My residency was the last two weeks of January 2024, a perfect way to start the year! The first week was very cold, but very sunny, meaning that as long as I wrapped up well I could spend a lot of the day outside. I was particularly interested in the woodland or “celtic forest” of the area and on the first day I walked up to Arthog Falls. I was immediately enchanted by the thick layers of moss and lichens creating a rich green tapestry in the woods next to Arthog. My phone is crammed full of photos of all the interesting things I found. Once I was back in the Mawddach studio I thought about how I could make these out of paper clay, layering them up, but my first experiments weren’t successful. But this is part of the process, trying out new things and learning from the failures.
As well as photos I also collected materials I could use in my work. I hadn’t thought about doing this before I arrived but it seemed like an obvious way to connect my work to the landscape. I noticed there was quite a lot of dried bracken in the area surrounding the house, and decided to collect some bracken that I could burn to make ash glazes from. I’ve made glazes from wood ash before, but never collected the materials. Most ceramic materials come in plastic bags of white powders from the supplier, so being connected to the process of collecting, burning and making the glaze felt more meaningful. I’m excited to see how the glazes turn out. I’ve also collected and sieved some estuary mud which I will also test in the kiln.
In the second week of the residency we were forced to spend more time inside by stormy weather. I used this time to create ‘mini sculptures’, using found objects such as moss, fallen branches and sheeps’ wool, with clay that had been imprinted with texture from slate gathered from the nearby beach and paper cut into strips and shapes inspired by the woodland lichen. As these sculptures developed I found they became more abstract.
My proposal for the residency was to use the time to create a body of research which would inform my ceramic practice. Through my work I aim to create a connection with nature, but I live and work in inner London so time in the countryside is always fleeting. Now I am back in my London studio I have lots of materials and inspiration to work with; glazes to test, forms to experiment with. I can see this residency reflecting in my work for a long time. My time by the Mawddach gave me a chance to slow down and look at things around me. Inspiration can come from the little details, such as the way slate is stuck between the roots of a fallen tree. Since being back I feel like I am more observant and take time to notice the details around me, which often get missed in the rush of city life.
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