Back to the Wheel

My hand is sufficiently healed now for me to return to throwing on the potters wheel. My finger is still numb at the end, but otherwise I’m all OK and I feel that I can throw again OK. That’s my opinion, others watching me might differ. I’ve never been a ‘power thrower’ or aspired to be a virtuoso on the wheel. I am sufficiently capable and skilled to be able to make the ideas that are in my head come to life. I’ve done my several thousands of hours of practise over the past 48 years, so I’m OK with what I attempt to do.

It’s a funny feeling, starting wedging again after a month off. It’s like a ‘getting to know you’ all over again, kind of feeling.

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I can’t wait to get back into it now that we have done our last wood firing weekend workshop. We can have our kiln back now and start to plan for our own firings. Wedging up the clay and making these first pots is the start. I used to think that I could do both. Run these workshops and make a few pots as well. Last year we managed to sneak a firing of our own in, in-between the set firings with the workshop groups. However, it seems to take all our energy to just clean and maintain the kiln as well as cut, split and stack all the wood required for the firings, plus keeping part of the pottery set up as a kitchen. There isn’t any time left to be able to pack, fire and unpack the kiln with our own work in the 5 days in-between each of the other firings, as well as cutting and splitting our own wood for our firing as well. It all proved too much work for me and I just couldn’t manage to do it all. We have done 11 weekends in 13 weeks. I’m glad that we can have some space to make and fire our own work now.

On a brighter note there was an exhibition review of the ‘Turn, turn, turn’ exhibition at the NAS Gallery in Sydney. One of the six shows that I have work in currently. It is amazing that an exhibition of ceramics has been given any space at all in a major Sydney newspaper. It is even more amazing that the reviewer, Christopher Allen was given almost two pages to do the job. I can’t remember a ceramics show getting any oxygen at all in a major newspaper in Sydney for the past twenty years, so I was particularly thrilled to find that my own work got two paragraphs at the end of the review. I don’t know how this has all come about, but I appreciate it enormously, as it will most likely be the only time in my life that this will happen, as ceramics isn’t highly valued in critical circles in Australia.
It’s amazing to me that when it happened, I was part of it.
I am grateful!
Christopher Allen wrote;
“…Steve Harrison represents the culmination of the art of the potter in the East Asian traditions. His deceptively simple and yet refined and serene vessels are the product of the humble, meditative practice of the potters art and reflect, indeed his own choice of a life in harmony with his aesthetic ideals. 
These are works that ostensibly seek only to serve the craft and subsume them selves to its formal demands, which make no attempt to claim our attention with brash or sensational effects, and yet which silently draw us to them by the force and conviction of their integrity.”
Christopher Allen, ‘Wheels of Creation’, Weekend Australian, Review, Visual Arts, P10/11. July 11/12 2015.
Best wishes
Steve

Six Shows in Six Weeks

This is going to be a busy week. None of that lazing around that we promise ourselves that we’ll get around to doing one day. I have pots in six different exhibitions this month. One opened two weeks ago, a couple have just opened, two are about to open and there will be one more in the coming weeks.

I was lucky to be included in the National Arts School, 60th anniversary show in Darlinghurst, but blown away to find that I was to be one of the chosen few to be featured and to give an artists talk. I don’t know how this happened, but I have had a very strong association with the place. Going to Art School was great. I went to The East Sydney Tech, Art School in 1971/72. Like so many bright-eyed and bushy-tailed innocents of the sixties and seventies. I went there as a child and left an adult. Painful, challenging, extending, stimulating exciting, but mostly a lot of fun, with so much to learn and so little time – even the ceramics classes were good! 🙂
I was particularly thrilled to find that Patsy Healy also had work in this show and had made two small porcelain installations that referenced her time at East Sydney Tech. One featured all her tutors and the other one is a 3D construction representation of my blog site, composed of 2D images taken from the blog and painted on intersecting porcelain tiles. What an amazing idea!
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I showed 10 pieces at NAS. A range of my locally prospected, ground rock clay bodies and glazes, plus a couple of unglazed pots.
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This is a rough unglazed stoneware bowl, that has picked up a lot of wood ash from the fire. it was packed towards the front of the kiln and the ash deposit has melted and run to form a pool of ash glaze just off centre of the bowl, because I packed it up on wads with a slight lean to encourage this off-centredness.
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This is a guan glaze made from my local native porcelain stone. The bowl is made from a body that I make by washing basaltic gravel in water, and then throwing away the gravel and keeping the dirty water. If I repeat this exercise many, many, times, I eventually get enough thickened slip in the bottom of the barrel to stiffen up to make an intensely black rock dust/clay body. The intensity of the iron in the body breaks through on the rim.
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This is the porcelain guan glaze mixed with wood ash and cow bone ash. The addition of the ashes starts to react in such a way that the glaze starts to become slightly opalescent.
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This is an unglazed porcelain bowl, composed almost entirely of ground local native porcelain stone 97%. The stone powder is bound together with just 3% of bentonite. The surface of the stone body is flashed to a golden lustre with some flame bleaching on the fire front. It has picked up a small amount of carbon inclusion that defines and accentuates the rim.
All my pots are quite small and delicate. Partly that is my aesthetic choice, but mostly it is because of the nature of my home-made, locally prospected, ground stone bodies that lack any real plasticity. So that making large-scale works on the potters wheel is virtually impossible with this floppy paste. I have taken these limitations and challenges and worked with them, such that these pots respond well to the flame in the wood fired kiln to produce little, engaging, tactile, gorgeous gems.
The other shows that I currently have work in are;
Woodfire 2015, Kerrie Lowe Gallery in Newtown, Sydney. NSW. Janine also has work in this show.
Chance and Intelligence: the Captivating Art of Glazed Wood Fired Ceramics, Skepsi at Malvern Artists’ Society Gallery. Malvern, VIC
BeLonging: Embodied Commentaries Inspired by Place, at ANU Foyer Gallery, Canberra. ACT.
Australian Woodfire, Curators Choice. Strathnairn Gallery, Holt, ACT.
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Two views of “A Pot and a Bit” in ‘Chance and Intelligence’, Skepsi at Malvern Artists’ Gallery
Five pieces from ‘Curators Choice’ at Strathnairn.
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Best wishes
Steve