Category Archives: 03.1 Getting making

Shadows on the wall

I am planning on heading to an exhibition in the wilds of the Kent countryside tomorrow, so though I would plan ahead and did some making over the weekend ready for our Wednesday session with Bridget.

I am still exploring the concept of the ghost candles, and have been doing some sketchbook work to gain inspiration. Two new experiments now done. The first using thread painting techniques and cut outs; the second is more of a test luminaire playing with colour changes. The colours here represent the colours of the soul that are associated with the idea of the aura – and how this is said to represent our personalities and emotions.



I enjoyed making both of these, and although they are rough, I like the effects I’m starting to see. The first piece with the threads and cut outs is more interesting I think. To me, the red mesh symbolises the complex web of filters we use to interpret reality through our organic, visceral selves – light (information) is filtered through the web in order for us to see it. Would like to explore this further. Still using paper for now.


Lots going on and hopefully going in

Just catching up on today’s and yesterday’s sessions after a rather viscous headache begins to subside. On Wednesday afternoon we had our first “Getting Making” workshop with Bridget. We were asked to bring in between 4 to 6 objects which expressed our project proposal ideas. We then went rounds each of the class first with everyone else discussing what they thought they meant, and then you chipping in only after 5mins. Very interesting! And hard to keep quiet!

These were my objects:


The class had some interesting things to say about my objects, and they weren’t the things I thought were obvious. We all indeed think very differently. For example, no-one noticed (or chose to comment on) the fact the jigsaw was upside down / without image.  Whereas for me, this jumped out as an inconsistency.  The group did pick up on the seeing / light / darkness / shadow aspects which I expected.  They also suggested things like “using tools to see the ‘real’ world” and that it “looked like I was a scientist”. I knew I needed a Sorry, I’m a scientist T-shirt; I can’t help who I am!

So!  That brought us to our weekly seminar this morning with Oscar which was based around Professional Practice. It was a nice ice-breaker exercise to do a quick elevator pitch describing an inspirational artist to the whole group. I know I can do a very polished presentation, so I didn’t really feel like standing up and doing a pitch. To be honest, I guess I hit a bit of frustration as I have done so many exercises like this over the years, that I can’t bring myself to go through the basics yet again. Perhaps I am starting to feel the conflict between being a beginner / learner in art and design but at the same time a mature and experienced professional. Even so, I still thought it was an interesting exercise, in picking out what is important when describing an artistic practice.  I have a lot of trouble describing what I do – and very often end up apologising for being a quilter as if it isn’t as good as all of the BAs in fine art.  I do need to work on my own elevator pitch.


By three methods we learn wisdom

Confucius once stated that

By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is the noblest; second by imitation which is the easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

Reflective practice was today’s underlying theme – whether by planning or good luck, in both of our sessions. The aim is to make us more aware of ourselves and what we are doing.  We had reflective practice initially defined as “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning”. Working with the lovely Bridget we went through a couple of very interesting exercises.  The first one was being presented with a block of play dough and given 2 minutes to make something with it.  We then had to reflect with a partner on what, why, how we had made what we had!

Photo 24-09-2014 10 24 47

This was my resulting object(s).  Curious, I thought.  I started smoothing out my lump of dough, and in making a smooth ball, was inspired to make more of them.  I liked the repeated form, the simplicity of the ‘perfect sphere’. My colleague suggested it looked like stars in the sky with the different scales – I hadn’t noticed this when making it. Why you make something is always the hardest question to answer, especially when you are asked it seven times!

After this exercise we had a more in-depth piece of reflection to do based on a recent event of our choice, following a useful set of questions we can use.

  1. Introduction: What was the event?
  2. Description: What happened?
  3. Analysis: What were you thinking?  What were you feeling?
  4. Evaluation: What went well, what didn’t go so well
  5. Surprises: What surprised or puzzled you?
  6. Improvements: What can be learnt or improved for next time?
  7. Action plan: what next?

Having had my tutorial with Maiko only yesterday, this seemed like the ideal event to analyse and reflect on.  Doing the exercise was quite surprising in what pearls of wisdom you can pull out that you didn’t even realise you were thinking….highlights below (full original notes in my notebook).

  • Good dialogue and discussion but I rambled too much, and I don’t think I articulated my current proposal very well.  Perhaps this suggests it is not yet a very clear argument / question and if I can’t explain it to my tutor it needs a bit more clarity.
  • It is clear that I am not sure of what my ‘right materials’ are yet either or how to align my proposal with my current practice.
  • I think I listened well and will take on board all of the suggestions Maiko made; I have a good list of actions to work on which came out of the session.  (see yesterday’s post)
  • I took in my sketchbook but didn’t get a chance to show Maiko.  Perhaps I am so keen on having a real fine-art style sketchbook that I am restricting my natural research style.  I need to do what is true to me and not someone else.  Don’t try so hard!
  • I am very good at planning and managing very complex projects – but I haven’t used any of the skills or tools I would have on starting a consultancy assignment.  Why not?  I don’t need to disregard my last decade’s worth of experience!!
  • While we’re talking about planning, it is good!  You can’t rely wholly on instinct, and although I am sure following my instincts will be essential I don’t need to make life hard for myself.  Echoes of my City Lit course where I got myself in knots trying to develop an instinct (being told not to plan didn’t help) but ended up making my project twice as hard as it needed to be.

1) do some proper reflection on my practice and why I do what it is I do;
2) define some mini-projects which are part of my bigger context and 
a bit of a plan;
3) chill

So that was this morning.  Then came our afternoon lecture with Jonathan Kearney (leader MA Fine Art Digital).  A genuinely awesome lecture, and I have been to a lot of lectures in my time.  Very useful and very engaging, great buzz in the room. The topic was action research, and how we can use this as a methodology for our MA work. He made a few interesting observations about the difference between scientific research and artistic research (some of which were a tad cliched – not all scientists are old men with glasses and beards).  His introduction however said the following on what artistic research is for:

The task is not merely to understand and interpret the world, but to change it

Grand indeed. So this is achieved through ACTION and RESEARCH, seeking to question what it is you are making as the practitioner – not through any independent or outside observer. Your feelings and mindstates matter.  There are four key elements to this:

  1. Cyclical: the old Plan-Do-Review cycle, never quite as simple as the management books show.  Everything is iterative and complex and you go backwards, sideways and upwards as well as forwards. Puzzlement is good – it offers a chance to do something new and change something. Get out of your comfort zone!
  2. Collaborative: with people, but also with materials
  3. Qualitative: my inner physicist says “you’re not in Kansas any more”; success in qualitative research is about a different type of value with the outcomes achieved – not just objective interpretation of data.  Much more like the constructive ‘waffle’ I have got rather good at as a consultant. Emphasis on words.
  4. Reflective: our MA programme is essentially two years of critical reflection.  You need to not look at your work in isolation, but to look at all of you while you were doing it, how did you feel, what frustrated you etc.  This is just as true of any professional practitioner, not just creatives.

We could tell this was a big topic:

Reflection could be argued to be the essential stage where learning is integrated within the whole learner, and added to existing frames of reference and internalised and personalised.  (RACE, 2006)

We were right: we were asked to answer a few simple but incredibly hard questions and discuss them with our neighbouring students. There are some big fish in here – and bang on what I was thinking about this morning.

1. What do you make: I currently make quilts and chocolates

2. In what ways do you want to change or improve what you make:

  • I would like to make work more thoughtfully designed pieces of functional art – that crosses or straddles the craft / art divide
  • I would like to expand out of just using textiles and use a broader range of materials which offer different ways to interact for the users
  • I would like to be able to make an emotional impact or experience for the user in interacting with my creations

3. What have you done so far [on the MA]: well as you can see from my earlier posts, this is actually rather a lot in a short time – inductions into new materials, talks and exhibitions galore, I have made a pot, a clay dinosaur and a metal bowl, oh and three iterations of my project proposal in three weeks!

4. What have you discovered so far: 

  • That I actually really enjoy research; I didn’t realise how much I missed it.
  • The difference between scientific research and artistic research
  • That I don’t currently have a defined enough vision, which is why (I suspect) that I am finding it hard to set objectives.  Breaking the rules of strategy 101!

5. What will you change because of what you have discovered:

  • I will ensure to draw upon all of my past experiences, everything I have ever done has brought me to this moment – everything you know makes you YOU.
  • I will accept that this is my journey, and I need to shape it in the way I need to in order to achieve my objectives (within the framework of the course)
  • I will learn to balance meticulous planning with raw intuition. Both can live side by side.

6. What will you do next: 

  • Reflect on my current practice – it may be craft-based and not uni taught, but it is just as valid as an expert potter or a fine artist.
  • Answer what I want my practice to look / feel like in the future
  • Set out an initial post-MA vision 
  • Make a plan

Phew.  I realise I have now hit 1400 words for this post so thanks to any committed readers who have made it this far.  This was a big day.  On Jonathan’s suggestion, I am going to file this post under LIGHTBULB MOMENTS to come back to as turning points for the course.  Now of course, I just need to get on and start answering the questions.  I think I will settle down to this over the next few days and seek to start making in October with a proper thought through plan for the rest of term and beyond.

How’s that for a decisive day!

ANT xx




Pot update

After throwing my first two clay pots on the wheel yesterday, I decided one looked good enough to keep as a sampler, and the second (a bit wobbly) would be a good test of piercing techniques.

I have been looking at the beautiful works of ceramic artist Sandra Black, who uses “elements of light play, within, through and from the objects exploring translucency, illumination and reflection.” Take a look at Sandra’s work on this website. I really like the idea of the use of pierced clay to add extra light through the work and think this is one of the things I will look to experiment with. I should be able to alter the ambience of the space an object is in with the light it emits.

Anyhow, my ceramic technical skill with throwing is somewhat lacking so I used my wobbly pot to test out what a pierced container will look like once fired. It was made yesterday so was hard enough (but still soft enough) to carve safely. Firing soon once dry – this is progress so far.




No, not that sort of sledging. This is a ceramics / plaster technique which uses a cut out template attached to a wooden rig to extrude perfect shapes out of plaster – they can either be used directly (think ceiling rose or dado rail) or can be used as moulds for casting. Quite an impressive resultant after a session with all hands on deck.




A nice bit of team work! This is a really interesting technique, which I am quite intrigued to explore the possibilities of. It seems more appealing that the slip casting / mould making – although I am starting to warm to that as well having seen what some people have done with it. For example, take a hand thrown clay pot and use that to make a mould of, which is then used for very fine porcelain slip – too delicate to be able to create without the mould.

For the moment though, however nice all of these precision casting techniques are, I am still set of wanting to have a go at throwing on a wheel – seems much more organic and ‘of the hand of the maker’ . Looks much harder though!

The rivers at the end of days will be made of molten silver

Great day! We had a workshop in the Camberwell foundry on sand casting today, and my Iron Age passions were piqued at seeing so much very hot shiny molten metal. I started with a painted wooden bowl mold and ended up with a lovely aluminium bowl! Still needs to be finished with some more filing, but it’s a great first result.

Instead of detailed descriptions, here is the photo process diary:








I like this technique, mostly because I was really taken by the metal. Will go back and talk to Becky to see what I can do about making metal structures base on the drawings in my head. Perhaps I should take a maquette first – something to add to my to do list!


Ceramics induction

Mold making and slip casting were the order of the day today – our first introduction to the ceramics facilities, and in my case, my first foray into ceramics at all.  We started by making our molds out of plaster from an object we brought in. Not knowing anything about what we were doing, or how the technique worked I picked possibly the worst object of all time.  We decided to have a go with it anyway – as a “learning experience”!Photo 15-09-2014 19 30 15

The plaster molds were made last week and left to dry thoroughly.  I was new to this blogging lark so neglected to take photos of the process.  Perhaps this was in the best interests of my camera considering the mess we made!  This morning, the molds came out of the drying cupboard and filled with the rather exciting substance of liquid clay, or slip.  photoslipcast Photo 15-09-2014 14 03 35After 15 minutes the molds were upturned and the leftover slip removed.  When then had an hour to wait for the clay to set and see what we had ended up with.  This is the point where you begin to understand that the quality of your final output depends on the quality of your mold, which is also dependent on the shape and complexity of your original object.  My challenge with the object meant this wasn’t the neatest mold ever made, but it was at least functional. So, this was the result:Photo 15-09-2014 15 40 52
Photo 15-09-2014 15 42 46

Well, what do you think?  He is a cute little dinosaur, but won’t win any awards for tidyness.  At least, I now have a much better understanding of what slip casting can (and can’t) do. Unfortunately, just after taking this photo the weight of the poor dino’s very solid clay-filled brain, caused the head to snap off – what was a very narrow neck and always likely to be a weak spot for the cast.  I have tried to fix it with more clay as a glue, and we shall see if it survives the drying process….

ANT xx

Getting going workshop

Resulting mind map from today’s getting going workshop with Bridget.

Photo 11-09-2014 16 33 08

A proper reflection to follow when I have had time to take it all in.  Immediate reactions (in chronological order):

  1. This is fun
  2. I have lots of words on my bit of paper
  3. Hmm.  None of them relate to one another
  4. I know more artists than I realise!
  5. None of these lines join up with my current practice
  6. What am I going to do with all of this?
  7. Experiment for a year doing what??
  9. Meep.
  10. Bridget says just keep making, just keep making
  11. Bit like that fish film
  12. I like fish