2018 was a year of exploration for me, spending most of the year in the glorious Highlands of N W Scotland. It’s not without reason that this area of Scotland is named the Last Great Wilderness.
Towering, formidable mountains, deserted endless golden beaches and the crystal clear ocean dominate the landscape. Like the needle of a compass, it’s wildness and beauty always attract me northwards.
The purpose of the year was to think freely, research and develop a new body of work.
The job of the ceramicist is to design, make and sell their wares. A typical year would involve supplying galleries, showing at a circuit of annual ceramics and craft fairs and all the inherent marketing and publicity needed to run a business. It’s a great way to spend the year. However occasionally it’s necessary to step back from the routing, re think, appraise and evaluate.
Thoughts lead to actions, actions lead to the experiences that became seared in my mind to resurface as ideas for new work. Drawing is always the catalyst for new work for me.
But – draw what? The mountains, the rocks, the sea?
The first step needed to be walking – a physical experience trekking up mountains and fells those enticingly unpronounceable Scottish munroes: An Teallach, Beinn Eighe, Beinn Dampf, Beinn Alligin.
Beinn Alligin pulls no punches – right from the off it’s a lung busting few hours’ clamber up the steep sided corrie, with a decent before the second summit. A surprise lurks along the path – the awesome Black Cleft, the largest natural landslip in the UK where the fractured rock walls fall away to hundreds of metres of nothingness. The sting in the tail is the Three Horns, described in the guidebook as airy scrambles – airy indeed with massive exposure. Treks such as this don’t just linger in the mind, they resonate in every cell of the body where their memories are imprinted. This was the inspiration I needed for the new work
There followed a period of drawing – a visual language where I put form to those visceral experiences, making marks and thinking with pencil or charcoal. A freeing creative time of endless possibilities. I began to read more about the processes of creativity which spurred me on. Then followed unending testing, trying out new decorative techniques, new glazes, new forms, an acquired kiln to get to know. My trusty Shimpo wheel went with me to Scotland to allow practice throwing larger, taller pieces – joining them, carving into them and experimenting. It was a joyous free time that lead to the honing of skills and the development of a cohesive range of work.
From the myriad of possibilities, I began to focus on texture. Porcelain naturally lends itself to white on white decoration that shows off delicately pinched edges, thin layers of slip and intricate carving. The Mountain range began to evolve. Memories of the Black Cleft became evidenced in deeply cut crevasses and crackled surfaces. Thin layers of applied slip that replicated patterns of eroded rock or the appearance of water flowing under frozen mountain waterfalls. Much to do.
There’s a long way still to go in 2019 – and I’m still enjoying the journey.
This year I’ll be exhibiting at ceramic fairs and getting back into the swing of supplying galleries. I hope that the new pots – tall slender Standing forms, full large round bowls and vases will encapsulate some of the experience of trekking in the mountains and be an inspiration to the people who view them. I hope they will joyously grace the shelves of rooms and give pleasure.
Images can be viewed at https://jillford.com/mountain-range/