When I first started doing ceramics, I was happy to experiment with different types of clays. From earthenware to stoneware to porcelain, pretty much whatever I could get and what suited the situation.
The problem with using a variety of clays meant that everytime I wanted to work using a different clay, I have had to thoroughly clean all of my equipment and tools to avoid cross contamination. For example, if I had been working with terracotta clay (red coloured), I wouldn't want it to get onto my pristine white porcelain. And also, if I had been working with earthenware clay, I wouldn't want it to get into my stoneware clay because they fire at different temperatures. (I learned this the hard way at uni when an someone's earthenware piece got mixed in with the stoneware firing and melted all over my work!)
Now that I have my own home studio with my own kiln, to optimise my work production, I have decided to change into a mid-firing porcelain clay called Cool Ice. Cool Ice is manufactured by Clayworks Australia. I have previously used Clayworks' Southern Ice porcelain clay (e.g. for the angel wings), so I felt quite comfortable and confident to change to Cool Ice.
I don't know if you see the difference, but the one on the left is Southern Ice and the one on the right is Cool Ice. The Southern Ice is a little more white than Cool Ice.
I've been quite happy with the results of the test pieces but now that I'm ready to experiment more, I've realised that there aren't that many off the shelf mid-firing glazes available in Australia.
Full time ceramics
Someone asked me the other day if I will ever just do ceramics, full time.
My short answer was no.
Why? Well, aside from the financial aspect of it (we have a mortgage), I would not want to work ceramics full time because I need the external stimulation of not working in ceramics. I quite enjoy using both the creative and non-creative sides of my brain, and knowing that my time doing ceramics is limited means that I am much more appreciative and less likely to procrastinate.
I am essentially quite a lazy person. I can, and do, spend hours in bed doing nothing and only getting up for food. I once spent 3 days in bed reading the whole collection of Twilight books.
But when I'm productive, I'm totally ON. With my ceramics activities, they are not just about making things. I consider reading on ceramic techniques, watching videos, writing blogs and going out to see the works of other ceramicists as part of my ceramics working time.
Of course there have been times when I wish I was doing ceramics full time, especially when deadlines are looming! But my job has enabled me to progress so much in my ceramics, even if it's taken longer. I don't regret the long journey as that means I have been able to set myself up thoughfully.
But hey... I keep an open mind, so let's check back in a few years and see what my answer will be then.
By the way, I am sooo excited about the upcoming Australian Ceramics Triennale - Stepping Up - to be held in Canberra from 9-11 July 2015. More information on their website: www.australianceramicstriennale.com.au
I've booked my leave from work, got an early bird registration (hurry, it's still on offer) and booked my accommodation too. All set and ready. I know it's still a while to July, but gauging from how things have been for the past 3 weeks since I returned to work, I think time will fly.
New table and new work
After about two weeks working in the studio, I realised that I needed a new table. The old one was bent in the middle (probably the result of slapping heavy clay on it for so many years). So off I went with the husband to Ikea on a weeknight to look for a table. Luckily we managed to get one straight away without having to shop around. My new table is called Bekant Desk and I got one in white because it is easier to hide the clay marks.
So along with the new table I started working on a new piece of work. Can I just say that making new work is freaking scary?! I mean, all the doubts, all the self-questioning... does it look good? Am I doing it right? Does it even look like what I want it to look like...
At work, most of my work is project based: research/business analysis, planning/proposal/budget, kick off, development, testing, retesting, launch, post-launch support etc. And I think I was trying so hard to apply that to my ceramics at the beginning, and when it didn't work out as planned, I grew frustrated.
One of the things I think I had forgotten about ceramics is that I need to be really patient about it. There's no point rushing things when the clay is still too wet and soft, cause then it will just stick everywhere. And also I can't leave things to dry for too long, cause then it will just crack.
So here's my latest work... it's quite small, and it's inspired by the Australian native flower Rock Thryptomene.
Trying on a kick wheel
I tried using a manual kick wheel at F. Widayanto's ceramic studio in Tapos, Bogor, Indonesia. I have to say that I really sucked at it!
The whole experience reminded me of when I was learning to drive manual for the very first time. I had to make sure my feet, hands and eyes are all coordinated to make sure I don't screw up the work.
Being elevated like that was another thing to get used to. I have been accustomed to being down low, on ground level. It took a lot of getting used to.
Pak Udin, the main person working in the throwing wheel room, patiently guided me and provided instructions (and the occasional fix ups!). He told me that when he started, it took him a full day to finally get the hang of it.
I did not manage to prove whether a full day was what it took to master the kick wheel, but nonetheless, it was a great experience trying on something new!
Sometimes I just want to experiment and make things which are not necessarily for a show. So I dabbled in underglazes even though I know I suck at painting.
It's funny how even though I was experimenting, I did end up making a shape that I've done before. It's like my hands have a mind of their own.
And what looks good before firing can end up looking totally unexpected.
Or can even be considered a failure.
PS: The mushrooms in the first picture are made by the fantastic Elizabeth Lawrence.
Irine is a recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts' Artstart Grant (June 2014-2015).
This website has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts
funding and advisory body.