Last week I facilitated a pit firing workshop for a community project which is part of a group exhibition commemorating the work of Landscape designer Edna Walling. One of the exhibiting artists Heather Hesterman is creating an installation consisting of ceramic pinch pots en masse and plants referencing Walling’s love of constructing gardens. The pots have been made by Hesterman’s friends, acquaintances and members of the community, both adults and children, coming together to make approximately 300 palm sized pots.
During Hesterman’s research for the project she discovered an anecdote found in Walling’s writings, indicating Walling’s joy of witnessing a friend hand-build a small pot from clay, fire it and then fill it with the local native plant species, Thomasia petalocalyx. This event together with ‘The Chalet’, which Walling had built along the Great Ocean Road, being burnt down, along with 2 other residences, inspired Hesterman’s methodology in developing the installation.
Part of that methodology involved the firing of the clay pots made during the project – enter a pit firing! As regular readers may know usually when I pit fire I add lots of varying organic ingredients and wrap the pots in seaweed, gum leaves, copper wire and the like. This endows the finished pots with a vibrant dappled colour response. Hesterman, however, wanted the smoky greys and blacks of fire to be captured on the pot surfaces, so the pit was fired using only sawdust. The sawdust creates a higher likelihood of a reduction atmosphere in the pit allowing for carbonisation of the clay surface.
The firing was successful overall with results ranging from soft smoky greys through to strong oil slick blacks.
Lisa Byrne, Director of ArtSpace at Realm, Maroondah City Council, is curating a group exhibition The Creative Legacy of Edna Walling. The exhibition commemorates the work of Landscape designer Edna Walling with artists Heather Hesterman, Rebecca Mayo and landscape designer/construction Sam Cox.
The exhibition will be held at the gallery ArtSpace at Realm, Ringwood Town Square, 179 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood. 03 92984553, 19 Sept – 13 Nov 2017, with the official opening on Saturday 21 October 2-4pm.
More information can be round on the website artsinmaroondah.com.au
And now enjoy the pics of the sawdust firing process 🙂
Evening all, it is freezing here tonight with possible snow expected, so I am keeping warm by reminiscing on the bonfire firing I did a couple of weeks ago.
Every year around this time we do a clean up for the summer to reduce fire hazards during the bushfire season, and in the lead up to that I make beads and pendants which I pack into an old milo or coffee tin with sawdust, seaweed, cow dung – pretty much anything I would put into a pit firing. The tin is snuggled in amongst the branches and leaves and set alight. The tin is usually ready to pull from the ashes the following afternoon – depending on how big the bonfire was!
I have published previous posts about bonfire firing which you can read HERE.
So tonight I am experimenting with some jewellery designs with the beads that emerged from the bonfire. I have already listed one pair of earrings in my ETSY shop from this firing and there will more to come, and some necklaces.
My other exciting news is that I have had an article published in the latest edition of The Journal of Australian Ceramics. This latest edition was focused on fire, so I wrote an article about pit firing. Visit their website to find out more about getting a copy of the journal.
And now for some pics from the bonfire and finished jewellery pieces – thanks for stopping by and see you next time 🙂
Hope everyone is having a great week 🙂
It has been very warm over the past few weeks, so it was great that the day I chose to do the firing was only a 26C day… but, of course, we still needed a beer by the end of it (or maybe before the end of it!)
I have since installed the exhibition, but am a bit behind in my posts because – yes – I am still sick!! It comes and goes in waves and is driving me crazy!!
Anyways…. here are some pics of the pit firing, and the next post will be pics of the installed exhibition…. so stay tuned 🙂
Regular readers will know one of my ceramic sculptures was recently accepted into the biennial Manningham Victorian Ceramic Art Award, an award that has become a fixture on the ceramic awards calendar in recent years, The award is open to all Victorian artists, and spans functional ceramics through to sculptural and conceptual works, as long as the main medium used is clay.
The exhibition opening was held on Wednesday evening at the Mannigham Art Gallery in Doncaster, so now I can reveal my sculpture and give you a bit of information about the conceptual underpinnings of the piece.
So what is this artwork actually about?
I’m glad you asked…here’s my Artist Statement:
Much of the artwork I create addresses environmental issues, sustainability and the need for humanity to reconnect to the Earth and realise their symbiotic relationship with the landscape.
Landscape 1 is the first in a series of sculptural artworks that capture this ethic in both the making process and the finished form.
The sculpture was press moulded in two halves using the polystyrene end packaging of a radiator heater. Polystyrene is especially bad for the environment in its manufacturing process and in that it doesn’t break down and so remains a permanent waste product.
With some creative thinking, however, this material can be used to model artworks or can be turned into artworks itself.
The surface of Landscape 1 is achieved through pit firing, a method of firing ceramics in the ground using organic materials to achieve the mottled coloured surface. When pit firing I only use materials which are found on the ground – old branches, sticks, pine cones, cow dung and leaves.
Given the fragile state of the future environment this method of firing is also a sustainable way of finishing sculptural and decorative ceramics
The exhibition runs until the 29th August and there are some fantastic ceramic artworks to see, and buy, from over fifty Victorian artists, emerging through to established. So if you are in or near the area it is definitely worth a visit.
Below are some images from opening night….enjoy 🙂
Today in the studio I am finally catching up on polishing the ceramic sculpture I fired last weekend in the pit firing, which was the subject of last Sunday’s studio visit.
The piece in the middle of the picture is the sculpture I have had accepted into the Manningham Ceramic Awards which i have to send off tomorrow, and the other two sculptures i need to photograph as proposals for anther two upcoming art awards – fingers crossed.
That’s about it for today in the studio…. yesterday my son & his girlfriend visited, and we had a bit of a late night watching movies and chatting, so it was a bit of a late start to the day!
Hopefully I will be organised for more updates mid-week 🙂
Happy Friday People – yes its the weekend!
I thought I would share some exhibitions I am involved in at the moment so you can experience them vicariously or if you are living or visiting near the venues, you can check out the exhibitions yourself.
Currently I have three brooches in the annual Contemporary Art Society of Victoria brooch show. This is a juried show and all brooches had to be within 10 cm x 5 cm overall dimensions and 3 cm in depth. I entered three brooches for selection and all were accepted. My brooches are made from upcycled materials – buttons, beads and guitar strings. The exhibition runs from over two locations with opportunities to try and buy…. check out their website for more info.
Beginning tomorrow is an exhibition being held in conjunction with the Australian Ceramics Triennale. Belonging is an exhibition of over 140 members of the Australian Ceramics Association, and again, the works were limited to a certain size — 15x15x15cm. The exhibition includes sculptural, functional and conceptual ceramics. Again, this was a juried exhibition and my entry is a wheelthrown organic form which has been manipulated and glazed to create a textural surface. The exhibition runs until 11th July and opening night is 9th July. I am hoping to get to Canberra to have a look, but probably won’t make opening night.
Finally I had an artwork accepted into the Manningham Victorian Ceramic Art Award, a biennial award open to Victorian ceramicists showcasing contemporary studio pottery. I submitted my piece as a work in progress as I had not yet pit fired it, which I did last weekend, and luckily it was selected. I entered a handbuilt slab sculpture, burnished and pit fired. The picture below shows it straight from the pit – it has not been polished as yet. Polishing will deepen the colour and enhance the visual tactile qualities of the surface. This exhibition runs from the 15th July (opening night) until the 29th August at the Manningham Art Gallery in Doncaster.
So, if you are near any of these areas the exhibitions are well worth a visit, and you may even find that you buy yourself a nice piece of art!
Oh Dear…. a few days late again!!
Sunday was a bit of a busy day….. we visited friends on Sunday afternoon for a low key housewarming party, and didn’t get home till quite late!
The day before, Saturday, I did a pit firing to complete a few pieces I am thinking of entering into some upcoming ceramic awards, and had grand plans of unloading the pit on Sunday and writing my Studio visit blog post – but all I got in before we had to leave for the housewarming was a sneak peek, which I dutifully shared on Instagram.
Then yesterday, Monday, I had to go to Melbourne for a catch up dinner with my mum and my two adult sons, and in the process i just get around to getting anything much else done!!
So today, Tuesday, I am writing the blog post I wanted to share on Sunday – sorry for the delay!!
The artworks I had in the pit include a piece already accepted into the Manningham Ceramics Award, and two other pieces I am planning to enter into other awards whose deadlines are looming.
My pit is quite large, and I alter its size, depending on how much work I have to fire, with fire bricks. In this firing I also packed some smaller pieces (which make up one artwork) within sawdust in tin saggars as I wanted to get as much smoking/black firing as possible.
The colour responses I attained from the pit are not the best I have ever achieved, but the nature of pit firing is the lack of control and the random nature of the fire based on so many variables, such as the temperature, the season, the wood used, the clay used, the condition of the pit (where I live I can only do pit firings in Winter due to fire restrictions, and it can be really wet cold where I live) and other combustibles introduced to the pit.
Overall, however, I am happy with the results – it is the nature of ceramics that one must be happy with what the kiln gods delver, otherwise you would go insane!! (well i would anyways)
Following is a short photo essay of the procedure I took for the day, but also check out the book I have written about pit firing (yes, unabashed self promotion!) available on Amazon and other online bookstores, plus some brick & mortar stores.
If you have following my blog over the past few days you will know that I am participating in a challenge on Facebook where potters are asked to post three pot pictures for five days and also nominate another to do the same each day. Today is the final day – and I am also sharing these pictures with my wordpress readers – that’s you 🙂
I have been taking a nostalgic approach to this challenge and have been sharing pictures that reflect my development over the years… from my early self taught days through to my Honours Year and PhD at Uni. This journey, I think, shows the development of my work over the years, but also illustrates the basis of my major influence – the natural environment. These posts show a movement from functional ceramic wares through to abstract sculptural ceramics while still capturing nature and all she has to offer, and in later work, what is in danger of being lost.
Todays images are a selection of pictures from the years following my PhD – their theme is still about conserving the environment, but I have begun to introduce found objects – from natural things such as sticks and feathers through to industrial objects such as barbed wire and nuts and bolts. Juxtaposed against clay – the skin of the Earth – I believe strengthens the underlying premise of the artworks, making them more powerful and more confronting to view.
It was a bit difficult to limit this gradual development with only three images, so on this final day I thought I would ‘cheat’ and have posted five pics.
You can check out my original post on my Facebook page, and even follow me if you like what you see 🙂
Until Sunday’s Studio Visit….
So, you probably already know by now that I am participating in a challenge on Facebook where potters are asked to post three pot pictures for five days and also nominate another to do the same each day – and I am also sharing these pictures with my wordpress readers – that’s you 🙂
I have been taking a nostalgic approach to this challenge and have been sharing pictures that reflect my development over the years… from my early self taught days through to my Honours Year at Uni. This journey, I think, shows the development of my work over the years, but also illustrates the basis of my major influence – the natural environment. These posts show a movement from functional ceramic wares through to abstract sculptural ceramics while still capturing nature and all she has to offer, and in later work, what is in danger of being lost.
Today’s images feature my PhD works– 2005-9. The title of my PhD was Sacred Space in Contemporary Society: the Artist as Sharman, and can be downloaded and read HERE. This thesis was a natural progression from my Honours thesis which questioned the role of ceramics in the 21st Century. My PhD thesis asserted that sculptural ceramics installed in the natural environment – an installation – could act as a conduit reconnecting humanity to the Earth – an act that is required if we are to stop using & exploiting the environment. The research was framed within a feminist framework, exploring the patriarchy that has allowed the unstemmed growth of capitalism and exploitation. In this context the artwork was developed to sit within the landscape, not overpower and dominate, as does much modern patriarchal sculpture.
You can check out my original post on my Facebook page, and even follow me if you like what you see 🙂
Until my final post tomorrow….
My last Sunday Studio Visit post gave readers the heads up that I was conducting a pit firing workshop on the weekend… and it was great! Living in Australia means that I have to co-ordinate my pit firings between fire ban seasons, and living in Ballarat -cold and rainy (it is pouring as I speak)- means that scheduling a pit firing in the ‘not’ fire ban season can be risky…. I could wake up and the ground could be frozen…. well, maybe very soggy! However, the weather was perfect!! Not raining, not freezing cold, not windy….ideal! Student works had been low bisque fired in the lead up to the workshop so we were all set to go…. Saturday involved preparing the pots with seaweed, gum leaves, lemon leaves, copper wire, string, chicken wire and anything else handy; preparing the pit; loading the pit; and throwing in a match (the best bit). After a few hours of stoking corrugated iron was placed over the pit to allow for a slow overnight simmer. Sunday afternoon we explored the results – hot work!! OH&S: wear gloves!! We then cleaned and polished the works and admired the results – lots of photos and Facebook uploading!! There will be more pit firing workshops to come and you can sign up to information about upcoming events by subscribing to this blog, or I can put you on a mailing list – just contact me (link at top right hand of website). Meanwhile here are some pics of the weekend 🙂