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  • Writer's pictureN L Ceramics

You can’t hurry ceramics … but you can try.

This month I will have a selection of my ceramic pieces in the Heath Robinson Museum, for purchase. The Museum supports 3 local artists on a 6 monthly cycle and the commission they take on sales goes straight to the upkeep of the museum.

Here is a compilation video of my ‘Heath Robinson Museum Collection’. I am quite proud of it. I am immensely proud that I made it in time, despite my ‘abnormal life’ getting in the way, and I am super impressed that I did it with enough care and precision that everything survived the kiln. Well done me.

I will be in the Makers Art Selection from 15th October 2021 until April 2022.

I am sharing my slot with a jeweller, Lizzy Chambers:

And a Textile artist, Jess Chan:

The Museum was built to host the art of local illustrator Heath Robinson. For me, Heath Robinson is not just a colloquial term for those quirky things I have cobbled together in my home to make things work. He is the illustrator of the books about Professor Brainstawm that I used to love as a child. It is nice to have that connection to my own work now.

When the museum’s ‘finder of unique items by local artists’ came to my Open Studio in June, she asked me about how I manage to work on my pottery and fulfil my complex caring role. I said, “the reason I built my tiny studio was because the time constraints of working in a community studio were restrictive. If I need to do pottery at 3am in the morning, I can now do that”. I didn’t realise at the time, that this would be a prediction for the only way to fulfil my commission.

Thank goodness for my very own well insulated and well-lit garden studio. You can’t hurry ceramics. It is a process that requires time to make the items, time to dry the items fully, time to fire the items to bisque ware, time to glaze the items, time to allow the glaze to dry properly, time to fire them to their final finish, time to smooth all the bases so they don’t scratch surfaces, time to photograph them, time to itemise them, time to wrap them, time to deliver them. And none of these things can be done in any time, but their own time. And this does not include the time you may need if something goes wrong in the kiln and an item does not survive the volcanic temperatures in there.

When I said, ‘yes please and thank you for the opportunity’ to the Health Robinson Museum, I had a good 6/7 weeks before I had to deliver anything. Plenty of time and some extra in case things went wrong. Then my daughter needed two weeks of hospital treatment, so no pottery for me. My family insisted they needed a two week holiday after that trauma (again, no pottery for me). So, I had one intense week to make 50+ items, so they could dry thoroughly whilst we were away on holiday, and then another intense week of firing, glazing and firing again, with a few days to smooth, itemise, photograph and pack. And absolutely no leeway for mistakes. So, 3am in the morning became my 'normal' time to be making pottery, mixing glazes, glazing pottery and writing documents. Let me tell you, I did not enjoy it. However, it did make me ‘up my pottery game’, and I made things with as much care and precision as I possibly could, so they worked first time. I did have one weird error, that I couldn’t have planned for, in that the batch of clay I used for my mugs had a greater shrinkage rate than I had expected and my mugs came out with slightly less capacity than I wanted – but a reduced price for the reduced size was acceptable. If I had more time, I would have made a second batch slightly larger. In future I will remember to test fire a measured slab of new batch clay to check shrinkage, if I'm going to be making things that need to have an accurate capacity.

I am looking forward to my next visit to the Museum, to see the exhibits and the current exhibition of illustrator Korky Paul's work, and then go into the shop and see my ceramics.

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