Saturday, November 05, 2011

southern ice

Giddy doesn't quite cover the glee with which I unloaded the kiln last week - Southern Ice porcelain is my new obsession.
It was a dream to throw with - knowing the possibilities of translucency encouraged me to throw much, much finer than I normally would, a challenge that I relished. Of course, the finer the pot wall is, the harder it is to control, so whilst I had been thinking of altering the lips of pots for quite some time, it was convenient for this work as it disguises my rookie porcelain throwing skills! I roll glazed all of the pots, most in clear gloss, but a couple with yellow gloss.

I am beyond happy with these results - I am utterly in love with this clay.The translucency is intriguing, as it will allow me to progress with a project that has been cooking in my mind for 2 or so years; the surface, if properly sanded, is beautifully tactile; and of course the exquisite whiteness allows colours to mature to their best - for the first time since working with high temp clays, my red underglaze is BRIGHT red! My yellow glaze is positively mouth watering. Another exciting attribute for a maker like myself obsessed with underglaze decoration - fewer layers of colour is needed to achieve vibrant colours if the surface is not to be glazed. All of these factors create a more contemporary feeling around the work.

Unfortunately, all of porcelain's virtues make its poor cousin stoneware look somewhat ugly; the clay is grey to me now, giving colours a dull edge; even when sanded, the unglazed, vitrified body is not pleasant to the touch; and my existing work now feels heavy and clunky.

As with many new loves, this may not be a healthy obsession. Clayworks Southern Ice porcelain is approxiamately 2.5 times the cost of Walker's PB103 stoneware; a fact that one cannot possibly argue, as it was developed by Les Blakebrough himself, one of Australia's top ceramicists (though British born, like myself, mu ha!) and is now one of the finest commercial porcelain clays in the world.

Another concern I have with this organic work - the functionality. I always aim to make items that will be used. The world is full of more than enough useless junk already and I have no desire to add to that, especially as this medium is fairly un-environmentally friendly already. Certainly the work here is only experimental - initial exercises to test the capabilities and properties of the clay and the forms reflect that - small and varied in height and width. If I do follow this thread of undulating forms, I will have to carefully consider the function of the pieces. 

As an emerging ceramicist, I feel I don't yet have the skills or confidence to do this medium sufficient justice. I certainly won't give it up, but I have to set realistic targets; I will continue to produce my stoneware ranges, but slowly develop my work in porcelain until I feel a substantial body of work is a feasible project.


  1. I'm excited too, Katy! The brighter white really appeals to my Shiny Happy Art style...

  2. I adore the Southern Ice, the look and feel as you have described in this post. Though certainly more expensive, I think you will find there is a market for the more 'arty' and delicate pieces alongside your other work. Ceramic lovers like myself will find a use for them if we want to ~ but also remember that simply displaying them to be enjoyed each day is also a 'use' ~ at least it is for me!

    Lastly I wouldn't worry too much about your skills not being sufficient ~ they look beautiful to me from the photos and many people actually love the slight imperfections, often seeking out the most 'wonky' pieces in the collection as that is the charm of handmade! Markets are a perfect testing ground ~ just bring them along and see what the feedback is!


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