Fowlers Gap: Ceramics

I remember playing with plasticine in Year 1 or 2 when I made a bird’s nest containing three eggs on top of a tree. I remember how it looked. I remember the distinctive smell as I rolled the trunk and placed it upright onto the special plasticine board. I remember rolling small, soft spheres between the palms of my hands, trying not to press too hard or they’d squash. I remember my happiness in creating, in transforming my imagination into a multi-sensual reality.

When given the raku clay, I was only a matter of time before I nostalgically recreated that seminal bird’s nest.

But my first exploration was a simple textural one, turning an accidental mark on a slab of clay into a deliberate pattern.

Entranced by the ability of clay to hold a direct impression of another object, I approached the burnt out tree stump and wrapped another slab around the twisting bark then shaped it into a soft yet self-supporting curve.

That was great but I wanted more than a “fingerprint”, so I cut holes in the clay with a bottle top, wrapped it around the bottle (need baking paper or similar) and then rolled it over a combination of smooth leaves and rough bark to create a more textured texture. (Hilariously, I was very impressed with the form when it appeared on the dinner table one night, not recognising it as something I had created.)

Enjoying the curvilinear forms, I combined this shape with my first, more aggressive mark.

Next, I did a portrait of the burnt out tree, using a toothed metal kidney to simulate the spiralling bark. Rolling the trunk and branches is what made me remember the birds nest above.

Then I went hunting for more textures and came across two same-but-different materials: cracked mud, and cracked concrete. I imprinted them both on a divided slab as contrasting yet complimentary surfaces.

Returning to the rolled form, I made a pretzel. I don’t know why, I don’t even like pretzels.

Finally, having been careful not to leave hand marks in any of the previous works, I made hand marks in the clay. It was at this point that I understood what I was doing.

I had spent many days traversing the earth at Fowlers Gap, always “protected” from the rocky, stony, dusty surface by machines or footwear. This was the first time I had contrived a physical connection with the earth and it wasn’t even from the station. Although it was possible to take these pieces back to Sydney, I opted to leave them at Fowlers Gap; I felt no compunction to keep them as the memory of having worked the raku is etched more deeply in my body than the shapes left in the clay and for all their aesthetic qualities they are not why I enrolled in the course.

So what does this mean for Assessment 2?

At least one aspect of the final work will be an unmediated impression of my body.

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