A taste of Christmas at Great Dixter

Join me at the Great Dixter fair on Sat 24 & Sun 25 Nov. Dixter is the home and garden of the inspirational garden writer Christopher Lloyd, famed for his creativity and his entertaining. The event is a fitting mix of food, gardens, books, crafts and more - and of course there's the house and garden to enjoy as well.

Do come along and join us if you can, full details are on the Dixter website.

Anatomy of a style: Form & profile

Functional ceramics has a very long history, and is of course designed to serve the human body which changes very little, so there are very strong conventions about what what you eat from when, what shape a bowl is, what size a plate is etc. I wanted to make serving-ware that people would actually use and and enjoy on a regular basis, but I also wanted to find my own designs that were personal and fresh.

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However there's a danger of becoming deeply obscure and annoyingly tricksy if you set out to invent something entirely new. My challenge has been to balance these aspects and incorporate just enough of each to satisfy.

A range of inspirations from modernist architecture via cast concrete and long-serving utilitarian design such as coal hods have fed into the collection. From these influences  I use clean lines, interesting form and an unfussy clarity of profile to create pots that have a quiet presence.

I am fascinated by the tension in the angle of a corner, the character produced by varying proportions and so my work has become an exploration of proportion and angular profiles. Each piece has grown out of these interests, to be interesting in it's own right and also to be complimentary to its fellows, so that when placed together there is a rich composition on the table of forms and angles and negative spaces.

Because my collection is designed collectively to incorporate a wider variety of forms and profiles it is more flexible in the way it can be combined to suit your particular taste. Now that we have been freed from the constrictions of the  matchy-matchy dinner service how do you combine pieces of different styles/ colours/ eras/ materials etc to build up a more personal collection?

Handmade in Britain: Chelsea 2017

Here's my pick of 5 makers to look out for amongst all the talent that will be exhibiting at HIB: Chelsea (10 - 12 November) this year:

For full details of all the makers exhibiting and visitor information click here.

Do say hello if you visit, it's always nice to meet people in real life! I will be on stand 81.

New Hastings stockist: Printed Matter Bookshop

Sometimes it helps to have a shopkeeper in the family. As you may know my partner recently opened Printed Matter Bookshop and has generously offered me some space to sell my wares. I'm utilising the space to create a local outlet for seconds, samples and overstock all at 50% off so do check it out if you're in the area and like a hand-crafted bargain.

If you'd like to know more about why something gets marked down as a second you may find this blog post interesting: what is a second?

The shop is open everyday except Weds and stocks a great range of interesting books so check those out as well!

Homing in on creative ideas

I got a chance to follow-up on my wild photography experiences, this time back at Pett Level beach. I roamed the beach as the tide went out, exploring the shingles and rocks and sands and rockpools and waters edge. Looking closely to see what was there and hoping that one particular place might call to me.

As I wandered it struck me that the whole beach was really the soft sandstone cliff in the process of dying. Below the cliff huge boulders with sharp edges show that they have recently 'calved' from the rockface. The edges get smoothed and shaped by the sea in the next band of coastline and then right out at the low tide line are the abraded sands. Below it all, and only visible at the point of low tide is a layer of grey clay - great for me - but quite possible cause of much of the instability in the rocky headland?

After my wowzer moment at Rock-a-nore seeing the amazing boulders there I had come to Pett Level looking for a less populated version of the same thing, and so my early visits to Pett Level I focussed very much on the rocks.

However, assessing my recent maquettes I realised that the one that interested me most was actually born more from the sands.

When I stopped being blinkered by my expectations, of what a beach should be, of what I was interested in, and attended to what was actually there, what was the character of that place & what about it drew me - I was surprised to discover that it was not the rocks.

The place that drew me was a small patch of sand about 15" across nestled against a rib of projecting rocks and slowly being revealed by the outgoing tide. It might not sound major to go to a beach and be called by the sand, but for me it's a bit of a revelation. My family are very rocky and I'd grown up being a bit sniffy about sandy beaches, dismissing them as boring. But it seems that there is something appealing to me about the transitory nature of the sands, shifting and sifting as the tides take them, bearing within them the grain of the cliffs above, revealed as the waters drop while I wait & watch.

The process of finding this interest within myself was also significant and told me that my unexpected choice of the sand-ripple forms as the point of departure for my next round of creative experimentations was a good one.

Pick of Coastal Currents Arts Festival 2017

Coastal Currents is Hastings' own arts festival. I saw a little bit of it last year but am excited to see more - and to participate - this year.

The festival has a big open studios strand, and my space will be open for the weekends of 2/3 & 9/10 Sept from 11-6. Guest artist Jemma Wyllie will be joining me to show her work too.

In the run-up to the festival here's my personal selection of things to look out for.

EXHIBITIONS & EVENTS

OPEN STUDIOS

New maquettes

As I mentioned in a previous post I have been playing with some new coastally-inspired ideas recently. The initial maquettes were a way to try out some of these ideas, some new clays and also some different firing techniques.

Once they were all completed I was faced with deciding how to proceed. This sort of decision making process is often a trigger for self-doubt and over-thinking.

This time I tried not to think too hard about it- instead I looked at everything, handled it & just went with my gut response of whether or not I felt it was interesting/appealing to me right now.

Not interesting/appealing right now

Not interesting/appealing right now

Yes!

Still some whittling down to do, but starting to get somewhere...

'Dish of the Day' exhibition opens today

I'm very pleased to announce that a selection of my work will be on show at the wonderful Bluecoat Display Centre in Liverpool as part of their contemporary tableware exhibition 'Dish of the Day'. The preview is tonight so do go along if you are in the area.

Sadly I don't think I'll be able to get up there to see it in person but I look forward to seeing some photographs. Having been there in the past I'm confident that all those that do get to visit will have a great time!

Dish of the Day / Saturday 22nd July 2017 - Saturday 26th August 2017

This exhibition will highlight the contemporary ranges of beautiful handmade functional tableware that is being produced by potters across the UK.

Our dining table will also include ranges of complementary table linen and utensils in wood and metal with furniture by leading makers.

Confirmed makers include Clod & Pebble, Emily Doran, Dove Street Pottery, Helen Faulkner, Teresa Green, Miriam Jones, Lindean Mill Glass, Hugh Miller, Marged Owain, Pottery West, Jane Sarre, Charlotte Storrs, Kaori Tatebayashi, Michael Taylor, Christine Toh & Sarah Went.

Breaking rules, making brushes and marks

As part of my new emphasis on more creative work I have been forced up against lots of head-stuff; unspoken rules, shoulds, inner criticalness, perfectionism etc etc etc. Bleurgh!

I am trying to focus as much as I can on the things that inspire me and to listen to them and the creative decisions that happen in the moment of making. I have also decided that the only rule here is that there are no rules.

One old rule that got stuck in my head was that pots with 'decorations' were not for me - a valid response to growing up in the 80s when everything had some horrible random motif printed on it (toaster with wheatsheafs I'm looking at you!). But as a result lots of potential for mark-making and interesting surfaces got thrown overboard.

I came across a brush-making workshop that australian artist Lorna Crane was offering and felt a whisker-twitching itch to participate. Sadly the funds did not permit such long distance travel, but the idea was planted and I decided to have a go at home, using only materials I had picked up on the beach.

None of the materials were collected with this in mind so interesting to see what could be made with whatever was on hand, in my stash of previously scavenged bits and pieces some natural some not. Here's some first results using ink to draw with my new brushes, some of them were quite surprising.

Inspirations for some new creative work...

Since moving to Hastings I have loved exploring my new surroundings. Drinking it all in - and having a bit more space and time to think - has lead to some surprising developments. It has inspired me to start playing with some new creative ideas. I don't know where they will take me yet as it's very early days so far but it feels very rewarding to be able to focus on my art and inspirations and the early creative play that seems to be necessary before new finished pieces can be born.

I will share some of the processes I am exploring with you, and some of the results when we get that far...

For now, here's some views of the coast at nearby Pett which is inspiring the current developments. I have been looking particularly at organic forms, surfaces and the ways in which forms and voids relate.

South East Open Studios ends this weekend

I am opening up my new studio again this weekend, as part of SEOS, along with guest artist Celia David.

Here's a snapshot of what's available...

 

Details are on the Events page if you'd like to come along in person to say hello, snap up a bargain or just have a look-see at the new space.

Congratulations to P.Franco!

Congratulations today to one of my clients; the creative, talented and hard working team at P.Franco for their place in the Top 100 UK restaurants according to the National Restaurant Awards. They are serious about the wine and food pairing and turn out amazing dishes from a tiny kitchen so it's great to see their work being rewarded and to play my small part in supporting their endeavours. Bravo!

All photos by P.Franco.

Garden design by Burle Marx

As spring progresses we have become more aware of the state of our new back garden and how much better it could be. A chance sighting of Brazilian designer Burle Marx's work on tv has been inspiring. Initially an artist he brought an artistic vision to his work as well as a committment to the place he was working, using native flora and style rather than harking back to a European tradition. What I particularly relished was his use of structure - in a way that was not formal ( a big eye-opener that has set my mind whirring!), rhythm, repetition and block planting to draw attention to the characteristics of one plant. I also enjoyed his focus on the character of a plant as a whole rather then being tightly focussed on flowers as so often happens in English gardens to rather ditzy effect.

Here are some pictures of his own garden that I found on the internet...