THE BLOG

05
Sep

AIMING AT UBIQUITY

BILLY LLOYD

Ceramics is steeped in history. Pots and domestic objects. They go back millennia, as far as the first human settlements. I was lucky when I was young I went to a school that had did pottery, there was something about it I loved and I was interested enough to pursue it as a degree, and then very lucky again being apprenticed to Lisa Hammond MBE and then Julian Stair.

They are both very talented, but working with them I learned what I didn’t want to do. I don’t want to make art pieces. I wanted to achieve something different, more modern, and reaching a broader demographic, everyone if possible, I want to be in everyone’s homes.

After the apprenticeships, I realised there were gaps in what I knew. I could have gone back into education, but I thought the best thing was to learn out there in the world, so I went to Stoke-on-Trent and knocked on doors. All these years after Spode and Minton and Wedgewood, Stokeis still the centre for ceramics, from smaller places to big factories. Initially I was trying to repeat what I knew, trying to make thrown objects, on a wheel, which is a slow process, and there were some disappointments with factories trying to copy my pieces – so to exert more control over the results I applied for a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship (QEST) to study model and mould making. You design and make a model by hand, but then make a mould, which means the pieces can be produced in greater numbers, very close to your original, either by pouring in liquid clay, known as slip, or pressing in sheets of soft clay, known as jiggering and jolleying.

I had a meeting with the designer Robin Levien which was very important to me. Robin has designed some staggering percentage of all the ceramic basins and baths and toilets in the UK, he manages to blend spare modern design with mass production, elevating the quality of ordinary objects. I think its because of him that I see myself as an industrial designer, fully at home with the modern world and modern processes, who specialises in ceramics.

I aim at an end result that is as stripped back and simple as possible, without losing character or compromising the function. I want the things I produce to be understated, to blend into people’s everyday landscape, to be ubiquitous, to get used and bring satisfaction everyday.

05
Sep

DIGGING DEEP

ALISON COOKE

I am not by any stroke of the imagination conventional, but still I call myself a potter. I am drawn to deep history, in all senses of that word deep.

For the latest project, I have managed to get clay from 30 metres below London Bridge. It took countless calls and emails, but eventually I managed to get big pieces from the spoil of Costain’s piling machine. And then the real work begins. I have to work that stuff to extract workable clay from it. Soaking it, sifting, then sieving, until I arrive at something that is mostly clay.

And then I test it to see how it responds. Fire it to 1,250˚C. At that extreme temperature clay is on the edge of melting, and the trace elements of metals within it at that temperature do melt, or suck in air like bicarbonate of soda when you bake. It’s exciting to see what comes out, will it be flat and shiny like black glass, or coarse and bloated like a loaf of bread?

Only when I have extracted enough clay, and discovered how it behaves, do I think about bringing things to a conclusion – creating a set of pieces, forms that trying to summarise and hint at the story of the site, the extraction of the clay, the nature of the clay.

I am so interested in the idea that I am capturing the clay at this moment, this point in its journey, it’s already been so many things; hurtling through space, liquid in the earth’s core, lava blasted out of a volcano, solid rock, under the sea, in a mountain, and then fleetingly in my hands. That’s what I mean by the line of history, by deep history. The human dimension is so brief in comparison to the time without humans. Who knows what this clay has seen, what would talk about if it could talk? I suppose that is what I am trying to do, make the clay give up some of its history, encourage it to speak.