I had played around with clay and glazes but had never really been involved with ceramics until a 3-month residency at ekwc (European ceramics work centre) in Holland early in 2009. It was the midst of 2007/8/9 Great Financial Crash, and we watched Obama being inaugurated on TV.
Clay is such a lumpen material, damp and heavy, yet it is capable of being transformed by fire into objects as diverse as porcelain teeth and fine teacups to pedestrian terracotta plant pots and the ubiquitous factory white bathroom tiles.
Made from slip cast porcelain, I wanted to it to do what most ceramicists don’t want their work to do: crack and distort in the kiln.
To make a slip cast for, you first make a plaster mould and then leave it until it is bone dry. The dryness is necessary to absorb the water from the liquid porcelain that your pout into the mould once it’s prepared and carefully put back together. All holes and seams must be sealed with clay, but the clay should not touch the porcelain. You then pour the clay in, will it around so that the whole of the inside of the mould
I was in Madagascar shortly before I went to Holland. The drinking water was cleaned using a ceramic filter. The water was delicious and saved us using plastic bottles.
I was intrigued by the idea that you could pass water through ceramic and leave all the bugs and other toxins behind. This work was based on this idea. I roughly press moulded buckets, and then fired them at low temperature so that they would remain porous.
When I went to collect Vulcan from the kiln, the potter in charge was looking glum. My figure’s head had nearly fallen off, and the glaze had slid off the object onto the stone. I carried out minimal repairs to keep him in one piece and then displayed him on a tall, rickety plinth.
Experiments and sketches
My time at the ekwc was an incredible opportunity to experiment with all types of clay, glazings and firing techniques. With everything on hand, making work was easy.