Vita Cochran, Violetta Del-Conte Race, Alana Wilson:
(Three Artists, Forms, Colours)
The ‘Touch Studies’ were born from a longing to collapse the hierarchy between the making process and the final work. In most instances, the clay is worked, coiled, and beaten into a vessel form, over many hours. These studies are purely instinctual, physically generated within 5-15 seconds before considered “enough” or complete. They are beginnings, sensitive explorations, traces of human touch alluding to the softness and tactuality of the clay. Some preserve the makers mark - thumbprints, palmprints - evidence of impetus, whilst others are heavily glazed and buried within the kiln - depictions of the chemical reactions and firing process.
There is a generous inclusivity of the studio processes - touch, tear, squeeze, push, roll, stretch, join, beat, turn. These are all techniques used within the choreography of the making process, between the human body and the clay. I chose to consciously pause in these techniques, to observe and form an acceptance of something that is only half-completed, or even only just beginning. It is a rare occurrence to pause at the beginning of something.
The Touch Studies act as a prelude to the destination. They are the beginnings whereas the vessels are refined and realised ends.
Experimental bronze ‘Inversions’ dig deeper into the ideas forming around touch and gesture within the clay. Working into soft clay, the initial gestures leave the space in which the wax - and then bronze - is cast into. A reverse impression remains as an insight into the maker's mark and the original movement within the studio. Cast in bronze into the negative space of touch, they represent a dichotomy of material, and gesture; although exploring the same belief of not only touch, but the importance of sensitivity, impression, empathy, physicality, action, and humanity.
The series of vessels - ‘Graces’, created over the last three years yet all depict how they were created within their surfaces. The centrifugal making process is evident, a meditative-like rhythm of coiling and beating the form into shape. They sit alongside the Touch Studies and Inversions as more refined forms, a nod to the nobility of the utilitarian and the endurance of ceramics within daily human life.
Glaze experimentation is an ongoing thread throughout my work. Glaze ingredients such as silicone carbide, lithium, barium, cryolite, salt, are included in the glazes and layers of washes to build up the surface ready for firing. The kiln reaches 1260°C - a heat in which silicone carbide has turned to gas, leaving an exposed bubble or crater; lithium, cryolite, and salt eat away at anything in their path, leaving evidence of their destructive makeup; barium will both destroy and crystallise, leaving green moss-like deposits on the surface. Recent experimentations included firing pieces in sand saggars in an attempt to avoid kiln damage, but also to maximise the damage to just the intended works, leaving remnants of shells, sand, and oxide vapour flashing. In more subtle glazes, dry surfaces are built up with just clay and magnesium, softly veiling the clay body beneath.
In the words of Edmund de Waal - ‘What to make’ and ‘how to live’ are not twin questions in the lives of the pioneer artist-craftsmen, they are aspects of the same troubled relationship with the world. For us, the contemporary world represents a falling-off, a degradation of the purity of the link between work and life, between self and environment.
Photographs 1-13, Alana Wilson
Photographs 14-30, Andrew Curtis for ReadingRoom