a technical interlude, learning from Mastercrafts

Porcelain with grey and black interior caused  by bacteria

porcelain with black and grey interior from souring

Watching a rerun of Monty Don’s MasterCrafts yesterday, I couldn’t tell who would be the best maker– even at the end of the programme. The best work didn’t seem to be related to the level of committment, passion, inventiveness, character, although everyone had some of these. It struck me that there was a very private, close-up dialogue between maker and material that was somehow affecting the outcome and trumping these other strands. Not anything like X-factor, which I watch for the moments when someone’s inner talent transcends all their difficulties – a fantasy, of course, but I think one that accidentally gets applied to art (Picasso?).

So for pictures, this week I have the preparation of clay. Porcelain is chemically a mixture of silicon and aluminium oxides, but it’s the microscopic structure that’s important (like diamond and charcoal). Acidity (‘souring’) makes the little clay platelets (like lux flakes, or oat flakes) slide over each other more easily – good for plasticity, you can throw thinner, higher. Anaerobic bacteria create acidity – the black and grey in the picture. I mix it all up through wedging, and the grey fades away over time into the air.

Porcelain with grey insides

Porcelain after souring for four months

porcelain in grey and white stripes

After a few wedges

clay with fine grey and white stripes

Getting better mixed

clay an uniform grey


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