When I was a kid, I would dig up my Grandparents' garden in search of ceramic fragments. I delighted in finding pieces with unusual designs and colourful glazes. It sparked an interest in ceramics that led me to start learning the craft – through workshops with Fiona Thompson and Chris Donnelly at Cyan Clayworks and artist Jenny Pope.
In 2015, I spent a week learning the art of Raku at a small studio in Povlja, a fishing village on the island of Brač in Croatia. Raku is a form of glaze firing developed in Japan in the 16th century and was traditionally used to produce chawan tea bowls for Japanese tea ceremonies.
During my time at the studio, I hand built pots and jewellery pieces, learnt how to mix glazes for them, and was taught the firing process. The ceramics were removed from the kiln while they were still red hot and placed in a metal drum – filled with sawdust and newspaper – to be smoked. These materials quickly catch fire and more sawdust is added to starve the ceramics of oxygen. The metal drum is then sealed to allow the smoking process to continue.
Drawn to monochromatic designs, I mostly used a white crackle glaze on my work whilst leaving some of the clay unglazed. This turns a wonderful matte black, as the fire draws out the oxygen from the clay itself.
Making progress with ceramic skills takes a lot of time. So I've taken a leap and decided to dedicate a month to learning from a master potter in Seto, Japan. Yeah, I'd never heard of it either. But where better to develop my skills than in one of Japan's most important ancient kiln towns?
As they say in Japan - ワクワクしている!