My Process

A melding of techniques

I'm sometimes reluctant to claim that I'm self-taught, after all so many makers and teachers have contributed inspiration and technique over the last twenty years or so, so I find it difficult to separate myself from their input. However, in the sense that my learning has been self-directed, I suppose I am self-taught. 

I started off falling in love with throwing – for the first year of my involvement with clay I did nothing but throw; and it's a method I still love and use whenever it seems the best way to achieve what I want. This is mostly the thrown bases of the various vessels I make, but can sometimes be used for entire pieces (like the Tiny Inward folded vessels) which are thrown in one piece and then altered. More typically though pieces are made of a combination of thrown and slab built elements, ranging from thrown base and a single slab lift, to thrown base and up to 13 slabs formed into up to 5 lifts for the very large (1.25m high) Tall Inward vessels.

Slabs rather than Coils

This method came from early pieces which were coil built. I didn't really care for coiled bases and soon returned to thrown bases; I like the ability to easily build slightly thicker bases to help maintain a low centre of gravity which is so important for many of my vessels which often lean out of vertical (Iris vases for example) to give them the poise they need to have the right stance.

The slab built elements came from coils which started off round, but gradually became flatter, thinner and taller and which I eventually had to acknowledge could no longer be called coils! 

Jointwork

The pieces I make are as simplified as I can make them with a minimum of superficial decoration, which would interfere with the overall form – the thing that fascinates me most. So the jointwork, which in other makers' practice it is suitable to allow to show or even celebrate, doesn't seem appropriate in my work. Consequently I've spent a lot of time finding ways to eliminate the joints from showing, and this has proved to be a challenge, which is exacerbated by the way that glaze ruthlessly exploits any variation in the density of the clay where joints have been made! However, I seem to have now achieved the integrity that I want, so that the forms can shine through without distraction. 

Glaze & Texture

Glaze is used sparingly and even then only on some pieces. I especially use it to emphasise a contrast between 'inner' and 'outer' space as much of my work is concerned with where these definitions meet and merge, one into the other. Consequently some 'inside' elements appear outside the vessel and vice versa. This does create some complications with regard to applying glaze and I have to mask some areas, block other areas to prevent glaze from getting where it shouldn't be, and I spend a lot of time applying glaze and removing excess to achieve the desired effect. 

Most interiors are glazed by pouring and most exteriors are spray glazed, but again; interiors and exteriors meet and merge very visibly, so great care must be taken to get a clean definition. 

Where surfaces are not to be glazed I introduce aa subtle surface texture (usually burnished lightly back to make them softer and less aggressive).

©2019/2020 by Adrian Bates Ceramics.