Saturday, 25 June 2011

taking shape

After some more unorthodox fires I now have one of each cast (except shampoo bottle which did not survive the flames and will have to be re done).

I had many decoration ideas but I wanted to do something which helped to tie all the pots together as a group. I prefer to use coloured slips rather than glazes and applying these with a sponge felt appropriately archaic. 'Spongeware' was/is a branch of decorative country pottery which tends to use bright colours and rustic scenes. It is also labour intensive and due to the application method it means that each pot ends up slightly different. I have taken a contemporary spin on this style and stuck with all black slip to both individualise each cast pot and also formalise them as a group. I am still thinking about adding a thin turquoise or red band of slip to each, just a hint of colour to lift them and help them look more successful if viewed individually (the all black approach looks good in a group but the individual pot might look a bit anonymous?).

Friday, 24 June 2011

summer weather

Radio masts disappearing into low cloud. The public face of this array is used to transmit BBC World Service but it is also home to some shadowy top secret defence related infrastructure. 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

first casts

The first few casts done in a couple of moulds which have dried out properly;

These pots did need quite a lot of tidying up with a metal kidney and sponge, probably because my moulds are not the neatest... The other moulds are still in the airing cupboard and hopefully they will be ready soon. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

time out

Getting impatient for the plaster moulds to dry in my damp west country climate I decided to try a few out anyway. Unsurprisingly the clay slip stuck like glue to the plaster and refused to dry. I resorted to desperate measures and built a little paper fire inside one. That worked... The rest I put in the airing cupboard and took the afternoon off...

The sea is too rough to swim in at the moment due to incessant south westerlies, went river swimming with a friend instead. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

plastic 04

The plastic pots got a bit deformed while being cast and some had to be cut up to release them from the paster.  I took a few photos using the black background technique I have just learnt...

... and then did some blind drawings;

I am not sure how this will all feed in yet but I wanted to record more of the process and the deformed plastic already had a lot more charm and interest than the garish packaging that it originated as.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

black light

Visiting both the Brighton University and City College Brighton end of year shows was hugely inspiring. Among the numerous ideas I came away with was a re-kindled interest in black-background photography. 

There were two excellent examples at CCB - one of fruit plunging into water and another of paper litter/telephone directories. I am afraid I didn't note down the names of the photographers but am grateful that their work inspired me to do some research and start experimenting myself... In previous attempts I had taken pretty averagely lit photos and then relied on photoshop to black out the background. This can work but is very hit and miss and time consuming (the grass photo from a few weeks ago was done like this).

Above photo of hogweed growing against a dark hedge (hogweed is usually white but this one caught my eye as the petals are all stained pink, an occasional natural variation). It was a bright day but the shadow of the hedge, using correct camera settings (s 1/100, f. 8, iso 80) and the use of the flash allowed me to take the detail of the flower while the background remained almost black. Only a little adjustment on photoshop was needed to remove just a small hint of a stem. 

I like the way the flower head seems to be bursting out of nowhere and how much detail is visible - the stamens really stand out. The flower head is not quite in focus - I was swaying a bit while taking it! Investing in a decent mini-tripod would be a good idea. I could get hooked on this kind of photography...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

plastic 03

Plaster casts made from packaging waste. Coating the originals in soft soap really helped their release but it was still a bit tough and led to some chipped plaster rims.

Had a productive couple of days and made 10 casts - no idea how good they will be for making vessels until they dry out (approx 2 weeks in damp Dorset) and are tested.

selection of casts, drying out in studio

close up of plastic vending cup mould

Saturday, 11 June 2011

plastic 02

Creating plaster moulds from packaging waste;

Old clay used to build walls (cottles) to contain plaster as it sets. Note second photo taken outside... I learnt earlier in the day that if cottles not well enough build you can get an eruption of wet plaster spilling over your legs, feet, studio floor. And its a real pain to clean up. At least if it all goes wrong outside its easier to clean up.

The first couple of moulds - plaster set and clay removed. Now for the really hard part - removing the plastic without destroying the mould. I hope I used enough soft soap when I started which should aid their removal but I am going to leave it a day or two for plaster to harden a bit before finding out.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

plastic 01

First batch of plastic packaging collected from local shops. I had to eat a lot of steamed puddings and veggie sausages before I could start the next phase of the project... Luckily I could decant the washing products into other, less interesting containers.

Monday, 6 June 2011


Plaster cast of supermarket foam packaging for pears

Researching pottery fragments for the enclosures project, I was fascinated by the origins of the word 'ostracism' and the cultural links between ceramics and plastics;

"In ancient Greece, when it was proposed that a particular person should be sent into exile for a periodbecause he was becoming a danger to the state, a democratic vote was taken on the matter. The method of registering one’s vote was to inscribe the name of the prospective banishee on a piece of broken pottery. The pieces were counted, and if enough votes were cast against him away he would go for ten years. The fragment of pottery was called an óstrakon, a word related to Greek ostéon ‘bone’ (source of the English prefix osteo-) and óstreon ‘oyster’ (source of English oyster). To cast such a vote was therefore ostrakízein (whence English ostracize (17th c.), and the abstract now derived from this was ostrakismós, source of English ostracism."

In ancient times, pottery shards were so commonplace that they could be treated as disposable voting chits; 

'Pottery was the plastic of ancient times - Just as today plastic can be found littering the countryside, in ancient times it was pottery that was strewn around' - Professor Klaas Worp

I want to explore these links further, contrasting the two materials and the way that they are perceived. The simplicity, economy and beauty of plastic packaging is often overlooked and it is seen as no more than litter and an example of mans wastefulness. Making slip-cast earthenware pots based on disposable plastic packaging will hopefully create more valuable, long living objects and give an opportunity to admire the neatness and refinement of the original packaging forms.

Step one is to gather some interesting packaging and create some plaster moulds...

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