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Potter of the Month (Mar/Apr 17) - Ian Harris

 

What general skills & techniques do you use? (eg., throwing etc.,) ?

Most of my work is coiled, though occasionally I make use of pinch and pebble pots. I use some high tech bits of equipment to form and support the base of the work in its early stages--- a 12" wok and a 10" wok! Variations can be made by filling them with sand and scooping out a hollow to form different profiles. The idea was initially inspired by an article in an old Ceramic Review, which showed a potter in a small African village, making beautiful water vessels by simply scooping out a hollow in the ground, moulding clay into it on rush mats, and then coiling up from there. As my knees and back have never allowed me to sit cross legged on the ground, the “hole in the ground" had to come up to work-bench level!

Tell us about your experience and knowledge:

Not a huge amount of the latter! I first came across clay when I was training to be an art teacher at St. Luke’s College, Exeter in the mid-sixties. I was studying painting and print making, but we all did a short course in pottery, where I made a pebble pot and a slab pot. I can still recall the utter fascination I had with the way I could mould, shape and texture the clay with my hands, and just a few simple tools. In my second teaching job I took on an art room with a kiln in the middle of it (absolutely NO health and safety in those days).I hadn't a clue so went on a couple of day courses, joined an evening class, and was learning, teaching, and making my own work at the same time. I've been making and selling since the late sixties, and when I retired from teaching 12 years ago I went full time, and now have my workshop in a beautiful old blacksmith's forge in Corfe Castle, where I make and sell directly to the public.

 

Who inspired you?

When I was at school doing "A" level art I went to the "new" Coventry Cathedral to study the art work there, and I was knocked out by the great candle holders. I didn't know who made them, and indeed I thought they must be carved in stone. Only many years later did I find out they were made by Hans Coper, and by then I'd come across his work in the book "Potters in Britain Today". I loved his subtle use of texture and mark making, and the "simple" use of tone and understated colour. Also in that book was the work of Alan Wall work with his strong hand built vessels, which also used the colour and texture of the clay body, with mark making and subdued colour and tone. Both of these potters in their different ways, showed me elements of making that I was already striving to explore through my own ideas. I’m still trying!!

 

Please explain your work.

I like to use clays that have strong characteristics colour and texture, then try to develop designs that make use of these. At the moment I'm using Valentines PF640 GT Material---- it's beautifully "scratchy" to work with, and I work oxides into the textures to give contrast. I also use their PF670 Smooth Textured Black and PF695 Textured Red Stoneware from time to time.

Initial ideas for my designs sometimes evolve from small, observed details of natural forms, but nothing is treated literally, and these are just starting points for exploring a theme.

I fire bisque to 1000 C and glost 1245°C---1260°C in an electric top loader.

 

Which is your proudest piece?

I was chuffed when Alan Ault bought a large piece of my work for Valentine's Gallery, but actually it's always the next piece that I'm going to make! Even if a vessel has worked out really well from start to finish, I'm rarely fully satisfied with the final outcome. After two weeks I can always see details that should have been better--- its sense of balance; its movement; its tones and textures.

What are your future ambitions?

Hopefully tomorrow I'll make a better piece of work!


Ian will be exhibiting at Art in Clay Hatfield on 18th, 19th & 20th August 2017.

View Ian Harris's gallery

Visit their website: www.ianharrisceramics.co.uk