Make your mark: Clare comes to regular sessions at the studio & is now practicing her throwing. Recently we chatted a bit about sustainability and the responsibilities we have as makers. It’s a tough one. There’s been a lot of talk about plastic recently & there’s always talk about stuff and wether we really need it – particularly on the run up to Christmas. People have formed clay for 20,000 years & a lot of what we know about our past can be learnt through these artefacts. We’re moulded & capacious, it’s moulded & giving: perhaps that’s why so many people connect with it. It records stories: cultural, social, material, social, economic etc… I know I’d rather have something that tells a story, any story. I think making and buying things that asks something of you is affirming. Producing also involves risk. Learning to let go is important. I know I’d rather have opportunities to fail & reflect on my life. There’s plenty of opportunity for that in ceramics. It’s my best friend.
Also… we’ve needed to start using stamps for ages. I’d intended to do this when I first started Sunken Studio but forgot! They’re now more important than ever. There’s a lot of work going through the kiln & these will help optimise loads.
Introducing Becca Macdonald: Becca is joining us as our new studio assistant.
Becca is a designer maker who has recently moved back to Saltaire after living in London. Becca’s background is in textile design: she specialised in knit at Chelsea College of Arts. While in London Becca worked in a range of design, interior and craft studios assisting and leading teams. She helped deliver projects that included furniture and surface design, immersive public experiences and architectonic textiles. She also assisted with the day-to-day operations of a pottery studio and has taught handbuilding workshops.
Becca’s personal practice currently involves making jewellery that documents human traces and transience. She uses metal clay to produce fine silver jewellery. Her pieces record fluidity, movement, gesture, space and where hard meets soft.
Becca’s interest in form, texture and the evidence of presence has driven experimentation with a range of materials and processes – textiles, porcelain, jesmonite, silver clay, resin. Becca’s material thirst and investigative attitude, combined with industry, educational and customer facing experience, really excites us. We’re so thrilled to welcome Becca to our team.
On Saturday 22nd September we’ll be taking part in Manchester’s first wellness festival. We’re delivering a short clay basics workshop at 5pm. Connect with the ground, use your hands and get proper messy in this one-hour class. Squeeze on, switch off, come home with a piece you’ll treasure forever.
Float is a one-day festival and brings together makers, foodies, ideas creators, mindfulness practitioners, business/personal development gurus and yoga teachers to open your eyes and quiet your mind. Head to Float to learn more and book tickets.
I recently took part in Craft Agency’s 10 Questions series. Head to their blog to read the full conversation.
Craft Agency is creative and digital recruitment company, with a bespoke approach to finding the right fit. They bring creative people together in ways that build long-term value and fulfil exciting potential.
Yesterday we were treated to a day working with the very talented Rebecca from the @sunkenstudioleeds in Leeds. A day just to get the creative juices flowing and enjoying learning something new. Thank you Rebecca for the most fabulous day. Our designers and illustrators loved working with you.
The conversation continues… does it matter if clay is finally being embraced by the art world (see NY Times)?
I don’t think so. Ceramics is its own thing with a fascinating history (20,000 years). Clay as a medium doesn’t need to be accepted by the art world for it to be awesome. The clay/art conversation just adds to its story & reinforces its influence & importance.
Haptic-fantastic, ‘rudely analogue’ (see The Guardian) & it tells so much about our past & present.
Clay yields & Ceramics is unyielding – it can be what you want it to be & it’ll be around for a long time to come. Pots have always had presence… subtle, there but not THERE. The hierarchy of acceptance is a distraction and reinforces some bad habits/attitudes.
I’ve been hanging out with the youth at Carr Manor Foundation Years for over a year now and it’s led to a new contract at Foundations Nursery in Batley. I go once a month to Batley and to Carr Manor every week. I work with staff and children looking at ways to use clay to help with material understanding, problem solving, fine motor skills and investigative play. Language comes in to it too.
In my last session at Batley, I set tasks to help develop hand-eye coordination by asking the children to explore different approaches to balancing and fixing disparate materials together.
We used clay as an anchor, binder and ballast – rolling, threading and blending to cover, stack and thread together wooden skewers, lollipop sticks, pipe cleaners, spaghetti and paper tubes into tall and long forms.
Clay is a fascinating material to take risks with because it changes state, and if things go wrong it can be reused. Clay in the curriculum is really important. Using it involves using the body & mind in ways that don’t have comparisons. I think that difference is needed to suit the variety of ways people learn and understand.
In September I was asked to make some colourful ceramic thimbles for the ‘Fairy Lady’ Samantha Bryan. Samantha is inspired by Victorian gadgetry and invention and creates humorous suspended, wall mounted and free standing sculptures out of a combination of wire, leather, found objects & collected materials. These unusual sculptures depict everyday life in ‘fairyland’. Samantha species of fairies are beautifully crafted and each tells an endearing story built around ideas on what they need, the perils they face and how busy they are. Listen to Samantha talk about being an inventor and story teller in her film ‘Desire to Fly’.
Melanie Hadida and I decided to get together for a collaborative workshop (Tea Bowls and Tea Blends: Brew) over a shared love of the book Herbarium. It’s a beautiful book conceived, written and illustrated by Here Design (Caz Hilderbrand).
The popup shop at Carousel in Headingley was an opportunity to showcase our ceramic products – necklaces, brooches, bangles & spoons – alongside our clay workshops. The aim was to have a street presence where we could promote the studio and chat to passers by. The popup shop is smaller than our permanent ceramics studio in Roundhay. However, because it doesn’t contain all the tools & kit needed to operate a ceramics studio we were also able to invite bigger groups, more frequently, into the space. We hosted a range of introductory clay workshops in the Headingley space. The workshops covered coil building (Coil), spoon making (Whittle) festive bell making (Chime) and decorative ceramic Christmas decorations (Scatter). The larger space meant we could also accommodate larger private group bookings.
Earlier this year I invited Jenna Lee Alldread to the studio to work on a few examples for a ceramics workshop I was developing – Ceramics Taster: Trail. The workshop is an introduction decorative techniques. It covers working with coloured slips and explores techniques in applying pattern and illustrations to flatware (clay plates and tiles). The techniques covered include stencilling, sgraffito and slip trailing with coloured slip.
We now sell our pottery making workshops through Virgin Experiences. Visit our Studio or one of our Ceramics Tasters at a partner venue in Leeds. Choose from a range of pottery making techniques and processes. Try your hand at making pinch pots, coil pots, press moulding, slab building or experiment with slips and decorative technique.
“Every card, sheet of wrapping paper, gift, print, book, cushion (the list is endless) purchased from your local indie shop, craft fair, design market, small online shop this season will contribute to a maker or business owners longevity, supporting their growth and stability for the year ahead. Whether it’s a little or a lot, show your support and together we can continue to make our high streets, towns and villages prosper.” Hattie Maud, Mauds House.