Monday, 1 February 2021

Primitive Ceramics at Feans Collective Gardens

I have been living in Galicia for more than 2 years, but I do not have regular access to a ceramic workshop where to fire my work yet. So far I have been producing small figures using local wild clay, firing them where and when possible. Nonetheless, these limitations have been a opportunity to experiment different ways of making and firing. These are the main reasons behind this workshop at Feans Collective Gardens. It was a two-day outdoor workshop. The first day was focused on production and the second one on firing. Ideally everybody would have at least two pots ready for the firing. The workshop was an introduction to primitive ceramics. It was thought as a two-day workshop because of the very diverse participants' schedules and the complexities of running the whole workshop outdoors. Weather conditions would affect the workshop. Around 10 people attended the workshop. First day, production: We started the day with a harvesting walk. From 10am to midday we wandered around the lushFeans Collective Gardens guided by Lourdes an expert in wild plants. We gathered edible and non edible wild plants. The aim was to harvest for lunch as well as for the workshop. We prepared some vegetable tempura, salad and also cooked a veggie omelette.
After lunch we cleared up the table and got everything ready for production. We did not use wild local clay but comercial clay. There was not a nearby source of good clay, also there were time and space constricctions. We used a very reliable and maleable redish stoneware from Bunho. From our morning walk we had kept some leaves, to experiment with press-on surface decoration techniques.
I had collected some cardboard with which to build basic press-moulding containers for square and round forms, and brought them to the workshop. During the workshop I demosntrated basic clay handbuilding techniques, pinching, slab building, press moulding, and coiling. The participants were also shown how to use the collected leaves, flowers,twigs, bark and stones to press on, so they will leave marks and paterns. time avthe As the pots were not going to be totally finished in one day, and there was not storing space, the participants had to take their half finished pieces home. We seted up a group to keep in touch so to dry them slowly and do any fininshing deemed necessary. Among the pots were some flat trays and bowls, basic shapes that can be easily transported without damage. The theme "Wild Plants" was hugely enjoyed by the participants. Using the leaves, twigs, etc to inprint markas on the pots was a quick way to treat the surface and keep the materials to a minimum. ...the only constrain was time.
Most people ended up with 2-3 pieces. There was a chat group to keep in touch. In the chat I gave advice on how to finish the pots, drying, rims and bottoms. Some people burnished the pots others did not. Second day, open pit firing: Finally after several weeks a perfect day came for the firing. We have had to cancel twice because of bad weather. But we were lucky, even though it was in November , the day was sunny and very warm. We had dug and prepared the pit in advance. I wanted the firing to be a bit like a ceremony, just for fun, but in a sense to help people to be more conscious about what we were doing. The firing of ceramics is the most decisive moment in the ceramic process. An open pit firing is an espectacle to be shared , it connects us with humanity's past when humans gathered around the fire, for warmth and proteccion and cooking. Days in Novembver are quite short and wet at night. Wood, bushes and dry dung were collected and stored in a nearby greenhouse. People started to come early and we had two firings, one to dry the pit, pre-heat the pots and clay shelves that were going to support them.
The second one was the actual firing There were at least 22 pots ready for the firing. That was more than what I had expected. All in all the two firings lasted around 4 hours.
The cooling down time was short, less than an hour, but this did not cause any posterior damage to the pots. We had quite good results though a couple of pieces exploded damaging another two that were nearby. That was a negligence on my part. One of the participants brought wares that were still quite wet. He was very enthusisatic and cooperative, so we dried them as much as possible during the first fire and included them in the firing. Two of them exploded during the firing, it was quite loud, and damaged other pieces. Another neglignece was to use slighty dump bricks and cearamic roof tiles as kiln furniture the firing. We put sand on the roof tiles to help the pots slide during shrinkage.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Ceramics in Gran Canaria 2

At the end of my stay in Las Palmas I met fellow potters, Gloria, and Paco. They lived not far from my place. By chance I passed by their gallery-workshop at Leon y Castillo, one of the arteries of Las Palmas. Their gallery is a lovely and welcoming space. The front room is where they display their creations and also work from other artists/artisans they like. The back room is their ceramic's workshop. Upstairs there is the storage and more workshop space. They confessed that their house have become another workshop. Sadly I did not take many photos. I throw some jugs on the wheel for them. It was a bit ackward after two years of no practice. I showed them how to prepare and work with paper -clay. Paco makes lamps, so hopefully this technique will be of use for him. In exchange ... they allowed me to use their space and they fired some work I made from Gran Canaria's wild clay. Overall, they were wonderful to me, we had great conversations about life, Spain, art, ceramics, craft, business, relocating to new places... There were always people at their gallery, students, customers, artists. One day I had the pleasure of meeting Gloria's mum, a very creative person. Now in her nineties, she is still sewing and has been making bags of her children's old dresses, thus producing functional bags and memory triggers at the same time. I loved the concept and craftmanship. During my weekend strolls all over the island I had always in mind to search for clay. I just wanted I little amount, to do a small piece, a token from the island. But I wanted to dig the clay myself, not to buy it. Some potters sell bags of already prepared Canarian clay. There is not much clay in the islands, and it fires at a very low temperature it needs additions like sand to be able to reach 800 degrees. I found my clay not far from Arteara, walking through the tunnels and galleries abundant in the area. These galleries enabled workers to cross through the ravines, saving them lots of time. They are not often used now and some were flooded. I was reckless because I did not follow the Canarian tradition for preparing the clay, and decided to mix my clay, after sieving the impurities, with 30% of a comercial stoneware body to increase its firing temperature. It worked well. None the less, I think of it as a Canarian clay. I had only enough for a little figurine.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Ceramics in Gran Canaria, 1

There are no many natural resources of clay in Gran Canaria. I am very fond about finding some local clay and to prepare it myself so to use in my work. But there is some clay which has been used to produce ceramic wares from the time of the first inhabitants of this island, some say they were of Berber origin. Their techniques and processes are still in use and well preserved by the practice of some of the Gran Canaria potters of today. Some play with the techniques and "bastardize" them producing amazing results, contemporary objects and artefacts. In other cases, the traditional practices and processes are religiously preserved. For example at "La Atalaya" there are a Museum and an open workshop dedicated to the memory of one of his famous master Panchito. It was not common in Gran Canaria for men to be involved in the production of ceramics. That did not stop Panchito, his house is today a museum and the visitor can see where and how he lived and worked as the workshop is contained within the house. Potteries used to be set up in manmade caves. The workshop was usually owned by the potter. The potters of La Atalaya were very poor they lived perched on the ravines near to the source of clay and other materials needed for their craft. There wes famine, war, isolation, as Gran Canaria besides being an island has a complicated topography.
I met really nice people at La Atalaya, and visited them a few times during firings and even helped in translating the information about the museum and workshop to a group of English visitors. My only problem to keep in touch and collaborate more often with them was their distance from Las Palmas where I was based. It was also difficult to fit my paid work schedule with that of the workshop opening times at La Atalaya.

Summary of my last ceramic days in London

It is been more than three years now since my last post. Somehow I have been delaying it and delaying it. My last post is from October 2015. That post is made mainly of images of tableware, at that moment I was producing work for the pre-Christmas' shows and markets. The dates and venues for some of these events appear in the post too. At that time I knew I was going to move out of London and back to Spain. In my mind was to make new work but also the need to sell and dispose of it quickly. Also, I had to pack and free my space at the Glebe road Studios by January. There was lots of work and things and memories to deal with. I was part of Glebe Road Studios since I finished my BA in Ceramics at Camberwell College of Art. The studio and my colleges were home to me. I had good memories from those last Fall-Christmas Shows and Events. The pots above are mainly made from London clay, I was very happy about them, the clay was from very deep below Bond Street. A good clay, it didn't need much additions nor preparation. I was very bold with the surface treatments, mostly I used engobes in blue, brown and green, kind of rusty colours, for the outer part of the pot. For the insides, I used a pale, watery green colour, like a river' water. The picture was taken at the end of 2015 in a Market in Chiswick London. The period before Christmas was very busy at my part-time job at Cheeky Tiki, we had lots of orders at the ceramic department, a different approach to production, ceramics and style; big orders of barware provided for cocktail's bars around the world. I loved to do the painting and didn't mind the repetition. It was hard to say goodbye to Cheeky Tiki, I was more than five years working for them, lots of memories and cocktails. I exhibited again at The London Potters Annual Show, always a busy show. And made some houses. . I was looking forward to my moving to warmer climates and went all crazy with the yellow. The image is from my last Winter 2015 Open Studios at Glebe Road. Before living in London I made more sales and had to pack some chosen pots, figures, materials and equipment to my mum's house in Galicia. There they would be kept stored for a while, most of them, as I was immediately moving to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where I had planed to reside for the next few years, and could not take them all with me.