Ceramics & Pottery

 A Passion for Ceramics

From fairy houses to miniature mushrooms – a magical array of dream-like pieces of art

I had my first encounter with clay in a council-run evening class in the mid-1980s; just the basic stuff, learning simple forms and techniques. 

I had a busy and intense job in the NHS and found that working with clay was a time I could completely focus on creating something from scratch, getting away from other pressures. As happens to all of us, life got more complicated over time – work, family, children – free time was in short supply, so exploring clay further was put ‘on hold’.

I reconnected with clay in the early 2000s at Llanover Hall arts centre in Cardiff – the sessions were longer, supported by tutors in an informal and accessible way which really boosted my passion for ceramics. The community of fellow potters soon became friends and gradually my techniques progressed and ‘designing’ pieces started.

I began selling my work in a small way in the mid-2000s at local craft fairs and markets and after a serious illness and retirement from work in 2013, I have been refining my work, designing, and making my own range of colourful ceramics and now sell mainly online through The British Craft House.

I hand-build all my work – I tried to learn to throw on the wheel but found it difficult, but by using hand- building techniques of pinching, coiling, rolling, and sculpting I have found my niche.

Colour and texture are strong features of my work; I make a wide range of decorative pieces from brightly coloured mushrooms and flowers for garden decoration, to historical reproductions of ancient jars and pots, to amusing ‘roly-poly’ animals.

My Christmas decorations, fairy houses and historical reproductions are both planned AND a spontaneous process! I have some core pieces that I make repeatedly; usually these are the most popular pieces in my online shop – mushrooms and flowers of all shapes and colours. The more spontaneous pieces are usually a reflection of my other interests; nature and history feature a lot in my ‘roly-poly’ animal collection and my historically inspired jugs, vases, and pots. Once I get going on a theme, I will explore it and refine it until inspiration takes me in a new direction. As a result, the range of pieces in my online shop is ever-changing and quite eclectic.

Ceramics is not a quick craft! The making process from raw clay to a shape I am happy with may take less than an hour for something small or 5-6 hours for something larger. Also, the bigger the piece, the longer you must wait for it to firm up before adding height or details, so it doesn’t collapse under its own weight. Once I am happy with the shape, the piece needs to dry – slowly over several days to prevent cracks appearing. 

Once the clay is completely bone dry it goes into the kiln at 1000 degrees for 24 hours for its first ‘bisque’ firing. Then glazing – the application of a thin layer of various minerals and pigments which can give colour, shine and texture depending on the type …then into the kiln for the second ‘glaze’ firing at 1240 degrees for 24 hours before coming out EXACTLY as I planned (not always!).

My favourite changes on a regular basis; at the moment it could be any of my ‘roly-poly’ animals, particularly the most recent creation, an elephant – the texture and colour of the final piece is pretty much as I wanted, a rare thing!

While I don’t currently do any formal workshops or demonstrations, I am always happy to share my personal experience with others on an informal basis. However, the community studio where I am a member – Cardiff Pottery Workshops – runs a huge range of one-off and short courses for beginner level and above, as well as supported and independent memberships.

My goal for this year is to pretty much continue as I am – primarily to enjoy the making process amongst a wonderful community of other potters, and secondly to continue to sell my work to fund this creative and self-affirming hobby.

Sally’s creations can be found at: thebritishcrafthouse.co.uk/shop/sallyjaneoriginals/

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button