It has been a busy time running up to Summer Exhibitions and Markets. In July we visited Galway for The Potters Market which takes place annually during Galway’s Arts Festival.
At Potters Market Aug 2017
It’s open air and always dependent on the weather so this year we lost one of the two days due to incessant rain on the Friday. Saturday was beautiful with blue skies and lots of sun so the crowds came out and the market was busy all day.
Yesterday our show with Form Carlow opened in Kilkenny and will run until Aug 20th. We are delighted with the venue in The Castle Yard and Kilkenny will have have lots of visitors for their Arts Festival.
Stoneware jar with brushwork.
We will be offering them lots of beautiful pieces in metal, stone, ceramic and textile to take home with them when they leave.
I will also be showing work at the Clayworks exhibition in Dublin. This exhibition celebrates the 40th. anniversary of the founding of Ceramics Ireland (formerly The Craft Potters society of Ireland). Showing here is particularly pleasing as this organisation has played a big part in my clay work over all those years.
Summer is truly underway now and the coming months look like being as busy as always. This week I will be showing work at two venues in my home town of Carlow. I have just spent a weekend with some woodfirers giving my friend Marcus a hand in firing his noborigama at Glencairn in Waterford. Firing such a kiln is a big deal as many months work is committed to the unpredictable fire.
Marcus and Robin weighing up the timber.
As I write we await in nervous anticipation the opening of the kiln which will take place mid week.
Tomorrow I will set up at our local library where our group Form Carlow will be featuring for Carlow Arts Festival.
I will also show some pieces at the St Ledger Gallery on Tullow Street in Carlow. This exhibition of Painting, Sculpture, Mixed Media and Ceramic will run for the duration of the festival.
The following weeks will be taken up with making again as I prepare for The Potters Market in Galway which will take place in July. Other events/exhibitions will follow over the summer months so the search for the perfect pot continues…….:-)
Foster child of silence and slow time.
Today has been good for the spirit. sunshine, spring daffodils and the sap rising in the garden. The sound of lawnmowers and the smell of cut grass. I love this time of year. I can finally say goodbye to dark short days. No more lighting the woodstove and waiting for the workshop to warm up.
Last weekend I flew over to the U.K with my friend Marcus to visit the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham where Phil Rogers was exhibiting his most recent work. What a treat! If you are remotely interested in pots you will enjoy the Gallery’s coverage of this wonderful exhibition here.
Phil has been a long and enduring influence on my potting life. His unerring sense of form and unity of surface and decoration to that form has always inspired me since I did two workshops at his studio in Rhayader, Wales in the nineties. Good pots are always good teachers and I have many of Phil’s pots in my house. I was pleased to add the bottle below to my collection.
I have been as busy as ever in my workshop since I last posted in October! I have had several firings of the little train kiln and have been trying sort its tendency to fire cooler and with less reduction near the exit flue. I have tries various strategems of tricking with the dimensions of the flue but to no avail. I plan to introduce a side stoking port near that spot for the next firing. Because of this problem the percentage of good pots has been frustrating. The pieces nearer to the entry flue have been very good and they help to compensate.
Woodfired unomi from train kiln with Shino and apple ash Nuka glazes.
The first day of October. I‘m just back from a very pleasant break in the beautiful city of Madrid where I saw lots of the traditional majolica for which Spain is so well known. The piece left was seen in the Museum of Decorative Arts which is worth a visit.
Sometimes you have to force yourself to get away from the workshop to restore the energy levels. Ten days is usually more than enough to push me back on the wheel.
This is the time when I brace myself for winter which I hate. It’s not so much the cold or wet but the low light. I’ve always needed blue skies to lift my spirits. So time now to plan my Winter strategy. What will I make? If my labours are successful where will I show the work?
Recent firings of my little train kiln has encouraged me to focus again on teawares – the Chawan, Unomi, Hanaire and Mizusashi. Enough there to challenge. Form -Colour -Surface. The first is the most difficult to get right. You search for Form on the wheel and that search is informed by all you have seen. It’s all locked away in the subconscious. The lightest touch on the soft clay as it spins on the wheel is instantly registered.
You watch the line from foot to rim as the piece is born. Always looking for that spark which brings it to life. Later as you turn the stiffer clay of the foot you are mindful of the overall profile, the proportion of foot, height, rim and of the final heft or weight of the piece.
I also plan to make some bigger pieces in slipware and in particular some hump moulded platters which will allow for painted decoration.
I will need to get more timber from the mill so that it has time to season over the coming months. This is a laboursome job that I don’t look forward to.
10/09/16 – Last weekend I had the privelege of demonstrating at the Ceramics Ireland Festival in Thomastown. I had done this kind of thing before but never in front of such an knowing audience. The other demonstrators came with serious international reputations and were makers of remarkable work. It was wonderful to be working alongside such focussed, talented and likeable people.
From left -Myself, Janet DeBoos (Australia), Owen Quinlan(Ireland),Susan Beiner(U.S.) Elaine Riordan(Admin), Ann Van Hoey(Belgium), Tina Byrne(Admin), Randi O’Brien(U.S,)
Of course performing in such a context has its pitfalls. Things can go wrong and they did. In spite of my preparation I struggled somewhat at times but my audience were very understanding and I enjoyed a very stimulating and thought provoking four days. An added pleasure was hooking up with old friends again.
This post is long overdue. Summer is a very busy time for me. Making pots in sunshine and quick drying pushes you to make more somehow. Festivals and markets are plentiful and there are more opportunities to sell work. As I write my work is featured in Ceramic Ireland’s exhibition in Dublin. This year I joined Form Carlow a group of makers from differing disciplines who are focussed on promoting quality craft work by makers living within the county boundaries of Carlow. We had our first show during the Carlow Arts Festival and it was very well received.
At Form Carlow exhibition 2016
Since then we travelled to Wales to network with like-minded craft workers there.
Form Carlow in Wales
As I write this I am preparing for my annual trip to Galway to take part in the Galway Potters Market when some 18 potters will show their work in a beautiful openair space beside the Corrib river. This is a gamble since the weather can ruin everything as it did last year when the worst summer storm in years hit us as we struggled to get our marquees up. But potters are nothing if not optimistic so here we go again.
Galway Potter’s Market
After Galway I will be exhibiting with Form again in Kilkenny during that city’s arts festival. We have yet to secure a venue as we depend on a pop up arrangement and this is always a last-minute situation. More optimism needed.
In September I will be demonstrating at Ceramic Ireland International Festival in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny. This is a three-day event and I expect it will be putting serious demands on me over the coming weeks as I prepare a visual presentation of my potting life as well as a small body of work to exhibit in front of people who know what a good pot looks like. I have yet to make and fire this work so…….more optimism needed.
After Thomastown my wife and I travel to Madrid where I will be able to unwind and enjoy that beautiful city. That I am looking forward to.
At last the days are warming up. Pottery and sunshine go well together. Pots move through the studio much faster and the potter can get into a rhythm of making. The arrival of the swifts really gets me going. I’ve been keeping a record of their arrival in recent years and it amazes and reassures me how predictable they are. This year’s arrival was the earliest I’ve seen in spite of very cold days in late April. The first pair arrived on May 2nd. and today there are five. It’s easy to count and keep track of them because they never wander far from their nesting site in a nearby school water tower.
Today I’ve been making some bigger pots on the wheel. I throw these in sections and then join them up. It’s a tricky technique but allows me to upscale my work.
I have made a good stock of pots recently and need to get them fired. Moving around my small studio has become a a pain in the ass. I’ve been putting off firing because of the inclement weather. Pots have been mounting up and were not drying as one would wish. Today I could get them out into the garden without running the risk of having them rained on.
My next opportunity to show my work will be during our Arts Festival when I exhibit with Form Carlow in June at Carlow County Library. Hopefully these latest pots will yield something that I can be happy with. One never knows. The kiln will have the final say.
Blue skies. Bright green in the garden. Lengthening days. I love this time of year. April can still be a cold time in Ireland. As I write this hailstones are hopping off the ground in front of my studio window. But May is imminent and the temperatures will rise. It is a good time to be on the wheel.
I have lots of things to look forward to in the coming months. I am making some larger pieces to show with Form Designmade in Carlow during our Arts Festival here in Carlow. Lately I’ve been considering some bigger forms using cobalt blue and copper green. At Aberystwyth last year I was very impressed with John Higgins’ expressive forms in naked clay. Scale, colour and texture is getting my attention.
I have some interesting communal firings in the pipeline later in the year with Bernard and Marcus. In July I will be moving west to take part in the Galway Potters Market. Last year’s market was disastrous when a vicious storm hit as we struggled to get our marquees up. The show had to be abandoned which was a shame as most of the participants had travelled long distances to take part. But that’s the chance you take with open air events on this island. Let’s hope 2016 will be different.
In September I will be demonstrating at the Ceramics Ireland Festival in Thomastown. I will be somewhat out of my comfort zone with this one but perhaps it will bring a sharper focus to what I do. Nothing ventured nothing gained they say.
Recently I read Robert Turner’s lovely book Shaping Silence and was very taken with the work. What really appealed was Tony Hepburn’s contribution Turner in Context where he traces Turner’s personal internal journey towards his artistic maturity. Lots of things to ponder there.
Onwards and hopefully upwards.,,,
Teabowl/Chawan Shino Glaze
December is not my favourite time of the year. The short days and all too often leaden skies do nothing for my humour. I long for the turn of the year when the days start to lengthen again. I suppose it’s a bit silly to be hurrying my days away at my age.
I haven’t been making much lately as a good stock of work has built up over the summer. It is not easy to sell work in Ireland at present. Ireland does not have the population of informed buyers that one finds in the U.K for example. I exhibited in several good venues recently and the results were disappointing. Neither my slipware nor my teawares are in the fashion. Everywhere I look I see white porcelain and pastel colours. But you have got to make what makes your heart sing. Otherwise I see little point on getting up on the wheel.
Over the coming weeks I will begin to formulate a plan for 2016. Perhaps I will makes less and concentrate my efforts in coming up with a stock of ‘gallery’ pieces. I have never been comfortable with the gallery market. This market usually means added expense of travel, promotion, packing, stiff commissions etc and often a lengthy wait for your pay. Often it does not stand up to financial scrutiny. I must say that the gallery owners I know are motivated by a passion for the work they promote and I suspect it is even as hard for them to make ends meet as it is for the maker.
On Thursday next I wlll be showing work in a pop-up shop in town. A collective of local craftspersons has been doing this every Christmas for some years now and is usually well supported. It provides a good opportunity to reduce the stock and make room for 2016.
P.S. Having read over this post I want to reassure my friends that I am not at all depressed. On the contrary I am very positive about the potential of the coming year. It is the very unpredictability of pottery that keeps me engaged and challenged.
Unomi – Shoji Hamada
I am very pleased to have recently acquired a teacup/unomi by the revered Japanese potter Shoji Hamada. A designated National treasure in his lifetime Hamada exerted an incalculable influence on studio pottery world wide over his long life. The understatement of this little teacup presents a daily challenge in my practice.