Sgiliau Stiwdio: Cerameg

The first of our two-part twilight Studio Skills sessions at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, gave us the opportunity to experiment with clay and ceramics techniques with renowned ceramic artist Anne Gibbs. Anne’s work is inspired by a collection of interesting and unusual objects that she keeps in her studio, following a trip to Japan she found herself making objects in pastel colours. These colours are integral to the clay and not painted on after formation. Her objects are small and delicate looking abstract forms arranged in groups, often by colour, depicting surreal situations.

Studio Skills: Ceramics

To start us off and get us working in a non-precious way Anne had brought along some of her interesting and unusual objects for us to draw. To begin with we were asked to draw with sticks and bamboo using ink. Having partially completed a drawing of any one of the objects which had captured our interest, Anne asked us to swap places with the person next to us and continue their drawing while studying a different object.

Studio Skills: Ceramics

Then we put our drawings aside and Anne passed each of us pieces of clay. First we must familiarise ourselves with the feel of the clay, so Anne demonstrated one of the most simple technique for forming clay, the pinch pot. This involves forming a small lump of clay into a ball in our hands then pushing our thumbs into the ball and working the clay outwards in a circular motion until a small pot is formed.

Studio Skills: Ceramics
Studio Skills: Ceramics

The next technique, coiling, is a little more challenging. We take a lump of clay and roll it on a surface with our palms until we get a long circular strip. Anne instructs us to make three identical coils, which isn’t as easy as it looks. Next we build out our pinch pots using the coils we have made. To do this we score the surface of the clay on one side of the coil and the rim to the pinch pot, and use a little water to join them.

Studio Skills: Ceramics

Having built up our pinch pots with three coils and smoothed the surface we move on to making slab vessels. To make a slab we us two flat pieces of wood as guides and a rolling pin to roll out the clay. Having made the slab we cut off the edges to make a rectangle and wrap it around a cardboard cylinder, joining the ends and smoothing the surface. Then we make a second slab to form the base.

Studio Skills: Ceramics
Studio Skills: Ceramics

Having learned some techniques Anne showed us some contemporary ceramicists who use these techniques in their work. It was really interesting to suddenly understand how these artworks are made, and really inspiring when we began to decorate our vessels, taking inspiration from the drawings we had made at the very beginning.

Studio Skills: Ceramics
Studio Skills: Ceramics

Returning to Llantarnam Grange a month later we set to work decorating our ceramics using clay and colours. Beth made a very ornate vessel with a plait wrapped around and a fringe based on drawings she had made between the sessions. Becky’s vessel started with a protruding moon shape and developed to have abstract orange shapes wrapping around it with pricked lines to give them emphasis. Louise made a simple but very beautiful vase with a lightly folded brim, imprinted shapes and bold, expressive use of colour and illustration. Heidi made a very neat and well-formed vessel with an illustrated design scratched out of a black background based on an image that had inspired her.

Studio Skills: Ceramics
Studio Skills: Ceramics

Emma made a beautiful abstract vessel with a side opening, a pattern of holes, an orange interior and a plait twining around and through it. Andrea made an intricate, nature inspired vessel lain on its side with dried leaves, mushrooms and other protruding growth. John made a blue sculpted vessel to hold a candle with moon shaped openings, to allow light to pass through and a patterned surface. Experienced ceramicist Anne left her comfort zone to make a series of functional items including coasters and a candle holder that became abstract images.

Studio Skills: Ceramics

Louise Fitzpatrick commented that she had “loved the experimenting and being introduced to lots of ideas and ways of working.” Andrea Carney said she now fees “more confident to use this medium”, while Heidi Mehta felt a “lovely pace to workshop and guidance, lots of group feedback.”

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