Thinking through making
It’s been a long old week.
Sunday I drove to Sunderland through heavy fog, grateful that it had stopped snowing for long enough to clear the motorways and some A-roads. The purpose for my visit was the induction to my PhD research training. I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
Turns out I had grossly underestimated the complex nature of the process.
This invaluable course has set me up for the start of my research degree. No, more than that, it’s fired me up. I came away with ideas, lists, plans, a slight case of nerves and some new friends. I learned about such academic matters as methodology and more practical ones about keeping myself sane whilst undertaking an insane amount of work.
Today, Saturday, I managed to steal some time for making. I have been so massively busy with teaching and learning that making has been secondary.
I’m uncomfortable with this concept. I have a couple of works on the go that fit into my regular daily routine. These have been progressing with glacial slowness, but I always think half a step forward is better than sitting still.
Today I had a lot of pottery ‘admin’ to attend to. In other words, things that I’d started that needed some attention. This is the nature of my practice. Things get done in rather a random, yet economical manner. I started the day with lots of half made pieces. Let’s call them work in progress:
- Three porcelain paperclay ‘paper plates’ which had been held under some weight to establish the shape but now needed the paper plate moulds taking off them and the edges neatening.
- A whole bunch of diamond shapes cut from slabs which I plan to make into pieces to go into a paper kiln in the summer sometime. These needed smoothing and the some holes punching and some glazes adding.
- A couple of slip cast ‘cardboard coffee cups’ which needed smoothing ready for firing.
As usual there’s things I want to start making too.
- I needed to cast a couple of tinfoil food storage containers. You know the kind, the ones that Chinese food comes in with a little cardboard lid that the foil folds over to make a seal. These are for a project I’m doing with ATIC. Our northern willow ceramics are so beautiful but have been the victim of time constraints on both our parts recently.
- I’m trying out a technique I am developing which attempts to marble the surface of slip cast containers with black and white porcelain. Each time I go in the pottery I cast another two or three pieces like this.
This is about two and half hours work, but it’s how I do the work that I find interesting (probably best to stop reading now if you don’t think this will be fun to read).
It goes a bit like this:
Prep slip casting moulds, tape them up, pour initial marbling to line mould, leave for five mins to firm up.
Move to another bench to work on paper plates, leave under heater to dry up a bit (but not too much or too quickly)
Move back to first bench to do main pour into slip casting moulds, set alarm for twenty mins
Turn plates over before they get too dry.
Smooth the coffee cups with a sponge and then top up the slip in the moulds.
This goes on for another two hours. It’s like a dance. Well, more like a cross between a weird three dimensional strategy puzzle, the krypton factor and the birdie song.
It occurs to me, not for the first time, that this replicates the disjointed rhythm of domestic work.
Strip beds and take the washing downstairs, put the washer on.
Whilst in utility room, take pie out of freezer for the tea that night.
Back upstairs to remake beds – via emptying dishwasher
Answer some emails until
Alarm goes on washing machine to tell me to empty
I think this is the crux of my research……………….maybe?