Workshop 2014

Photography: Stine Christiansen

You start with nothing – just a lump of nothing, and then you turn it into something. That’s the magic of it, the transformation – that moment when ‘nothing’ becomes ‘something’. And it all happens, because you make it happen. Like a block of flint chipped into a finely balanced axe-head, like fibres and filaments spun and woven and braided into cloth, like metal heated and hammered into shape in the smithy. You start out with ‘stuff’ and end up with ‘creation’. This is one of those earthy crafts, powered by human strength, dexterity, tenacity and vision.

Coordinating the idea that’s in your head with the item taking shape between your hands so that what you think is what you see. Your hands like a mirror reflecting an idea. There’s just about a lifetime of skill involved in this and you have to be ready to learn from scratch, learn from doing, learn from others, make mistakes and learn from them, too. Peeling away layers, honing and refining until you get through to the heart of the clay – the gem that was hiding inside the stone, waiting for you to release it.

Patience is required for the long haul – the doing of it, from beginning to end, and then doing it all again. You feel the muscles in your fingers as you give shape to these things. You can smell them drying. There’s a certain sound to the room when you have all of these curvaceous creatures lined up on shelves, waiting and drying. They could all have names, identities; they require your attention in the way individuals do. You can’t talk to them as a group or make them do things collectively; each one needs to feel your caress, be seen by your eyes, whisper your name.

So you might think that you’re being an artist – and perhaps you are, but there’s something else involved, too. It’s yourself in there, in the clay. You make images inside your mind and then make them come out into the world as objects to be held by hands and touched by lips. You make images of your own soul.

It has nothing to do with clones and copies. Each one you make is unique – like a birth. And there’s a hundred things that can go wrong. A little too thin, a little too thick, a bit too moist, too dry, too quick, too tired. And even when you get everything right, something could still go wrong during the firing so that you come away with cracks and crumbs.

But when it goes right, they come out of the kiln singing. Then you hold pieces of poetry in your hand – finely tuned rows of verse upon verse, all in the same rhythm, the same rhyme, all chanting as if with one voice.
The aesthetics of that moment when you know it has all come out right is unbeatable.

A limited set of hands with unlimited ideas