|Earthenware fruit bowl with majolica decoration. Diameter 310mm (12 1/4 inches)|
If a child finds a muddy puddle, it will jump in it and splash around. At a certain age, some children will eat mud. I remember being with a group of children when I was 3 or 4 years old. We were gathered around the edge of a puddle of water that had formed in a muddy hole under some swings. One child was eating the mud, and daring others to do the same. I held back from it, but several of the other children scooped up finger fulls of black ooze, and put it in their mouths, accompanied by "Ooohhs" and nervous laugher! Mud I did not taste, but I remember chewing pencils when I was a year or two older than that, and savoring the aromatic bitter taste of the wood they were made of, and the tangy graphite "lead" in the middle.
Potting involves the senses. The act of kneading clay, throwing it down on the bench, pounding it with a fist, rolling it with a wooden roller, cutting and tearing it, or pouring it as a creamy slip, all these activities are accompanied by sound: slap, splat, slurp, thud, bump, glug, plap, plop! Sounds specific to clay and potting. There is of course the sense of touch. The feel of clay: smooth, rich, fatty, wet, or coarse, stony, dry and abrasive.
Clay has personality, and a potter has to get to know the clay he or she works with. I find stoneware clay somewhat cold and it takes me a little time to start to like it, and to feel in sympathy with it when I work. I feel more of a freedom and joy with natural red firing earthenware clay; with this I am always tempted to work larger and with more sense of fun. One thing that has held me back from doing more with earthenware has been the glazing and decorating of it. I have often found low fired glazes frustrating.
|Detail of Earthenware fruit bowl.|
|Earthenware fruit bowl underside.|
Recently, I have begun to enjoy glazing and decorating earthenware pots, something has changed in me, and now I feel happier and freer about attacking a pot with a fully charged brush! I have been doing on glaze majolica decoration, and restricting myself to red iron oxide, copper carbonate, and cobalt carbonate for the colours. I mix one part of each of these with one part bentonite, one part borax frit, and dilute them to a nicely brush-able consistency with water.
|Earthenware jug. Height 125mm (5 inches)|
The glaze I use is a commercial white glaze, Abbots White, and to that I add 1 percent red iron oxide and 3 percent bentonite. The bentonite makes the glaze easier to apply and helps it stick to the pot without dusting off. The red iron oxide makes it a warm, ivory white, something I think is more in keeping with a terracotta coloured pot.
|Earthenware Pot. Height 325mm (12 3/4 inches)|
When I decorate now, I improvise as I go along. I make a mark with the brush, and then respond to that. I try to find what sort of a mark the brush is happy making, and don't fight it. I work quite rapidly, and I like the marks the brush makes when it is used fearlessly!
|Earthenware bowl. Diameter 185mm (7 1/4 inches)|
Yes, the result may look a bit rough, but I hope it also looks fresh and lively. I have few preconceived ideas when I work, but, if the day has been sunny, or windy, or icy, or if I have seen trees, or ferns, or ripples on water, then those might find their way into the patterns I make.
|Earthenware Bowl. Diameter 155mm (6 inches)|
Dealing with the ACC... An Appeal for Help.
On 21 March I wrote a post on this blog that was entitled, "A Cautionary tale". In this I described how I had injured my left shoulder whilst spiral wedging clay. This injury appeared to be bursitis and not a tear of the rotator cuff area of the shoulder, however many weeks went past and things have not got better. A second opinion was eventually sought, an MRI scan done, and it transpires that I have a labral tear, a so called SLAP tear, of the part of the shoulder socket to which the tendon from the bicep muscle is attached. Unfortunately, the tear is not a small one and it is causing me great difficulty with my work, with everyday life, and sometimes with driving. I am quite limited in what I can do with my left arm (the larger work on this post were made on the wheel well prior to the accident). I am now waiting for a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon.
One problem I am having currently is with the ACC who are a government run accident insurance provider who are supposed to fund treatment and income assistance for people who suffer accident related injuries in New Zealand.
Whilst ACC accept that I have got an injury - the MRI scan shows this conclusively - they do not accept my explanation that it was caused by "kneading clay". ACC say they will pay for my medical consultations, but have suspended any income related support. ACC ran my medical records past their "expert", but did not consult me at all as to what was meant by "kneading clay". When I eventually heard that they had difficulty with this, I sent them a letter with photos explaining the process. Note, they did not seek this from me, but simply made their decision without knowing or understanding the facts.
It would be a great support to me if you know of anyone who has suffered a shoulder injury whilst preparing clay, especially whilst spiral wedging clay. If you, or a potter friend, has had a similar injury, and don't mind sharing your experience, please email me at
opogallery AT gmail DOT com.
A letter of support from you may help me win my case.
ACC now wish to have the surgeon's opinion as to the cause of injury. This I find a little silly, as he almost certainly will not be a potter and I will have to explain the process to him in his consulting room without being able to demonstrate it! Unfortunately my consultation with the surgeon has been put back from later this month to mid August, so there is still quite some time to wait.
Any help with this situation would be greatly appreciated.
|Earthenware mug. Height 100mm (4 inches)|
Time for a cup of tea!