Last weekend, Emilia and I took a trip to Hatfield in Hertfordshire for Art in Clay. After about an hour and a half drive from our London studio in South Wimbledon we arrived at the grounds of Hatfield House. It was truly an inspirational visit. There was a huge range of ceramics on display by many very well known potters as well as quite a number of newcomers and students, showing the endless possibilities of the medium. The event showcases over 200 artists working in clay. It is a selected event so the quality of the work is exceptional and worth the trip!
We would love to share with you today our experience of visiting Art in Clay. This summer event has been held annually in the grounds of Hatfield House now for 23 years but this year was our first visit together.
As we can only currently fire earthenware in our own studio, we focused our attention particularly on the artists showcasing this kind of work. Earthenware is the most common type of clay in the UK, and there is a long tradition of working with it, going back to ancient times. Earthenware, meaning “of the earth”, is a type of clay body that is low fired (up to around 1150ºC). One characteristic that distinguishes low fired work from high fired work such as stoneware or porcelain is that it remains porous after being fired. Because of this earthenware is not recommended for use in modern appliances such as microwaves and dishwashers, and it cannot be put in the freezer. However, there is a tradition dating back to medieval times in the UK of using pieces in all domestic settings made of this type of clay and thus it has a really strong association with domestic life, homeliness and good hearty cooking!
Slipware is a type of earthenware that is decorated with colour slips (liquid clay). Some ceramicists working with these methods, who we met and whose work we really admire, include Rosalind Smith and Josie Walter. Josie makes domestic themed ware whilst Rosalind makes intricate sculptural work with reference to old English lifestyle, both decorated using brushwork and slip trailing.
Another potter whose work we absolutely love is Tiffany Scull. She works with slip at higher temperatures, and the work is decorated with a method known as sgraffito, that involves scratching away layers of slip to reveal the color of the clay body underneath. As potters we really appreciate the amount of skill and time that went into making each of these pieces. In fact, this method was one of the spot tests in The Great Pottery Throw Down Series Two and was won by Clover Lee! We will be teaching the sgraffito technique of decoration in our upcoming workshops and courses.
We also joined the raffle that was organised to raise funds for the new Clay College in Stoke-on-Trent and Clover won an amazing pot from Jane Gibson! Jane was displaying a beautiful range of paper kiln fired work that she developed from a research project for her City and Guilds. Her study of traditional potters in S. Asia developed a love of naked clay with fire markings. This led to a way of producing these in a contemporary style in an urban environment. Usually pit firings require space outdoors where your neighbours don’t mind a bit of smoke, however, with Jane's unique technique, she is able to achieve the same results with very little or no smoke using paper and clean small bits of wood!
Pit firings are another very ancient technique used for firing pottery. In pit firings, unglazed and burnished pots are placed in a pit filled with sawdust, wood and materials such as metal oxides, nut shells or seaweed (my favourite combustible material) to give colours to the pots. Clover had some successful results in The Throw Down, and she will share her experience of pit firing in another blog post on her new range of pit fired pots.
If you missed last weekend’s event, there will be another Art in Clay in Farnham (http://www.artinclay.co.uk/farnham-2017/) on 18-19th November where you can view and purchase Clover’s newest pieces. Clover will also be showing her latest work and demonstrating at Made by Hand Cardiff (http://www.madebyhand-wales.co.uk) on 3rd - 5th November. In the meantime, if you are near London and you fancy a go on the potter’s wheel or would like any information on the courses and workshops we offer, please get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.clover-lee.com.