Sunday 10 December 2023

Sculptural kiln made with local wild clay . Primitive ceramics

This kiln is 16 months old now. It has survived one wet winter almost no cover,it is an outdoor kiln, and now it is going through the second even weter winter... The kiln was fired 4 times only, around 12 hour firings, slowly increasing the temperature to reach around 700 degrees celsius and then left to kool down.
The construction of the kiln was part of a experimental workshop with the participants were helping throught the building proccess. We used local wild clay, I combined tecniques used in bioconstruccion and ceramics. They clay, an earthenware high in iron content and some sand, was mixed with dry leaves and more sand, there were some bamboo leaves and they proved to be the best to work with in my opinion.
Ater setting the foundations we started to build up the firebox. The firebox has two holes/mouths. They are very helpful to start the fire and also when we want to increase the temperature.
The final shape is quite femenine, a sexy tree trunk form with a sexy belly botton and decorated with shells.

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Ceramic Workshop at Horse Riding School and Nature Center

This workshop ran for a few days, though the participants, divided into groups of around 15 children, stayed with me just for 45 minutes before moving on to another activity. The children, 3 to 8 years old, were on school day trips. This was a very intense, fun and refreshing experience. The ceramic workshop was designed as another activity part of a circuit, there were 5 different activities for the children to experience. The ceramic workshop was inspired by this greek terracotta horse from the 5th century:
My aim was for the children to try some basic ceramic techniques like coiling, pinching... I wanted them to have fun and to create something related to the other activities on offer, all conected to horses, horse riding and life in a farm. The activity and the outcome had to be something that even a 3 years old could do with some help. Children could add, if they wanted to,a rider or other things to the horse and let their imagination run free...and they did. All in all it was a very good expereince. I was not alone with the children, Maria one of the owners of the riding school, helped me with the children. It was really nice and easy to work with her

Monday 15 August 2022

Chidren and adults Ceramics courses at Cocodesign

The following are some images taken at the ceramics course I am teaching at CO&CODesign. The students are divided into two groups , children and adults. I am quite amazed by their talent and perseverance.
The course is an introduccion to ceramics. I am teaching the basics of ceramics and its techniques.

Sunday 14 August 2022

Primitive ceramics workshop/obradoiro at Os Biobardos con Quibutz

Os Biosbardos is a unique place for agricultural and crafts exploration. Os Biosbardos hosts many different projects always with a permacultural mindset. It is like an oasis located on the border of an industrial state. There is clay in Os Biobardos and this was the main reason for this workshop, to collect process and test the clay. Two sessions were open to the public and admitted participants. One session for produccion and another for firing. At the produccion session participants were shown the source of the clay,but they did not have to dig for it. They all had a go at kneading and in the meanwhile I explained them about the need to wedge the clay, where / how to look for local wild clay and how to process it in order to get a workable clay. I used clay obtained from different locations, all in the vicinity.
The particippants formed an heterogeneous group of children and adults. They did not have much experience with ceramics and its techniques. I demostrated coiling, pinching and building with soft slabs into wich we pressed leaves for decoration.
My first choice for the firing was an open pit firing . Open pit firings do not require many hours and are very engaging and celebratory ,so it was the most suitable choice for this ocasion. Sadly that was not posible due to dry weather and firing restrictions. So we improvised a kiln with a metal barrel. They have some at Os Biosbardos, there was also a lid/chimmney, as they are experimenting in organic charcoal production. It was a magic day but finally at night we had to put off the fire as there was no people from Os Biosbardos and we had to leave, so we had put out the fire, before most pots could not reach sintering temperature temperature. This was dissapointing but an important lesson.

Monday 1 February 2021

Primitive Ceramics at Feans Collective Gardens

I have been living in Galicia for a while now, though 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 clay, firing them where and when possible. Nonetheless, these limitations are an opportunity to experiment different ways of making and firing, like this workshop at Feans Collective Gardens. It was an introduction to primitive ceramics concentrated in a two-day outdoor workshop. The first day was focused on production and the second one on firing. 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.