Category Archives: 03.1 Getting making

Prep for getting making workshop – week 3

Our task for this week was to take our favourite object (or the one with the most potential) from last week’s workshop and explore a series of objects working from it and take our ideas somewhere new.  I quite enjoyed this exercise, having been experimenting over the last few days. It was almost the feeling of being allowed to make something completely different which expressed a part of my project narrative – but not worrying at all on the outcome or what the resulting object is for.  Is this the freedom of experimentation we actually have during this first year?

I started from the little wound polymer clay balls which were made to use up the scrap clay I had leftover, based on a sketch I drew in my notes during my first week of term. Funny how this turned out to be so interesting! Perhaps it is because it is not clearly ‘a useful thing’ as opposed to what was rather obviously a series of lampshades. Anyhow, this was the starting point, and the pictures below show the resulting experiments.

I am curious on whether the class will see the narrative I have with these objects, they are the most expressive I have made in a while I think but what will others see in them? This has all been as a result of focussing on the concept and not on the skill.  Perhaps Shane W was righter than I thought in saying I should not worry so much about technical skills. I don’t know for now where I will go next, but that’s the fun of the game I suppose!

We shall see what happens on Wednesday.


Getting Making workshop 2

We repeated last week’s exercise on discussing our objects, but this time on stuff that we had made in relation to our project proposals. Really interesting mix of making and experimentation across the class. I was pleased with how the session went – I had worked hard on trying some new things out for my objects and seeking to develop away from my current style and materials – looking into new things. These were the objects I took in:

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Photo 08-10-2014 21 19 27They were a series of shades designed to cover a tealight, starting from a textile version (such as my current practice), moving through some of the ghost candles I have been doing – using paper and stitched plywood; finally yesterday’s creation with polymer clay mosaic tiles. The polymer clay tiles represented the inside of the meditative mind – while looking at the candle often used in mindfulness techniques.  The chaotic day to day mind gradually quietens as relaxation deepens. Until stillness.

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Oh and one more….made from the leftover clay from the work on the tiles – and perhaps my favourite objects of the day.

The key things the others thought (without prompting) were exactly the sort of messages I had hoped they would pick up. They spotted the interplay of light and shadow, and even used the word projections (which has been my word of the day), noting that I had been trying to make different light effects with the different materials. Bridget commented that it was a good attempt at trying to take such a vast idea and give it physical form – which gives me hope that I am starting to align my thoughts in the right direction.

Things I would improve – be braver and more fearless.  There are no rules to break so try whatever you want (which doesn’t burn down the studio or my house). Anything can be used as art – we had sponges, polystyrene, cups, wires and even leftover cucumber today. Focusing on one aspect of my proposal (such as the ‘meditative mind’ concept) gave me my favourite objects (the spiral balls).

The other key thing I have realised on thinking about today’s session is that one of the things I want to add as context to my work, is a harmonisation of the old: traditional craft techniques and the ancient search for human answers with the modern, technological age we are now living in. I value and appreciate the natural world immensely, and I care just as much as anyone about recycling, re-use and natural materials….but….I also recognise the world has changed, and I really do believe we can embrace this new world and embed it into our old world without losing anything, gaining richness along the way. Using the polymer clay for example got my thinking on this, using digital media and digital art techniques, 3D printing etc. These can add much to ancient techniques – sewing, pottery, woodwork and so on. Not sure how this might manifest in my work yet – apart from wanting to borrow the college video camera to film the rain – but I will keep an eye and see how this develops.

Long but useful day

ANT xx

Prep for getting making week 2 (part 1)

Just double-checking what I need to do for our next Getting Making session on Wednesday and there is some more thinking and doing needed. From Bridget’s instructions: (i) reflect on what interests you about last week’s objects and why. (ii) Make 4 – 6 new objects which respond to those objects, 2 in new materials you have not used before.

First off, (i) as I have not really reflected on the objects yet:


  • I am interested in capturing, filtering and channelling light – the torch, glasses and moon jar. I am fascinated by the interplay of shadows, and the different moods you can achieve just through changing the lighting in a space.  The moon is also a powerful factor in our lives, more so from older, rural times – this links to my more esoteric interests.
  • The poetry book interests me as I am a closet poet, although this book was just what I had to hand to express this.  I think that words carry so much meaning, and removing them (aka Zen teachings) or exploiting them (think Sara Impey) can add a lot to visual art.  I have been experimenting with text in textiles this year in my City & Guilds work, so perhaps this is still on my mind.
  • The jigsaw was my attempt at describing the incomplete, complex narrative of life, where we strive to fit our personal stories, learnings and meanings together – without knowing the picture we are making, or knowing if we will have all of the pieces at the end – whilst taking a lifetime to learn it is only the journey which is important. Visually, I know what I had in mind for picking this object: such as the absolutely stunning work of Christopher Gryder, with his clay tile installations, so clearly showing a strong narrative across the set of pieces. I absolutely adore this man’s work.

Brief diversion to include artists’ summary of Chris Gryder (extracts and photo from his website)“I create sculptural ceramic objects that engage with a deep sense of time and history; a geological time and the time of civilizations. There is a visceral joy, a complete indulgence in tactile geometric form that evokes a world where wonder still reigns. A place at the edge of the wild. Ultimately, the work is my humble attempt to make manifest underlying structures of the physical universe….the tiles come alive in strong light, creating a mesmerizing play of shadow”. 


Action to add: further explore process CG uses to make his work
Action to add: playing with tiles to add to making projects list

Whether or not my objects said what I wanted them to, I was trying to convey a sense of searching, a search for the nature of reality – things which we can’t quite see or examine which lie outside of observable physical reality. Be this hidden dimensions, new physics, paranormal, spirits or otherwise, this feeling taps into what we understand by our humanity, and what lies just a little beyond it. Poignant quote from a book I was trying to find on this topic: Search for the Real in the Visual Arts, Hans Hofmann.

“The significance of a work of art is determined then by the quality of its growth. This involves intangible forces inherent in the process of development. Although these forces are surreal (that is, their nature is something beyond physical reality), they, nevertheless, depend on a physical carrier. The physical carrier (commonly painting or sculpture) is the medium of expression of the surreal. Thus, an idea is communicable only when the surreal is converted into material terms. The artist’s technical problem is how to transform the material with which he works back into the sphere of the spirit.”

Part (ii) of Bridget’s challenge was on the making of the objects in response to our original objects.  I am about halfway through this – more work to do on this tomorrow and will post an update then.



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!

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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.