Sunday, 23 November 2008

From the frozen North

When Alex and Steve came down the week before last, Steve took a number of stills while the firing was underway. Alex is going to use them to accompany an article he's writing. Steve kindly sent me a disc with some of the images on, here's one of them, a shot taken while looking through the spyhole at the cones.

I was chatting to Alex the other day on the phone about a project he's working on with a very well renowned textile artist called Alice Kettle.

You may remember that a few weeks ago I posted this picture of some big pitchers that Alex made, inspired by slipware harvest jugs.

Here they are at the next stage, decorated by Alice with intricate, sgrafitto marks.

I like the concept of collaborative projects. Michael Cardew did some amazing work with Henry Bergen while he was at Winchcombe in the 1930's. Hannah and I touched on it, albeit briefly and with just a batch of mugs. It's an idea I'd like to explore further some time, particularly the concept of potters working with artists from disciplines other than ceramics.

During our telephone chat, I asked Alex to send me some more information about his project. The following text is lifted from his subsequent email.

The collaboration has been going on for some time since I made a film about her and got fascinated by stitch.

During the course of making the film we went on a walking tour of Winchester so she could show me some of the inspirational material that had driven the huge embroidery that she was making for the Winchester Discovery centre.

When we got to the cathederal to look at the carvings and the Bible it wasn't long before I was enthusing to her about the earthenware floor tiles.

Next it was the museum to film some medieval wood and stone carvings but what should I alight upon but a case of medieval jugs. My passion for these pots was duly communicated and by the time of my next visit there were pots appearing in the embroidery and we were talking about pots some more.

Months passed but eventually we decided to do some work together.

An early exploration of dissected porcelain cylindrical forms carved by Alice got her hooked but led nowhere. A while later I was telling her about the planned harvest jug show at the Long Room Gallery and my wish that I could have filmed its development, so she wanted to see what a harvest jug looked like.

More weeks passed then I took her to the reserve collections at Manchester Art Gallery and Museum, like I did with you and she clicked with the slipware. I planned to make a version of the large pressed dish you handled for her to work on. By this time I was involved with your project and talking endlessly about it so it was an obvious step to put my
first attempts at making a harvest jug before her and let her go at them.

I have also made her some chargers.I now have some Hollyford clay drying and am pondering another jug made by me decorated by Alice and fired in its natural home in Devon. And with you telling me of plans to fire in January Im wondering
where these first jugs should be fired. Galena beckons, another first for me.

Alice's decoration also has a long story attached but I'll save that one.

I also plan to explore using some richly coloured earthenware glazes to set before her in response to her brightly coloured threads.

Collaboration is a lot of fun as well as very challenging.

Well I hope I don't turn them brown, I'll keep you
posted with progress.


paul jessop said...

Doug, when I first looked at these jugs I thought My God he's ruined them, I love the plain look, but having read the story behind them, I fully get it and think they are great.
I love the idea of collaborating with other artists, I love the Idea of an exhibition with potters and Poets both given a subject title to work on.

doug fitch said...

Cheers Paul
I'm pleased you chimed in, I thought and hoped you might. It's an interesting debate - 'decoration without being decorative'. I've been thinking about it today and was thinking about how difficult it is sometimes to make the first mark, then to have the confidence to run with it. I think what's interesting here is that AK was just introduced to traditional slipware and so had no preconceived idea of how such a pot should be decorated. It reminded me a bit of Sam Haile's work, or even Picasso's ceramics, if not in style, certainly in approach. I guess it's purely about process and materials. It's what they'd call an 'interesting juxtoposition' if I remember my art speak from college days.

I've got a couple of Mike Dodd's harvest jugs up at the workshop from that Bideford firing. They've got statements about vegetarianism across them - they ain't pretty, but that's the point I think, they're not meant to be, but they get the message across very clearly. I certainly like my decoration to be a little uncomfortable some times.

Poets and potters, that'd be cool - if only Ivor Cutler was still around. Who did you have in mind?

Kip said...

hi Doug -- First off, thanks for taking a peek at my blog and your comments about my work. It's great to feel like part of this growing online ceramic community and wonderful to get feedback from other folks whose work I so often look to and admire!

I am really excited by the idea of collaboration. I think it can be especially helpful when you get in a bit of a rut to have someone else decorate your work or to decorate another person's work. There was a show recently in Minneapolis called Exquisite Pots: Six Degrees of Collaboration where potters bisqued their work and then sent it off to be decorated by another potter. Seeing well-known forms decorated in a new way was so exciting! It made me think about their pots and surfaces in a whole new way... And that, to me, is one of the biggest advantages of collaboration: it keeps things fresh and new and helps each artist to continue pushing their boundaries and notions of what their work should be like. I don't know if I could work full time as part of a ceramic duo, but I do hope that at some point there is a group clay project in my future!

paul jessop said...

Hi Doug, I don't know many Poets so I didn't have any one poet in mind. it was an idea we discussed at the Somerset Guild meeting. I think I wanted someone to write a poem that I would read and then make a pot inspired by the Poem. And to give a pot to a poet so they could write a poem inspired by the pot.
My own Idea would be an exhibition of pots made that have been inspired by a certain piece of music or a song.