Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Finding the opportunities in Lockdown
The lockdown has been very enlightening for creatives in many ways.
I consider myself very fortunate in that I live in a rural area so was able to go walking regularly, I have a garden (now full of veggies) and my pottery is in the garden thus enabling me to work throughout this period of enforced distancing.
The initial fear around Coronavirus was quite debilitating for me – family living in different parts of the UK and Spain, and anxiety about this unseen disease. It took a while but eventually I found that getting into the pottery, throwing some pots and the familiar cycle of glazing and firing was soothing and grounding. It brought some sanity into a confused world.
My thoughts turned to Korean Moon jars, looking at an example from the British Museum from the 17th/18th century. The not too perfect spherical form and quiet milky white glaze appeal to my sensibilities having always been attracted to the wabi sabi ideals of imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Throwing two semi spheres then joining them to form the pot provided just the right degree of challenge - I normally throw tall forms and round bowls from porcelain – well known for it’s propensity to tire easily and collapse.
Diligently I practiced throwing the two identical semi spheres then joining them as well as forming smaller jars from one piece. It proved frustrating at times as tell tale cracks appeared on the joins after glaze firing despite being carefully smoothed during the making. Reminding myself not to be too attached to perfection I accepted the disappointments and rejoiced in the successes.
Fired with a new creative surge, the challenge of developing new glazes came next. My standard glaze is a milky white satin and it fits the pots well. I also wanted something more textural and a decent black glaze, so resumed my research into crawling, crater and volcanic glazes. For anyone interested in this line of discovery I recommend reading Linda Bloomfield’s new book “Special Effect Glazes”
Glaze testing is a long process, the lockdown allowed time research, test and refine that would normally have been taken up by preparation and exhibiting at shows. As a result I now have a crater glaze that reacts with black under glaze to produce startling iridescent blues, a stable pewter black and a very exciting white crawling glaze that works on my porcelain jars – at last! All need more work but are on their way.
As society moves towards opening up, most of us are moving around more freely, galleries are beginning to open and shows may actually happen late in the year. I’m grateful to Liz at Gallery 49 in Bridlington for going ahead with a carefully planned “Landscapes of the Mind” exhibition. Potfest Pens is postponed but looking likely, as is art& York and York Ceramics Fair.
Things will be different - we can stay safe and still build our thriving ceramics community. The enforced slowing down and taking stock of lives and practices has had many repercussions, some sadness and much to be grateful for especially the opportunity to review the holistic nature and importance of our creative work.