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experiments Outside

Smoke fired pottery

In an attempt to add further depth to my ceramic surfaces, I’ve been messing about with fire in the Pottery garden.

pottery fish and pottery experiments being smoke fired on a bbq

I had dabbled with smoke firing once before in my role as an artist in residence at Evesham Nursery School. I have very fond memories of working with the staff and children in their amazing Forest School site on the outskirts of town.

The young artists had great fun painting thick wet slip onto bisque pots they’d created on one of my previous visits to the Nursery.

 

Once the pots, leaves, staff and children’s faces! had been daubed in slip, we set about building a fire around the pots, watching as the flames and smoke curled around the children’s creations.

When the fire had died down, we carefully extracted the scorching pots using raku tongs and plunged them into a bucket of water, admiring the sizzling, bubbling and frothing as they sunk to the bottom.

As soon as the pots were cool enough to handle, the children set about removing ash and scrubbing away the painted slip to reveal the pale terracotta – a terrific contrast to the blackened, smoked areas of the unmasked surface.

I remember being encouraged and inspired by the children’s results and keen to try out the process for myself. Unfortunately, as with a lot of things, I never seemed to find the time to explore the technique. That is until Lock down! 

I discovered an amazing website called Ceramic Arts Network, packed full with articles and accessible features. My fave being how to smoke fire pots on a BBQ!

garden bbq filled with ceramic experiments by artist jon williams

I have learnt so much from the first firing (thermal shock can be so frustrating!) and am looking forward to trying again using saggars to protect and pattern the work.

smoke fired pottery experiments by jon williams

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Giant Pringles in a pear tree!

Tree Pringles! 

The latest incarnation of x30 or so wheel thrown disks.

They made their debut at Fresh Air Sculpture Exhibition a few years back as a purely sculptural piece, stacked one on top of another to form two floor standing totems.

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with the work as an interactive resource in all sorts of settings and environments.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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They make excellent rocking pots too!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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They’ll have their next outing at the rescheduled Hellens Garden Festival 22 & 23 August 2020.

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experiments work in progress

Disintegration pots

These poor little fellas have been thrown, slipped, cut, stretched and pulled apart on the potter’s wheel!

I’m enjoying seeing how far I can push the material with the aim to capture or preserve the point of disintegration. It’s a tricky balance to strike and I probably loose a third of what I’m making?

Anyway, it’s great fun and very rewarding when you get one that stands up. Each pot is truly individual and I’m considering smoke firing them to add a further layer of randomness!

detail of disintergration pots by jon williams

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experiments Outside

Quite like it as it is!

Something I greatly value about the making process is the emergence of an unexpected outcome.

The potter’s wheel offers lots of potential for a creative ‘surprise’ and I always try to stay alert to the ‘happy accident’. The slightest change in hand position or shift in concentration can lead to a whole new aesthetic or approach. I may not have the time to action the diversion straight away but will photograph, make notes and bank the idea for another day.

sculptural ceramics by herefordshire potter jon williams

More recently, I’ve been getting further and further through the making process before the ‘light bulb’ moment presents itself. The forms above were thrown and assembled bodies of insects designed for a garden sculpture exhibition. There is something very elementary and abstract about the forms at that particular stage in the process that prompted me to take the photo. I then attached legs and wings to achieve the original intention and turned them into something quite different from the legless versions! 

This piece below is a slabbed base designed to display a ceramic fish sculpture. A metal rod inserted in the hole to suspend the fish at the other end.

slab built vessel by potter jon williams

Most of my work starts it’s life on the potter’s wheel so shapes are invariably soft and organic looking. Producing a straight sided, angular object required me to work with another technique. I had so much fun rolling the clay, drying, assembling the slabs and finally smoothing the joins, it got me inspired to do more. Discounting the original function of the piece, I think the leather hard result looks like it could hold it’s own as a stand alone sculptural vessel.

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experiments

Thrown and Altered

Really enjoyed making these three!

They were produced at a time when I was busy experimenting with process and materials, using all sorts of clay bodies and firing temperatures.

I worked intuitively and quickly, blow torching freshly thrown vessels on the potter’s wheel so they’d take a layer or two of coloured slip. I’d then stretch, cut and distort the forms, pushing the wet clay to its limit.

I had so much fun and although I was excited by the results, I didn’t ever get to a point of turning all I’d discovered into a coherent body of work…. until now!

Over the coming weeks and months I’m aiming to revisit some of the techniques and produce some finished ware. Next year I’m booked to exhibit at Contemporary Ceramics Centre in London. You never know, some of the output might make an appearance there!?studio pottery vessel made by ceramic artist Jon Williamswheel thrown brick clay pot made by jon williams