Inspiration Part 1 - Of Sea, Sand and Food.

Today I found myself looking through my old university work looking for inspiration for working in Slip ware which is something I have been looking to work at doing differently, and I still have so many questions as it isn't really a way I have worked much, but I am saving all that for Part 2.

Part One is about where my Stoneware Pottery Comes from, this isn't all my workings just a  small part from my University days and includes drawings, mindmaps and Mood Boards. Yes it is going to be full of words and pictures.

 Step One - Mind Map
Mind Map on Food
I always start by just getting rid of the words from my head and organizing them on paper so I can stop worrying about them, words can be a burden but also help you focus before the project starts. I had several mind-maps all exploring different aspects of what I was interested in. The Project I set myself was "English Stoneware for English Food" so I started looking at what we ate here in the UK, and how we ate it.

Step Two - Mood Boards
Sketchbook Mood Boards on Bread
From the Mind Map I took a section I am actually interested in such as bread and tried to find what it was I liked about bread, I had previously done a project which was "thrown and altered" and I called that work "Torn Apart" I ripped apart bowls to make dipping vessels for bread, I didn't want to take the project any further and the images were rescued from mood boards of that project. So as this was a dead end I decided to carry on.

Mood Boards looking at Rustic Food and One Pot Cooking
So I looked at rustic food and one pot cooking and decided I was going to made sturdy, heavy duty, honest pots (not that I had a choice on honestly my skill levels just weren't there).

Mood Boards looking at a Colour Palette
Looking at Colours rather than forms  in this mood board, I knew from the start I didn't want something that was stark white or 1970s brown as it were (though saying this I now have some 'brown' pots I love) but I still wanted something earthy that would be broken up with another colour which ended up being blue. 

Looking at puddings, seascapes and patterns.
Just a quick two mood boards on the sea as my life as a youngest revolved around the sea and puddings because a have a sort spot for them and wanted to create something that would look good on them.  The Patterns were my initial development work on trying to find something I could incise into pottery or decorate with slips or oxides.

Step Three - Develop Forms
Development Sketches for Jugs and Teapots
Despite wanting to throw I seemed to have an insistence to design not what I could make but shapes I found interesting.

Development Sketches for Bowls and Vases/Vessels
Once again bowls designed with the purpose of not having a straight rim, I even tried making the bowl forms but it never went well.

Step Four - Surface Pattern
Developing a Brushwork Language - Quink and candle
I have sheets and sheets of these sheets and even had a roll of paper that I worked on that was metre after metre and had various ink colours on too, at one point I wanted to get it printed into a wrapping paper to wrap my work in, I wrapped my work in some of it and other parts ran when it got wet in the rain going to a show. I was developing brush strokes and the line quality I was aiming for.
Rough Layout for dinner service
This was a sheet showing an example of what a dinner service could be like with a plate, bowl, side plate and cup (I didn't put a handle on because I wasn't happy with the ones I kept trying to draw).

Step Five - Production and Redevelopment.
Platter based on the Brushwork, hake and bamboo brushes
There is something I always  liked about this platter, it was one the decoration worked well on, on a lot and the smaller forms it was just too cramped, these sorts of brush strokes need space, and don't work too well on the outside of cups. So I spoke to my tutor and I decided to simplify the pattern

Simplifying the Pattern
So the pattern became a broad swipe with a hake brush which works well on the small forms, but doesn't work well on the platters as I don't have an 8inch hake brush.  It is something I never resolved.

Step Six - Reality

Despite being a Pottery student for 4 years at the point of graduation, I still didn't have a big knowledge of pottery and potters and it was only after meeting Kevin and Jack that I realised I didn't know anything or anyone in the pottery world.  So it was on leaving university and actually gained a love and understanding of pottery and other potters. Hence the reason there is no real pottery mood board in the above pieces, with "I am inspired by..."
How the Pattern works on Oxidation Pieces. with two overlapping brush strokes.
When I left University I bought my own kiln, but due to costs, convenience and trying to run a business six days a week, I got a small plug in electric kiln. This kiln suited being able to fill a kiln quickly and very full when I have lessons, but still too small to work at any sort of production and by the time I finished at the shop I could make enough work in a day to fill it and could make pieces that wouldn't fit inside its 30cm by 30cm diameter.

  • I also made the mistake of buying in glazes, which I don't do for my standard ware any more.

  • I am thinking of reducing the number of items in the standard ware and try and share some kiln space and do some reduction firings on some stacking bowls. 

  • Stop doing tea bowls unless someone orders a sizeable amount.

  •  Redesigning the Bowls so they are slightly more pleasing and more like the one I made for my wife that I found buried in my kitchen

Coming soon:

Part 2 - Developing an Earthenware Range


  1. Post Script:
    I need to change to pot I keep my cobalt in as a hake brushes don't fit inside easily so my brush strokes aren't as nice as I want them

    I always made sure my wife had images from other inspiring makers in her field, I just didn't for myself as I wasn't a 100% sure what I wanted, I tend to rely a but more on touch than sight in the start I guess.

    Lots to do for Part 2. Pots to photograph, need to find all the source images I want, and maybe so a digital mood board if I work out how to do so.

  2. Really nice to see inside your sketchbooks, theres something really pleasing about seeing the overlapping shapes. Looking forward to seeing more!

  3. Thanks for a really interesting post. I'd be interested to know whether the finished product bore any resemblence to what you had in mind when you started?

    1. IT is really hard to say because I can't always remember my mind set, at the time I started designing it I was a very tired dad who got less then 4 hours of sleep a night.

      I would say that how it is now without the reduction is how it originally was intended but then I fell in love with the reduction. Originally I was going to try and aim for quite a white glaze but after the first kiln lot came out of the gas kiln, it wasn't too heavily reduced and I loved that with a little speckle on, unfortunately in the big gas kiln it always had a bit more in than the level I wanted (but I wasn't allowed to control the kiln)

      I would say the final product still isn't exactly how I want it, with how I feel right now but then I am a perfectionist.

  4. Always nice to hear that what you learn at uni could actually be useful in the real world.