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  • Writer's picturejemma millen ceramics

2022 Events & Plans

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

It's the end of March and I'm making a blog post about the new year! I'm feeling settled in my practice for 2022, which is already packed with change and exciting events that I've been itching to begin preparations for.

In 2019 I applied for Argillà Italia - a long-weekend International ceramics festival and market fair held in Northern Italy; Faenza, just outside Bologna. This event is held every 2 years and was expected to take place in 2020 but has been rescheduled for this year with Ireland remaining the guest country. The opportunity was listed through DCCI in partnership with Ceramics Ireland, with 20 ceramicists selected by Argillà Italia to attend and participate in the market fair & exhibition.

Check out this amazing promo video from the 2018 event - I'm absolutely obsessed with the pottery bicycle around the 57 second mark!?

This event looks incredible just to attend as a ceramicist, never mind participating, I can't wait to have the opportunity to check out this vibrant festival with local makers from Ireland!

After the mania of Christmas, my practice winds down in December for much needed rest. January is a natural time to reassess my products/processes and I find it's the best month explore new ideas too.

I've wanted to incorporate drawing and colour into my work for a while however, I never felt I had time to slow down & work through designs or ideas. I took January & February to investigate my illustrations with new surface applications and I'm delighted with the new work starting to emerge from this play. Some illustrations are from the garden; basil, rosemary, potato flowers, eucalyptus & lavender and some are local treasure my son and I have found while out on walks locally like acorns, pinecones and twigs - much like my Meadow Plate range pieces that use these locally collected finds for my sprig moulds on their surface.

Left to right: Pink Slip, Black Slip & Blue Slip, they will fire differently

I wanted to stay along the same floral path to develop this new work, but I especially wanted to move away from a tight, polished finish. I'm loving the expressive painted textures of slip application and their little naked edges that reveal the bare, deep red earthenware clay underneath - as well as the 'imperfections' happening too; like the thin bits of colour, the edges of the newsprint leaving marks on the surface of the slip or the illustration not totally transferring.

The peeling of the illustration is so satisfying too. I want this new work to show more of its making process, as there are times I feel pressure to produce work that doesn't show it as strongly. I've never deliberately made something that had to be 'flawless' but this new direction doesn't feel as rigid.

I think what partially encouraged this style was dealing with a horrible batch of terracotta casting slip in Autumn/Winter last year, which ruined nearly all of my wholesale orders and my own online stock. I still don't have definite answers to why it happened but it knocked my practice and made me question where acceptability is for standards of finish and expectations. I sold some pieces as seconds [as sustainability in ceramics is a huge problem and I despise waste] and received wonderful feedback from customers who didn't see the same flaws I did. There wasn't anything wrong with the pieces, I was told terracotta is not as rigorously processed as other clays, therefore some batches contain more natural material that cause random effects, so if anything, this is a quirk to using the clay? I'm not entirely sure if that's what was going on here, especially after many tests; applying vinegar to the greenware surface, changing the batches of clay, cleaning the moulds before casting, re-making new casting moulds, or wearing gloves while making them and still having it happen to almost 200 baubles/pumpkins.

So to gain positivity from this experience, I want to be less hard on myself as a maker and allow pieces more character and freedom in making.

This is one of the worst examples of the 'bad' slip showing efflorescence on the surface.

Another exciting project I'm planning this year is training for 3 days in May with master mould maker Ed Bentley, who is based at ACAVA Spode Works Studios in the beautiful ceramic-rich city Stoke on Trent. My plan is to develop my plaster/mould making skills and work on some new products I hope to reveal towards the end of this year, I can't wait!

In the meantime, I'm very busy seething with jealousy at the ACAVA Spode Works studio space, just check out this description:

"The studios have been built within the expansive Upper China Halls and range in size from over 500sq.ft, some with three-phase electrical supply for kilns and machinery, to smaller studios from 150sq.ft. The studios are all self-contained, insulated and most have excellent natural light from large factory windows and overhead skylights. Most studios are on the first floor and are fully disabled accessible, with a lift for goods and people from the ground floor and disabled WC.
We welcome artists and makers working in a wide range of practices, including ceramics, textiles, and design as well as traditional visual arts practices. We can also accept others working in related fields, as long as these are essentially driven by artistic or creative practice. There is 24 hour access to all studios and 24 hour security is maintained on the Spode site by the City Council.

A large exhibition and events space with kitchen and communal area has been provided, plus cleaning sinks and high speed wi-fi throughout the building."

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1 Comment

Jim Allsop
Jim Allsop
May 26, 2023

Hi. You make cool crafts with your own hands, it seems to me that such a format would be cool to fly on YouTube. If you take my advice, I advise you to use high-quality software to work with videos.If you are looking for a video conversion tool for YouTube or video editing without compromising quality, is what you need. Thanks to its advanced algorithms, it ensures minimal loss of quality during the conversion process. You can effortlessly convert videos to various formats, adapt them to specific platforms, and even adjust parameters such as resolution and bitrate.

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