Sensational Clay was my solo show and a culmination of many months of work, exploring ideas of invention, interaction and participation with clay.
All the works in the exhibition were inspired by the five senses: touch, taste, sound, smell and sight. Every item encouraged visitors to interact and explore, inviting them to experience the objects in a very different way than in a typical gallery setting.
A short film accompanied the exhibition which gave further insight into my practice and the processes used:
Included in the exhibition were:
Giant bowls of sand that visitors can delve into to discover hidden treasures
Tables filled with food inspired ceramics, such as giant teacups and biscuits
Interactive musical pots and rattle pots
Scented ceramic forms, reminiscent of pineapples, coconuts and bananas
Textured ‘clay doodle’ plates
The exhibition toured a further four UK art galleries and was experienced by approximately 12000 visitors. The other venues were:
In an attempt to add further depth to my ceramic surfaces, I’ve been messing about with fire in the Pottery garden.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Throwback Thursday: Electro Bees in the Black Country Aug 2016
Back in the depths of Winter 2015 Jon was approached by Creative Black Country to contribute a work of art for a field of ceramic flowers, being ‘grown’ by community groups in West Bromwich and the surrounding area.
He submitted several ideas, but the one that really captured the imagination of CBC was a swarm of touch sensitive ceramic bees that buzzed when handled.
Jon’s practice is interactive and playful and the more layers of engagement the better. FAB LAB were the technology collaborators on this occasion with notable and outstanding ‘problem solving’ contribution from Anne Scrimshaw.
The bees were also featured on BBC Midlands today.
I was one of six makers who got to work with early-years children (0-5 years) and their families in an open-ended way, exploring the processes and techniques of our chosen art form. The project provided an opportunity for children, parents, carers and grandparents to explore and make together.
There were three sets of workshops, each focusing on a different material: Textiles, Metal and Clay. Two makers collaborated on each set. I partnered with Joanna Dawidowska, a ceramic artist based in Burton Upon Trent. The workshops took place during spring and early summer 2018. All the sessions were free to attend.
By way of a legacy, each lead artist produced an activity kit handed over to the Centre at the end of the project. This was to enable the early years practitioners, parents and children to carry on the exploratory play work once the project had concluded.
I really enjoyed putting the clay kit together and encouraged parents to make their own clay stamps and mark making implements to accompany all the other stuff.
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!?
Throwback Thursday: Happy Craft Play Project 2013 – 2014
Outside learning with nursery aged children in the depths of winter – chilly, great fun and a fine example of partnership and collaborative working! Just look at the individuals and organisations involved:
I made ceramic play things and clay stamps as a response to the exploratory sessions with the very young children and their teachers. The work was then gifted to the school to as a resource for future outdoor learning.
Background to the project:
The Craftplay project brought together WAVE and Craftspace who worked together at Bilston Craft Gallery to deliver a programme of creative engagement sessions with early years’ children. The project engaged with children and their carers through working with craft makers to explore creative play and the natural environment – investigating the part craft plays in developing a sustainable future. By taking the world around us as a teacher and actively interacting with, The Craftplay project sought to inspire children with an appreciation of the environment and its systems, and to enrich their self-belief through creating things themselves by hand.
There is an acute need to support basic wellbeing in the area immediately around Bilston Craft Gallery which has high concentrations of children living in poverty and high levels of deprivation. The sessions provided by the Craftplay project offered a rich, inspiring and fun learning environment where curiosity, confidence and social development were nurtured. In order to chart the progress of their project, WAVE and Craftspace created a great blog.
Having been inspired by the success of my solo exhibition Sensational Clay, I was keen to explore in more detail some of the threads I’d been developing for the show – particularly the sonic possibilities. I was interested in adding a digital aspect to my work and contacted the digital sound artist Ashley Brown to see if he was interested in a collaboration. He was! and our work together culminated in three installations in three cultural venues in the city of Hereford. A promotional map and leaflet was also produced by Reeves Design.
HEREFORDSHIRE based potter Jon Williams from Eastnor Pottery has combined the core elements of his practice; ceramics, sound and public engagement, to produce three, site specific, interactive works of art in Hereford.
Musical Apples (10 green bottles) at The Cider Museum is a series of oversized ceramic apples with bronze leaves and stalks, displayed on eight magnificent Kilderkin barrels. Visitors are encouraged to gently caress the leaves to produce musical notes recorded from tinkling cider bottles.
Visitors to the Waterworks Museum on Broomy Hill will encounter a potter’s bench full of rustic jugs of various sizes and hand-thrown in a selection of different clays. Musical Jugs (Jack and Jill) can be tuned by filling the vessels with water and gently tapping the pots with beaters.
Musical Hotpots (Oranges and Lemons) at Old House Museum is inspired by the historic use of the magnificent timber-framed building. It’s been both a bank and a butchers shop. Museum visitors can play the terracotta and ceramic bone xylophone.
“Although clay is the primary material, I’ve collaborated with other artists and craftspeople to realise the work,” said Jon. “Artist blacksmith, Andrew Findlay and wooden furniture maker Timothy Hawkins, both based in Herefordshire but with national and international reputations, contributed to the making.”
Two of the installations rely on digital and electronic wizardry to fantastic effect. This has been enabled by Creative Technologist, Ashley Brown, who Jon worked with throughout the design and production.
The project was funded by Arts Council England and has taken Jon and his collaborators 12 months to develop and install, and all the elements are now permanent features at the museums.