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.
I recently took part in Craft Agency’s 10 Questions series. Head to their blog to read the full conversation.
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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.
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.