Andy and I can't believe it's nearly a month since our Clay Safari in the USA.
Here we are at home, the grey rain lashing against our window panes, and our thoughts turn to the warmth of the people we worked with in Maryland and the experiences we shared. Oh for the warmth of my crucible.
It's a piece I built especially for the last night. I handbuilt it from black clay that I reclaimed from the dump pile. Spending a cold fall day, out on the loading dock, sun on my back, consumed by the flow, feverishly slapping and winding the clay, oblivious to the weak Sunday sun setting behind me, until I realised I was freezing and could no longer feel my hands or nose. On our final night, everyone in the studios took fake money, attached wishes and hopes and burnt them in the crucible.... then we went to sing mad karaoke!
Inspired and in love with woodfiring, we are hoping to bring the process here. Our vision is a Northern Irish version of the wonderful woodfire kiln we were lucky enough to fire in at Baltimore Clayworks. (pic above) Our friend Andy Cooke already has the structure built on his land. Watch this space for a HUGE project we are embarking on to bring the guys with knowledge to our shores....
Wonder what woodfiring is? Well, raw, bisque fired clay is put into the massive kiln and fed constantly - and I mean about every 10 mins, with wood for 3 DAYS! The temperature is extreme. The ash in the kiln makes a glaze, and your raw surface becomes lustrous, sexy and totally unpredicatable. It's exhilarating.
Andy placed simple block shapes around the kiln to see how they would turn out. I created 7 antlers. One for each of the 6-year phases that my body has regenerated through. And one for the body I will begin on my 42nd birthday in June.
These 2 pieces are the only ones we returned home with. Everything else we created during the 3 months either went into collections or was exchanged with other artists we'd worked with for pieces.
Some of our work remains in a show at Handmade in America, in Asheville; namely my flocked antler vase (you view it with 3D glasses to make the flocked pattern dance before your eyes).
And Andy spent his last two days, doing what he knows and loves best, creating a fabulous graffiti wall with fellow artist Matt Gifford.
And so you can see, with our Kickstarter and Arts Council backing, not only have we returned home with an expanded knowledge, but the desire to share it with our fellow artists here and to create facilities that will have an impact on ceramicists here for many years to come. From the bottome ouf our hearts, THANK YOU. x