I have made a full-time living as an artist for the last 22 years, making clay one-off sculptures and limited edition sculptures in my studio on the edge of the Peak District.
My clay hand building techniques are a little unconventional.
I completed a Fine Art Sculpture course in 1983 and had little experience of fired ceramics up to that point. I was used to modelling solid in clay and then making a plaster mould. When I started my ceramics studio in 1998 there was a big learning curve!
I started out by press-moulding a collection of abstracted animal sculptures to make small-scale limited edition runs. If you have one of these they are possibly quite rare by now.
After a few years of press-moulding I had a strong desire to try hand building and be more freely creative, making individual, unique clay sculptures. This is what I now concentrate on.
In about 2005, I attended a short course run by the wonderful Ian Gregory, who doesn’t really accept the normal ‘rules’ – developing his own hand building techniques and making his own kilns. Ian’s method is to support the wet clay with a system of rods, only taking these out once the clay can hold its own weight.
I have adapted Ian’s method a little by incorporating a solid ‘back-iron’ support. This allows me to make quite large sculptures, although I am limited by the size of my kiln. The internal spaces of the sculptures are taken up with packaging materials – newspaper, cardboard or bio-degradable bubblewrap – all of which are taken out before firing.
These working methods allow for free and spontaneous variations on a particular theme, each piece being subtly different from its predecessor.
I decorate my clay sculptures with a combination of slips, oxides, body stains and underglazes. Recently these have been getting a little bit more ‘splashy’ and expressive.
Credit: Dizzy Spell Films by Dan Vallin
Credit: York Artworkers Association 2019 Terry Brett - Pyramid Gallery