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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
On the 4th August 2017 I was listening to the Last Word on BBC Radio 4. I heard a recording of Mark Wilkinson talking about furniture. He said “I want furniture that is affirmative not demanding. I don’t want to be nagged by my environment. I want to be comforted. I want it to speak to me of myself”. His candour resonated. Materials and the things we choose to live with are important and you should enjoy the things you choose to share your space and time with.
Here’s a piece of my furniture, and the things on it, that make me very happy. It’s 606 Universal Shelving designed by Dieter Rams and now manufactured and sold by Vitsoe. I spent last year saving for it & when I left my job I nearly changed my mind but… “sod it, bendy, precarious, Billy has to go!”. It’s the last sizeable, totally indulgent treat, I bought.
There have been some massive lows in the past 15 months but, although there have been some truly shitty bits, on the whole the changes have been for the best and I’m happier for it. I guess I’m mentioning this now as it’s important not to be nagged by anything… including furniture. It’s not just a bookshelf…
After workshops people regularly comment on how therapeutic they have found their experience with clay. I’m frequently asked if I find it therapeutic. My immediate response has been no. My mind jumps to all the problems I encounter and the constant disappointments. That said, I’ve been thinking about why, despite the challenges that the material presents, I’ve been loyal to it for over 20 years.
I enjoy the problems and challenges. I’m rewarded when a problem has been solved. Clay, and working three-dimensionally, has made me more resilient & determined. It’s provided me with so many opportunities to know myself and develop my conceptual and critical thinking. Shaping lumps of matter has been transformational.
Is it good for your health and wellbeing? Absolutely, but I describe it as feedback. It’s a reciprocal conversation that changes as the material’s properties change – plastic, leather hard, green, bisque etc… It’s also a conversation that’s enriched as you learn more about how it’s shaped how we live & what we know about our past.
If you listen to it & reflect on what it gives, it’s possible to learn something about yourself and the way you approach & resolve problems. In a culture that puts too much emphasis on cognitive intelligence, clay exerts its presence to give meaning and substance to what can be achieved with both body & mind. I’m thankful for that. In the past few years I’d not been making. I’d become quite miserable and began to dislike myself. I guess it all boils down to connecting – relating to clay involves many of the same challenges involved in relating to people.
Throughout June 2017 I experimented with styling to showcase products made at Sunken Studio’s Ceramics Tasters and Courses. I used the Adventures and Tea Parties Instagram challenge #ColourMyEveryday to act as prompts for the posts. Below is the list of prompts and links to the posts.
Also in June I took some timeout to develop products and make examples for workshops in preparation for Autumn and Winter. This challenge has alreadyhelped me develop a few new ideas beyond styling and showcasing.
On Friday 26 May creative small business’ were invited to share a snapshot of themselves in their workspaces to celebrate new research from NOT ON THE HIGH STREET. The research highlights how small creative businesses are helping to redefine the world of work. You can review the report here. Continue reading Work that Works
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”