My Journey so far
I started out as a dancer but when I reached thirty, my poor over used body started to complain so I had to stop. I started teaching dance classes and aerobics which was a nice transition as I was quite comfortable performing and very comfortable in studios, where I had spent a lot of my time when training as a dancer.
After several years of teaching too many dance and aerobic classes my body finally said no. This put paid to any more dancing. It’s a bit like losing a really close friend when you have to stop. There was a big hole inside me that was getting bigger. It dawned on me what it was as I started hankering after art galleries. It was that artistic outlet that dancing and choreographing my classes had fulfilled.
I started to look round for a ‘dancing replacement’ which is when I met Bruce Chivers, a great Devon potter, in his Chagford gallery. I had always liked and wanted to learn pottery but had always been too busy dancing and bringing up children. Now was my opportunity and I started classes with Bruce.
Pottery has so much in common with dance. It is three dimensional and you have to master a very difficult technique before you can put any of your own interpretation upon it. Just up my street, dancing is just the same. I have now been making and choreographing pots for over thirteen years. The great thing is I can now continue for ever as there is no time limit on it, unlike dancing. I just hope my hands can take the strain!!
Pottery and dancing have many similarities. The physically demands, deep learning of the craft of making and decoration equal to training and interpretation of step, and I am captured by the challenge.
I chose porcelain clay because it is white and smooth and feels beautiful to use. I throw the pots with care and deep concentration on the wheel. When throwing I become transfixed by the subtleties of the curves and almost undetectable changes of direction. The quality and delicacy of hand and mind together forming the pot absorbs me like the qualities of dance once did.
I like the drama of colour and am inspired by the ocean, stunning skies and landscapes that surround me every day and influence my glazes. The colour of my celadon glaze is enhanced by wood ash from fallen trees and hedges logged up from around my garden and burned in the wood burner to warm my house. The wood ash is washed and added to the glaze enhancing the subtle celadon colour brought out by the reduction atmosphere of the kiln. Reduction firing involves firing with flame in a gas kiln, which is very exciting and appears to me to gives the pots more life. Equally I think It is important to be very involved in the firing of my pots, adjusting the kilns temperature levels and atmosphere. It enables me to contribute to the decorative end result.
I feel the need to continually develop my work, always moving on and exploring new approaches and ideas. Having mostly fired to stoneware temperatures with long firing it has been a joy to work with the beautiful serendipitous fast and immediate process of Raku. The thrill of removing the red hot pot from the kiln, plunging it into sawdust that ignites, engulfing the pot in flames and smoke creating beautiful surfaces and is only partly predictable to the maker. The firing and glazing combination is never quite the same every time. Raku has a freshness and an unpredictability that makes it exciting for the maker and the onlooker. Each pot has an individuality of its own almost as though it collaborated with maker and fire gods to create its own decoration.
When I make a pot I try to connect with the deep subconscious state of flow, where I am totally rapped up in the process and loose track of time. Touch, feel and the three dimensionalness, subtle curves and movement of the pot are all that concerns me. The choreography of the pot that makes the handler want to turn it and look at all aspects. A pot that exudes grace like the body of a dancer. My materials and the unpredictable process, give me the tools to achieve the look I strive for. Clay and a potters wheel has been the tools of choice for millennia for potters and I feel a beautiful sense of continuity with crafts people through the centuries that have mastered and delighted in throwing pots.