Artist Talk – Autumn Article 2017

Extract from Artist Talk Magazine

I build my pot with one eye open taking in the fall of a plumb line and a profile. Once the pot is made, I only have a relatively short window of time to complete the surface painting before the damp clay dries out. I try and hold this back for as long as possible with plastic and Clingfilm covers in order to not only extend the creative window but to prevent faults and cracking. In the intense dry heat of southern Spain during the spring and summer months, maintaining an adequate level of humidity for the work is a time consuming task in itself and ensures focus. As each pot can take as long as a month to decorate and complete prior to firing, there is ample time to reflect on what is being created. Sometimes at the end I can look at what I have done in surprise and have no idea how I did it, which is usually a good sign.

For the past 10 years my workshop has been in my house in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, south of Granada in Spain. I am surrounded by the cool of the mountains and breath-taking views. I feel I have time travelled to this place, 3,000 feet above sea level where children are still allowed to play like children and horses and donkeys live in the houses with their owners. In the winter, pigs are slaughtered in their owners’ garages and the strings of homemade sausages and chorizo can be seen hanging from the balconies and the rafters of upstairs rooms and the women have fire tinged cheeks from cooking in the open hearths of their garages.

Despite its attractions and obvious benefits to health and sanity, this timeless idyll is beginning to disappear. There is the inevitable clash of culture as modern western consumerism encroaches on this world. The farmers now have modern tractors and mobile phones, their children drive Audi’s and their wives have more cleaning products for their Neff hobs than you could stuff into one cupboard and yet they still prefer the hearth. It is a very traditional agricultural Spanish community of only 900, still poised on the edge of the 21st century and I have been fascinated by this simple way of life.

By circumstance, I work very much alone, linguistically stranded. I have a wi-fi radio tuned in to Radio 4 or 6, but with 12,000 other stations to listen to I can switch to radio city Delhi for a thrilling change of mood if the whim takes me. Although I miss my shared studio in Sussex and the chat, building the Spanish workshop and working in it has been hard, but creatively inspiring. I am surrounded by breath-taking examples of traditional Andalucian pottery derived from early Moorish influences, which serve as a constant reminder of how this cultural diversity moves art and civilization forward.

I return to England every few months. It is always beneficial to have a break from this solitary simple life and to briefly reconnect with my roots in Sussex. The contrast never fails to spark another flash of creativity. It is this example of a blatant contradiction of time and space which is so central to the work of a potter.

I am currently working on the combination of fragile flowers and crudely drawn words that proclaim passion and rage which is so thrilling. Putting words on pots is an overt move for me. I have to come out from behind the slippery shadows of pictures, to proclaim a kind of certainty that I think will work.