I have been making pottery for over thirty years starting with an evening class while studying for my PhD in biology and have had my own studio,wheel and kiln since 1987. I am largely self-taught in throwing and making skills, although must pay tribute to a variety of evening class and very short course tutors. I am entirely self-taught in glaze formulation, but have managed to develop, from scratch, a range of stoneware glazes and slips which transform the usual bland electric oxidized  surface landscape into a lively and colourful palette with which to decorate my practical domestic forms.

I aim to make things of beauty and utility to enrich our experience of day-to-day life. If you have beautiful crockery even washing-up can be pleasurable.  My background in biology has imbued me with a love of all things natural and I try to let the natural origins of the materials I use show through in my work. I also try to incorporate as many self-collected materials as possible. Nature’s beauty involves elements of randomness and asymmetry and I accept these characteristics in the things I make, not attempting to achieve the precision of an engineered artefact but the wholesomeness of a natural product. Rather than thinking in terms of sets I think in terms of families.

It is part of our humanity that we are “The Tool-maker” amongst earth’s creatures and many tools are wielded by the hand of the potter. I like to see the evidence of a pot’s hand-made origins and that includes both the gentle curves of fingers against clay and the contrasting sharp edges and flat planes arising from contact with our cutting tools. Although I like to see this evidence, when making pottery myself, I don’t intentionally accentuate such features. At the same time I don’t go out of my way to hide them. If I’m trimming, for instance, a foot ring, then I stop as soon as the desired shape is achieved. This may or may not leave a spiral ridge in the well of the foot. If it did I wouldn’t attempt to remove it, machine-like perfection is not my goal. Similarly if, when dipping a pot in glaze, my fingertips leave unglazed areas I will touch up these areas with a bit of extra glaze, but this may or may not be the same thickness as the rest of the glaze and I won’t go to any great lengths to make it so. The evidence will probably remain on the finished piece as slightly different coloured areas in the glaze.

As you own and use and learn more about handmade pottery it becomes possible to discern many different types of evidence of the making process. You can read these as a history of the individual item’s manufacture, understand the interaction of the potter with his materials and appreciate the care and skill employed to produce this particular unique object.

I experiment continually both with glaze formulations, decorative techniques and forms. Frequently my experimentation takes me away from the  domestic and utilitarian and my work splits into two separate strands. My current explorations involve the incorporation of fusible inclusions into my  clay bodies and their interactions with very fluid glazes.



Mugs for Builders. Ceramic Review 187, Pg. 56-57, Jan-Feb 2001.

Interactive Glazes. Ceramic Review 156, Pg. 42-43, Nov-Dec 1995.

Posted January 29, 2012 by damiankeefe

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