Two days spent as a exam moderator last week which was very interesting. Managed to make four plates with Shirley’s help on the days I was in and fired the kiln twice. I loaded and fired the kiln with a glaze firing on Wednesday and tried out a lot of glazes mouldering at the back of the cupboard. The big reveal moment wont be until tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to that.

The plates I made on Wednesday came out well. Shirley had rolled out the usual four bits of clay and I trimmed them up and put a layer of coloured slip on ready for some sort of incised mark. I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything too developed as I had to sort things out for the days out and so on. I looked in the current sketchbook/journal which is a relatively recent one and there weren’t any appropriate ‘ideas’ in there. The books have become so much part of my thinking that without the books to tell me what to do next I can’t function! I only tend to carry one around at a time, of course, so when I fill a book I go through a peculiar change over period where all the accumulated thinking of one book gets left at home and I start with a fresh and underdeveloped book. This is obviously stupid and I do sometimes carry more than one book to get over this. But it does become the case that there is a big pile of books on the shelf over there and there are some great ideas stacked at the bottom that I have forgotten about or haven’t finished off and they are sort of ‘stuck’ at the bottom of the pile.

The retrieval system of books inevitably doesn’t provide instant access to everything all of the time, especially if I am working in two places like this. I should probably take all of the books into school and use them all there in these final weeks. There is a sense of vulnerability to that though. I am leaving much of a doctorate in a cupboard in an art room fifteen miles away! I really need to sit down and go over them all again and reclaim the ideas and fold them into the current state of play. There are currently seven of them so that would take a bit of time.

I have also been further complicated things by making books. I went up to NUCA and spent the afternoon learning how to make books with Sarah in the Drawing Workshop. I made a fairly successful blue A4 sketchbook which I have used as a studio book to keep a better chronology of the plates as they are made, fired and glazed. At the moment they are all recorded in the books but the chronology is unclear. They are made and recorded, biscuit fired and often recorded and then usually recorded when glazed and finished. This means they pop up in the books as batches which is a bit difficult to unpack. It makes sense in terms of a learning cycle as how my efforts come out of the kiln tends to inform how I make the next batch so it fits the learning/reflect/play/make cycle but it is more difficult to see the progress of a plate from idea to make to final outcome.

I want to play with the idea of making the books more as part of the learning journal thing and how the recording and processing of the ideas and activities affects and informs the outcomes. The big sketchbook from Great Art with a of other peripheral stuff and notes and drawings glued in is pretty efficient but it is also a container, a restraint in some ways. Of course. How does changing the container change the thought? So I wanted the skill of making different containers, hence the book binding obsession this week. I went to Norwich and got some new needles and thread from Anglian Fashion Fabrics and I made a pretty neat A6 sketchbook yesterday. The big fat multiple paper drawing book is about to get its fourth binding though as I have mucked up the other three so far.

The plates on Wednesday I drew SCVA heads on from a forgotten sketchbook on my desk from a trip with Y5 some years ago. The first red one I did with a sort of abstract drawing but that wasn’t entirely satisfactory. I picked up the sketchbook and quickly inscribed the drawings into the clay with a needle before I went home. The last one which was based on a drawing of an Inuit cork head was particularly interesting. It was a more complex drawing with a lot of mark making and shading going on. I drew it onto a plate with a layer of dark slip painted on and another light blue layer sponged on top. So my mark making was a sort of negative drawing, including some blurring and shading. I was drawing with a white incised line and reversing out the drawing as I did it. One of them I drew into a layer of green glaze painted onto the wet clay. Should be interesting.