. I wanted to get them together at the end of the year and hopefully have an exhibition of them, in a zine library in the North of England when they are finished, presented as a little collection. It's challenging to make them with other commitments, but really fun too. I am going to, in this post, share one of them with you, which I am going to put up for sale in my etsy shop...

I kick started this bank holiday weekend at Rough Trade in Nottingham on Saturday helping out some of the NTU graphic design 1st years put on a zine fair to raise money for Child Reach International. It was called 'Never Have I Everest' and was a great day! I ran a zine making workshop, where I taught people how to use a single sheet of paper to make four different types of zines, and we collaged and drew the content. I also had a little stall and sold two zines - my Beaver zine which I made in 2012 and still have some kicking around my studio, and one of my zine-a-month 2016 zines, called 'Floss'. Below are a few pictures from the day, and some work I sold. Knitted cacti, screen-printed and hand-made cacti and succulent cushions, badger cushions and long whale pillows (which I almost sold out of! I'll be selling the remaining ones this coming Saturday (4/6) in Leeds at the first northern Crafty Fox Market on Call Lane - so pop down if you like them!) 

Pictured bottom left is an amazing Rob Ryan zine I brought at the fair to add to my collection! It's a gorgeous large screen-printed beauty. I was super happy to get my hands on it. The students raised £266 for Child Reach International and it was a great day of meeting fellow zinesters, eating cake and hanging out at Rough Trade - which is always a day well spent. 

So, as I said - the zines I sold were Floss and my Beaver zine, which I thought I'd share with you in this post. The Beaver zine was a zine I made in 2012 as a little research book on my MA about beavers. I was building a character for a picture book and on my MA I made a lot of small books and zines to visualise a variety of my research. It's a humorous account of beavers, and even though I produced it a while ago now, I still enjoy looking at it !

Floss zine is my new zine and it is a collection of illustrations about the everyday - my everyday. Both beaver and Floss are pretty lo-fi, photocopied books and are cheap to produce. Some of the zines I have been making for this challenge are not so lo-fi, they are screen-printed or digitally printed to a high quality. The aim was to explore a variety of outcomes as well as pushing myself to make something, for myself every month. Pictured below is Floss. It goes through my everyday, what I wear, use, the many cups of tea I drink daily, the commute, work, gym and home-time.