Sage head at RUH

Art, Ceramics, Exhibition

Last week I took a friend for her six-monthly trip to the pain management clinic at Royal United Hospital, Bath. I had the opportunity to visit my piece Sage which was in the Fusion exhibition last summer, and to check it had survived the winter OK.

It’s situated in one of the courtyard gardens – in Area D of the hospital if you happen to go there – and still looks good. The sage plant is growing and the ceramic head hasn’t developed any cracks, so all good. Nice to see the signposting is still up too.

The piece still officially belongs to me, but I’m happy for it to stay there and be seen, and hopefully appreciated, by staff, patients and visitors.

My next post should contain images from the Degree Show which starts with a Private View this Friday evening – and I’ve been very busy the last few days preparing the space, moving and setting up the work, and helping out where and when I can. Looking good. My work will be in glass cabinets in a darkened room…

Meanwhile here’s how Sage is looking now.


‘Sage’ head in situ at RUH, courtyard in area D


Closer view of ‘Sage’ head, info from Fusion exhibition still next to it





Art, Ceramics, Exhibition

It’s that nerve-wracking time of year when the art students are being assessed. Everyone has to clear out their studios, which are repainted and set up course by course, year by year, for the tutors and outside examiners to scrutinise our best endeavours, with relevant Supporting Work.

We cleared out from one campus last week, and can set up for our Final Assessment (gulp) from this Thursday, at another campus. All to be finished by a week tomorrow. Then it’s nail-biting time, and finally the hectic rush to get our Degree Show ready – back at the first campus.

I brought all my work home, having an estate car, so my family have had to endure boxes all over the living room and pots set up on the dining table in various different configurations. My bed is currently host to several large files and strewn with loose papers. Artist statement… self-evaluation… reflective journal…

Today I’ve been editing the ‘pages’ of this blog/website – if you go to ‘Ceramics Gallery’ you’ll see some reasonable studio photographs of my recent work, and as I’ve signed up for the 3rd year poetry course next year (to finally finish this degree) I updated the ‘Poetry’ page too. Although I’ve not had much time for poetry these last few months…

Reminder –  the Degree Show Private View is Friday June 10th 6-8pm, at Sion Hill Campus, BSU. Do come along if you’re anywhere near Bath! The show continues until Sun 19th, which just happens to be my birthday, so I might well invite friends over for a picnic in the grounds or something.

Better give you a pic. This is a configuration of footprints I won’t be using, but shows you how gorgeously mud from caves in the Mendips fires onto porcelain. And yes, they are my footprints. It was fun.

mud from Cutler's Green and Welshes Green caves, fired onto porcelain

mud from Cutler’s Green and Welshes Green caves, fired onto porcelain

Deep Time, Deep Place

Art, Ceramics

That was the title of the 15 minute presentation I gave last week about my work, for course assessment. Although I was really stressed at venturing out of my comfort zone yet again – it’s only the second PowerPoint presentation I’ve ever given – the whole process really did help pull my ideas into some sort of coherent shape.

I am clearly deeply influenced by my lifelong interest in prehistory, the ‘Deep Time’ of the title. All those thousands of years we were fully human, living and moving around this planet, leaving traces – hand prints, footprints… And museum exhibits I’ve seen over the years. Prehistoric British pottery from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages. Serendipitously, the weekend before the presentation I called in at the Glastonbury Lake Village exhibition in the Tribunal – there was a wool event on – and took photos of the reconstructed pots in a glass case. Also my tutors had suggested at the last Group Crit that I consider displaying my work in glass cases, to reference museums. So that’s probably what I’ll do for the Final Assessment – and if they like it, for the Degree show.

The ‘Deep Place’ referred to several ideas. Firstly, I’d been using mud dug out of caves on the Mendips by my speleologist son as ‘glazes’; secondly, our knowledge of the human prehistory is dug out of the ground, archaeologists sifting through layers, going down deeper in time and place; and thirdly, my strong felt connection with this land, going back to the years I lived ‘On the Road’ as a traveller in the 80s, and my daughter’s recent finding via a DNA analysis that we belong to the oldest mitochondrial line in western Europe.

So here are some pics of the latest pots out of the kiln, which I won’t be using for assessment as the shape is too contemporary, plus some things in glass cases. Not long to go now before it all has to be set up. I need to work on my artist statement, self assessment document, business cards and updating this website (pages) before then, plus getting all my contextual evidence and sketchbooks in order.

Anxious, but also excited. Degree show to follow! PV is Fri 10th June, show is on until Sun 19th, at Sion Hill campus. Do come…


Glastonbury Lake Village display at the Tribunal, Late Iron Age


Glastonbury Lake Village display at the Tribunal, Late Iron Age


new pot, reduction fired, Mendip cave mud handprint


new pot, reduction fired, Mendip cave mud handprint


new pot, reduction fired, Mendip cave mud handprint – sadly, the rim lifted, applied when pot too dry.


trying various pots in a glass case to check which went together…



Finish line in sight…

Art, Ceramics

I can’t believe it’s a month since I last blogged. So much has happened that I won’t be able to catch up fully. But one of the things I achieved was a session in the photography studios at Uni to get some good images of my work, needed for a presentation I have to give next week. We’ll leave the struggles with Powerpoint out of this post – the struggle with a decent camera, light meter and studio set-up was quite enough. I find these things very challenging.

So I thought I’d share a few images, which I managed to edit into a smaller file size last week. The end of the course is in sight now, ‘just’ the presentation, Final Assessment and degree show to go. I’ve stopped making new work to focus on refining my narrative and choosing the very few pieces which will represent my conclusion. Three of the last four pots went into the gas kiln today for stoneware reduction firing – one piece held over due to lack of space, but it looks like there’ll be another reduction firing in time. I’ve made some decisions already as to how many, and which, footprints and masks to show, and how I plan to display them. Hoping the rest of the group don’t shoot me down in flames at the all-day Group Crit this Thursday! Just the choice to make between the pots now. And the presentation, of course…

What you see here is not what I’ll be displaying, except as ‘supporting evidence’ for the assessment. If you plan to come to the Degree Show I’m sure my work will be unmistakable, but still hopefully a surprise to you. And the date? Private View Fri 10th June, on for 10 days, show take-down Mon 20th. (Then I go on-site to steward at Glastonbury Festival, but that’s another story).


My Expressive pot – this is exactly how I was feeling at the time! Stretched beyond my limits, slumped and needing support.


Working on textured pots, showing all the making process. Nice scorch marks from open flame of reduction firing.


A very pleasing shape, based on bronze age cooking pots. Thumb print decoration around rim using cave mud.


Another textured pot, inside and outside, showing tool marks. Decoration is raw Welshes Green cave mud slapped on to dribble as it melted. Blue Lias, gives a nice green-brown glaze. Interior ‘glazed’ with bonfire ash and cave mud.


Handprints test piece – Cutlers Green sample 2 on the left, Welshes Green sample on the right, fired onto porcelain.


Powdered Cutlers Green mud sample 3 sieved over hand to make silhouette, referencing ancient hand prints on cave walls, fired onto porcelain.


Footprints in both cave muds (Welshes Green on left, Cutlers Green 2 on right), imitating footprint tracks of Mesolithic people found in Severn estuary.


Encouragement, Serendipity, and a minor disaster

Art, Ceramics, Exhibition

My last post was a bit of a wobble after the Formative Assessment feedback, but I’m starting this one with an encouraging tutorial. It seems my current work is on the right track and my ‘studio practice’ grade is rising as my skills improve with concentrated making. I’m focusing on coiling pots, shapes inspired by bronze age and other early pottery, and using the clay and mud from Mendip caves as glazes onto these pots, and  onto porcelain in the form of hand and foot prints. I’m still doing test firings of raw clay onto porcelain tiles at different temperatures, but they may not go into the final show now. I’m narrowing down my field of enquiry at last. Countdown to Final Assessment and degree show!

The serendipity was due to being the right person in the right place for an opportunity that I’d previously been too stressed to take up. Another student came into the studio, where I was working alone as it’s the Easter break and only 3rd years and MA students are allowed in. She asked if I had any work I’d like to show in a curated exhibition – they are a group of curatorial practice students putting it on – as they were really short of 3D work and had a space they wanted to fill. So instead of the one piece I’d originally intended to offer, I now may have four pieces on display if the rest of the group agree. The show will be in May so I had to choose work which I’m not planning to use in my final assessment. I have to be prepared to talk about it too.

And the minor disaster was that one of my pots, several hours of work, fell over and broke after I’d transported it to the shelf for Reduction firing. I’m wondering if Richard the technician might fire the shards for me anyway, as tests – using bonfire ash as a glaze, and whether I can save time in future by once-firing to stoneware reduction temperatures rather than go through the bisque firing process.

In other news, the Life Drawing sessions have finished for the year, so here are my last drawings, just to show how much I’ve improved. Back to the other side of the easel – I have some bookings as a model coming up in April and May.


Life Drawing 18/3/16, graphite pencil


Life Drawing 18/3/16, charcoal


Powdered cave mud fired onto porcelain


It broke… maybe we can still fire the pieces as a test, and to resemble archaeological potsherds…?


Feedback and Subodh Gupta at Hauser & Wirth, Bruton

Art, Exhibition, public Art

The feedback from my Formative Assessment was fair and useful, but hit all my buttons – I’m not good enough, why do I think I could be an artist, what do I think I’m doing, all that sort of stuff. The anxiety and unease that throws us into making art in the first place, perhaps.
I have now resigned myself to not getting high marks in my art subject, but just to keep going. Paying more attention to presentation and the aesthetics of my work, as suggested. I always suffer from a surfeit of ideas and a lack of technique, I think.
Anyway, last weekend I took some friends to Hauser & Wirth, Bruton, to visit Subodh Gupta’s new exhibition there, ‘Invisible Reality’.
I do like going to this gallery; they offer free access to well-curated and presented high-end art, with plenty of information available to take away (great for context folders for my Uni course)and regular quality ‘community outreach’ and educational events. I still want a job there…
The current exhibition begins with a huge brass cooking pot hung on its side alone in a room. You first see the shiny underside looking like a huge gong then going round you look inside, to find a tangle of barbed wire where you’d expect food. Thought-provoking as well as quite beatiful. Gupta continually references his Indian homeland with domestic objects, often used and battered. If I could post the photos I took, I would – but for some reason the template on WordPress has changed and I can’t find how to post images any more. Perhaps I pressed the wrong button a while ago. Anyway, the ‘featured image’ is of the final exhibit, a stunning compilation of actual Indian cooking implements cunningly hung to represent an enormous cauldron.
I’d recommend this exhibition, as well as this gallery.

Assessment and Grayson Perry

Art, Ceramics

Last week was the Formative Assessment for my ceramics/3D course, so much anxiety. It’s the only chance to get anything marked and find out how I’m doing before the final Summative Assessment sometime in May. We had to display our work so far, with supporting material and all the research folders, sketchbooks and journals up to date. Now I’m waiting for the feedback…

So while the tutors were in the studios looking at everyone’s work, I went off into Bath with two other students to visit some current exhibitions and distract myself. I really wanted to get to Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences tapestries at the Victoria Art Gallery victoria art gallery (on until April), which did not disappoint. So much rich texture, vibrant colours, funny, pointed, knowing… I love his work.

Then to 44AD by the Abbey to catch the end of a collaborative show, artists working with medical practitioners and students. Lots of information, interactive displays etc, some video, paintings and mixed media work (I liked the open boxes, like a cross between dolls houses and old museum displays). And finally the Society of Wood Engravers group show at the BRLSI, also about to finish. Very polished work, highly skilled, some traditional subjects and techniques and some pushing the boundaries more, all held together by the same frames throughout.

And then the walk back up the hill in drizzle to pack away my work before the second year students need the space… here are a few images of what I showed:


Formative Assessment – my desk and wall with life drawings


Formative Assessment – my desk, tests and work in progress


Formative Assessment – display of work with natural objects


Formative Assessment – work on display


Formative Assessment – work on display


Formative Assessment – work on display


Formative Assessment – work on display


Formative Assessment – work on display

Leeds trip part 2 -Tetley building, Henry Moore Institute, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Art, Exhibition, public Art

On the Thursday evening we went to an artists’ talk at the Tetley building, for The Feast Wagon exhibition, after an hour of looking at the work. Two of the four artists were present – Simeon Barclay and Delaine Le Bas, one black British originally from Leeds and one Romani British – plus two people from the gallery and the researcher Irfan Shah, who provided the theme. I was excited to see Romani work in a mainstream setting, and also enjoyed Susan Walsh’s quirky collages and the collection of children’s wagons.

Next day we had time for another foray into the British Art show before our Introduction to Katrina Palmer’s show The Necropolitan Line at the Henry Moore Institute. I liked reading the free newspaper she’d produced, but didn’t enjoy the work as much as many of my peers did. What I really did enjoy was discovering Moore’s architectural plaster maquettes in cases – I really liked the scale, the texture, the surfaces, the shapes, the way they looked like bone, ancient echoes… Far more than his large bronzes.

Finally, a brief visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture park on the way home to catch Bill Viola’s video work. I was not expecting to like this but actually I found it intensely moving. Here’s a link Bill Viola at YSP and I’d highly recommend going if you’re in the area – immersive, hypnotic, technically interesting and highly emotional.

The ground was really soggy after the downpours they’d had, but the weather was fine enough to go for a brisk stroll through the park. We didn’t have anywhere near long enough – I must return!

As usual, here are a few images from my tablet, apologies for the picture quality.


Delaine Le Bas, British Romani artist who works with found textiles and interventions


Delaine Le Bas, British Romani artist who works with found textiles and interventions


Collage by Susan Walsh at ‘The Feast Wagon’, Tetley, Leeds


Collage by Susan Walsh at ‘The Feast Wagon’, Tetley, Leeds


Quirky children’s wagons collected and constructed by Susan Walsh and Lubaine Himid at Tetley, Leeds


Quirky children’s wagons collected and constructed by Susan Walsh and Lubaine Himid at Tetley, Leeds


Henry Moore study in plaster for architectural bronzes


Henry Moore study in plaster for architectural bronzes


Poppies Wave at Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Looks like Mr Gormley was here… Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Too muddy to see who this was by, but it certainly caught my eye! Yorkshire Sculpture Park









Leeds trip part 1 – British Art Show

Art, Ceramics, Exhibition, public Art

A Uni trip to Leeds over two days. We arrived early afternoon and had a couple of hours to visit the British Art Show at Leeds Art Gallery – enough to whet the appetite but not to see everything of interest. Fortunately we had more time the next day to catch up on the rest of it. As there was a lot of video art installation the extra time was needed.

The exhibition had taken over the whole of the gallery. Organised by Hayward Touring at Southbank Centre, 42 artists were chosen by curators Anna Colin and Lydia Yee, and some 26 of them produced new work specifically for this exhibition. It finishes here on Jan 10th, moving on to Edinburgh, Norwich and finally Southampton.

The guide tells us that ‘A central concern of British Art Show 8 is the changing role and status of the object at a time of increasing convergence between the real and the virtual… artists have developed new ways of thinking about, and approaching, materiality.’

Some highlights for me: in terms of video, Mikhail Karikis Children of Unquiet, Rachel Maclean’s Feed Me, and Bedwyr Williams’ Century Egg all caught my attention for an extended viewing. Materially, Caroline Achaintre’s large wall-mounted textile pieces were a big draw, I was also interested in her ceramic mask pieces, for reference with my own work; and Aaron Angell’s ceramic pieces were displayed as tableaux.

Other textile works included Alexandre de Cunha’s Kentucky, constructed of mop heads and taking up a whole wall, Simon Fujiwara’s Fabulous Beasts, and Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin’s tapestry based on forensic evidence from Sigmund Freud’s couch, displayed with a monitor showing the source material. Jessica Warboys’ Sea Painting is a huge canvas that is literally made by the sea as her ‘collaborator’, traces of a ‘performance’, with a new piece to be made for each venue at nearby beaches.

Nicolas Deshayes’ sculptural work Cramps and Vein Section (or cave painting) were visually exciting but produced by industrial fabricators – the artist has the concept but instructs others to make the work… Other sculptural pieces included Magali Reus’ wall-mounted pieces based on padlocks and Daniel Sinsel’s paintings using appropriated material.

My overall impression was that a lot of the art on display necessitated reading the artists’ information displayed on the wall, explaining the thinking behind their work. The viewer is expected to work hard in contemporary art, it is not intended to be simply a sublime experience drinking in the beauty of it all…

It’s impossible to show everything that caught my eye and the camera of my tablet, so here are just a few to whet your appetite:

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, from Freud's couch

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, from Freud’s couch

Magali Reus, one of 4 wall-mounted sculptures

Magali Reus, one of 4 wall-mounted sculptures

Caroline Achaintre, large textile hanging (one of 3 displayed)

Caroline Achaintre, large textile hanging (one of 3 displayed)

Caroline Achaintre, ceramic mask, wall-mounted

Caroline Achaintre, ceramic mask, wall-mounted

Caroline Achaintre, ceramic mask, wall-mounted

Caroline Achaintre, ceramic mask, wall-mounted

Nicolas Deshayes, 'Cramps'

Nicolas Deshayes, ‘Cramps’

Simon Fujiwara, one of the 'Fabulous beasts' series - constructed from shaved fur coats...

Simon Fujiwara, one of the ‘Fabulous beasts’ series – constructed from shaved fur coats…

Bedwyr Williams 'Century Egg', a 30 minute video, a narrative constructed around footage taken in the museums of Cambridge. Fascinating.

Bedwyr Williams ‘Century Egg’, a 30 minute video, a narrative constructed around footage taken in the museums of Cambridge. Fascinating.

Alexandre da Cunha 'Kentucky', large wallhanging constructed from mop heads

Alexandre da Cunha ‘Kentucky’, large wallhanging constructed from mop heads




Seasonal Greetings

Art, Ceramics

I’m rather behind on my posts, which I was attempting to do weekly, but Things Happened. Including the death and funeral of a dear friend. But the Uni term has finished, carols have been sung and will be sung again, I fitted in a raku firing yesterday, and before I go out into the blustery grey drizzle I must write…

Where to start? Have I mentioned that I’ve taken up life drawing again? I am so resistant to drawing that I’ve only just got round to attending the (free to all students) weekly sessions in Bath, after several years. But I’m determined to get a good grade this year, and if that necessitates doing all the things I’m resistant to (like using new technology) then so be it.

Serendipitously, the day of my first class I had a poem published online, an old one called From Life, which uses the metaphor of life drawing to describe a confusing almost-relationship. [If you’re interested, you can find it here] Somehow that gave me confidence. I was amazed with my drawings – considerably better than I was managing five years ago in my Art foundation course. Very tiring, huge concentration required, but worth keeping on with; so I went the following week too, and will continue next term. The model is fantastic too.

I also made more large(ish) pots, using crank clay and also white St Thomas, which handles quite differently. The first ones have now been bisque fired, and I’ve put them on the shelf for stoneware reduction firing next.

Some of the head-masks were modified (eg sand-blasting – great fun!) and fired in various ways, including a couple using the raku method. Now I have to decide which techniques and styles to focus on next term for the Graduate Show work. Two tutorials gave me quite different advice, so I have a lot to think about over the holidays, and plan.

Here are a few pictures to illustrate the range of my recent work.


bisque fired hand built pots in crank clay; waiting for stoneware reduction firing next


new large pot with oxides and Mendip mud hand prints


new large pot with Mendip mud and slip (different building style)


one head-mask slipped and sandblasted; the other with oxides, slip and reduction firing


head-mask raku fired


I love the crazing you sometimes get with raku…


Little Gritty God raku-fired. Love this one. I’m keeping it!