The Making Process
I make small intimate and tactile pieces which fit snugly into your hand, up to larger statement items. All my work is made using a combination of hand making processes. I start with a pinched base and build from there adding flattened coils as the pots grow in sections. I generally use porcelain clay for smaller items and stoneware for the larger ones. They are then beaten and carved to shape, just as the tides carves and beats the stones and shells.
When nearly dry, a thin slip is applied, sometimes containing oxides to give soft coloured backgrounds, which also helps to provide a smooth surface. I then decorate and add marks by carving and incising using various tools and found objects such as shells and seaweed. I then burnish my work with one of my favourite pebbles to create a soft sheen, after which they are ‘bisque’ fired to 980C.
After their initial ‘bisque’ kiln firing the pots receive a secondary smoke firing in sawdust for 1 to 2 days. The aim is to keep the fire smouldering and as it attempts to stay alive it seeks out the oxygen in the oxides of the clay and a reduction process takes place as it leaves behind a carbon deposit. I use various masks to control the process and sometimes also wrap my work in collected seaweed and other salt marsh plants that leave their delicate trace colours and imprints in the smoking like fossils in stone.
The smoke firing is the most exciting and unpredictable part of the process. The type and position of the fuel used, the intensity of the heat and flames obtained in the fire, the masking and the way the pots are positioned relative to each other, all help to determine the eventual markings.
The spontaneity of the fire and smoke, acting like a natural weathering force, is the source of the energy in the designs, bringing them to life, as nature has her final say.
Care of your smoke fired vessel
The low temperature firing technique that allows the smoke to combine with the clay means that your pot is porous and should not be used to contain water or food. The owner should perhaps think of them as they would a piece made of finely carved wood. Direct strong light over a long period of time should be avoided.
The pots respond well to care and affection. Gentle handling and buffing help to maintain the shine but take care not to scratch the patina. Very light applications of good quality beeswax polish may be applied if required.