For some years now, the nature of my practice has been interpersonal – I’ve worked with participants of all ages and abilities, making things out of clay destined to be recycled rather than being fired.
I was starkly and cruelly reminded this week of the potential for disaster when committing work to the kiln.
I lifted the kiln lid to find all of the pieces…in pieces or severely cracked beyond repair – 2-3 days of work ruined in one foul swoop.
You would think that twenty years plus of experience would render the firing of work a mundane and risk free activity…It’s anything but. There are so many variables to the process of firing; temperature, rate of temperature climb, size of the work, position in the kiln…I could go on.
Just one small change – in this case the shape of the thrown form, and you can pretty much throw everything you know out of the window!
Although I’ve been working with brick clay for the past three years, I’m still learning how it works…but when you have a deadline looming, the need to get it right is intensified.
I had forgotten what a frustrating and destructive process transforming clay into ceramic could be. Those pieces that survive the rigours of the kiln are special and should not in any way be taken for granted – lots of ‘metaphor for life’ potential me thinks!

I spent the majority of last week working at the Coleford Brick and Tile Company in the Forest of Dean.
The directors have been very generous, (once again) in allowing me to work on the factory floor and ‘play’ with their wonderful materials and products.
I’m making some large vessels – some one metre in diameter, out of carved ‘green’ bricks. The process involves piling the bricks into a rough shape before carving the surfaces to achieve a smooth effect. Once it’s all dried, it will be disassembled, carefully labelled and then fired in the giant gas kilns at the works.
The piece will then be re-assembled in time for my exhibition in July at Bilston. For other blog entries relating to this project please take a look at: Coleford Residency 5 and 6, Brick Factory Visit 3, Coleford Residency, Bilston Show a Go-Go!,