I’ve been working on a new series of table lamps for an exhibition in Newtown. My 13 year-old son came into the studio to watch, but after only a few minutes he left saying “I don’t know how you can stand to keep doing that. It’s so boring.” He didn’t mean the end result – which usually gets his admiration! – he was talking about my method of working the clay.
My method is to take a small pinch of clay, roll it into a ball, pinch it out really thin with my thumbs and then create little pleats in it as many times as it will allow. I do not decide how it will pleat; I let it find its own path based on very slightly thicker and thinner areas. Each small piece in then pressed into a mould, slightly overlapping each other.
What Jay said left me wondering why I’m still doing what appears to be the same thing after about 5 years now. I’m not sure what the typical length of time spent on one particular style is for ceramic artists. I would like to hear people’s views on this.
I started working the clay in a similar but more simplistic way when I was doing Cert III at Hornsby TAFE. I misunderstood the teacher’s directions when she asked us to make a pinched bowl and started pinching the lump of clay way too thin. When I found it was flopping and not holding a bowl shape I made folds to bring it in. I still found I couldn’t make a bowl form this way, but did find I could make it go straight up and so ended up with a simple beer bottle form. This I bisqued and then painted oxide into the pleats, wiping back to highlight them. This produced something I felt worth pursuing.
Over the last couple of years the folds or pleats have got more depth to them – creating greater light and shade and no longer needing the oxide to highlight the detail.
I think it is the slight changes that appear over time, and the fascination in the different folds created in every little section of the piece, that keeps me interested. I hope to keep my audience interested by designing new forms that compliment my technique. So I’m not done yet…