Saturday, 26 December 2015

Foraging for pottery

Set of two nesting bowls with sand from La Graciosa in the Canary Islands wedged into the clay.
Lately I've been trying to find ways to combine the things I enjoy doing. Maybe it's related to getting older. On the one hand, it's facing up to the reality that there isn't an infinite amount of time left. On the other, it's about making quality time the priority over the time spent on things that 'need' to be done. Either way, I've successfully combined three things I love into these pots.

The first and most obvious is pottery. The decision to take it more seriously required getting to the point where I believe that I'm good enough and that it's worth the effort. This becomes more difficult with as more time passes. It's also difficult without any formal education or training and before anything in the way of sales. Nevertheless, in September I took a job at my pottery studio, allowing me to work at my 'day job' one less day a week and focus more on working with my hands. I also started selling my work more regularly.

Vase with stripes made of clay foraged in Whitstable. Known as London Clay, this was traditionally used for brick making.
The second is foraging. I love searching for edible and medicinal plants when I'm out in the countryside. I've been faithfully looking for edible mushrooms I can confidently identify for years. Over the last year, I found and ate two delicious porcinis and one giant puffball, although chanterelles still elude me. It was only after a trip to Iceland a few years ago, where I picked up some beautiful black sand from a secluded beach near Húsavík when I figured out that I could also forage for materials to use in my pottery.

Bottle with sand from Húsavík in the north of Iceland wedged into the clay. 
So the third thing that is incorporated into these pots is traveling. I've started collecting sand, rocks and even clay everywhere I go. Whether it's on a day trip to Whitstable or an extended road trip around the Olympic Peninsula, I bring home weird looking baggies of unidentifiable stuff.  I'm sure being a white woman with an American passport is the only reason I'm able to get these odd things across borders without any fuss.

Bottle with large sand particles from Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula glazed transparent.

The rocks and sand around Lake Crescent are high in basalt from ancient volcanic eruptions in the Olympic Mountains.
I've developed a particular interest in places with unique geography, especially volcanic and formally volcanic sites. The sand and rocks from these places do particularly interesting things in a 1200ºC kiln. They not only melt but spread out in beautiful patterns and react in unpredictable ways with the glazes.

Jade green glazed bottle with a trail of volcanic sand from La Graciosa in the Canary Islands.
There is a lot of experimentation involved and often the results are not great. With the initial excitement of seeing how the Icelandic sand looked, I wedged it into the clay so it was incorporated evenly throughout entire pots. I've moved away from that and started to use these foraged elements as more subtle details to enhance the shape of the pots.  All pottery for sale can be viewed in my shop.

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