I ordered Scarva Earthstone Professional PF660 Black Chunky Sculpture Clay and started having a go on the assemblage/vernacular structure/sense of place/essence/ non-realistic representation.

Although I tried not to make a boulder, I think it made itself. I wired the end off the clay, and using the harp cut some small slabs to begin working with it. The slabs were amazing, the clay is heavily grogged and textured. So the boulder just sort of made itself.

I added some slate dust collected onsite to the top surface. I’ve kept it from getting leather hard, although it stiffened up after joining very quickly so could be refined a bit. I cut off the corner as it needed a hole somewhere so it doesn’t explode in the kiln and I thought it would look less like a brick.

I’ll keep working this week with the black clay and see what happens.

Thursday 15th March update

As I’m still waiting for the order of the grogged clay from Alistair Kettle, I started working with the  that I ordered.

Again, like with the black clay, I started making with no drawing or plan – like a vernacular structure, letting it form itself due to the nature of the clay and the amount I wired off.

I wired off quite a small piece of clay as I’m supposed to be working small, so the slab I rolled was quite small. I draped it over a square plaster hump and overlapped the join. As I worked with it it turned into a cylindrical shape. It’s much smoother than the black or the heavily grogged clay I’ve ordered. But it is hand building clay so it has strength and holds as i joined up the ends of the cylinder and cut holes in it.  I decided to sit it on top of the first block and work it around it. I’m not used to working without a plan, but I’ll keep going and see how it assembles or assemblages as they say in Paris.

By the end I was tightening up the faces, carving them inline with each other. Making the shape more angular by paddling. I took the corner from the black clay block and put it inside the cylinder. Partly I thought it would help with the continuity and partly to help hold the cylinder up. I’ve left it covered so I can work on it more tomorrow. I’m not happy with it yet, although some parts are looking interesting. I’m trying to spend only one section of time on each block and not plan what I’m doing.

I added slate dust to the white clay on the same plane as the slate dust on the black.

I mixed the colour of both clays on each other and worked it in with scoring, the paddle, the mini harp that I used to carve with.

Saturday 17 March update

I think my main problem with this is the plasticity of the white clay, it feels too rounded, although I need to remember I’m not supposed to be making boulders.

I worked for 5 hours on this yesterday,  I think it’s looking marginally better. Still a bit worried about it. I was trying to concentrate on the spaces between the objects, once I’d joined them together.

I made two more objects from the black clay. Both were dependant on the clay that I wired from the bag again. I wired a larger piece of clay off, I managed to harp off a nice slice that I put to one side and then I was left with a larger piece that looked as if it could be hollowed out.

I had a few bits of slate lying around so the slice I mentioned that I’d taken off with the harp, I modelled after the contours and shape of the slate. I left this to harden for a couple of hours and worked on the larger piece. I sliced the white clay (I’d kept this wrapped to stop from being too leather hard but stable to bear a bit of weight) with the intent of intersecting another piece of clay.

I enjoyed hollowing out the clay, I tried to then refine the walls to follow the contours of the outside which was formed in the bag before I opened the bag, and to be thicker at the bottom and thinner at the top

Then I added the hollowed out box to the ‘assemblage’


I wrapped the assemblage for a while with an adjustable mould tape to squeeze the white clay, and propped the cantilever up while it dried.  Meanwhile I adjusted angles and worked on making shadow gaps where the surfaces met, so they appear as distinct objects. I concentrated on the spaces between the objects and punctured a hole between the white clay and the hollowed out box. Luckily the bottom box is leather hard so was strong enough to take the weight. I used the slate to re-texture the clay that was handled. I also had a go with the paddles or the wooden slab roller guides slapping the clay into straighter angles which makes interesting patterns and takes the colour from one clay to the next. I also worked with my small harp wiring off pieces, which works really well with the white clay. I think I would like to carve a whole bag of the white clay out, while shaping the outside with the paddles and harp. Maybe even the black clay although the surface wouldn’t be as easy to detail as it is so heavily grogged.

I tried to make the surfaces on the back face on the same vertical plane. At the same 90 degree angle

Then I added the harped slab, which I thought could balance on top but suddenly it felt more structurally interesting attaching to the cantilever at a point.

I decided after 5 hours to get back to the flasks, so I left the ‘assemblage’ sitting out of the way to dry uncovered. I won’t add anymore to this structure, if I add more I may make another small assembly that would sit with it’s back to the 90 degree face, or that this would balance on. I am also supposed to be working small to test this idea so I think this is far enough, incase the popular opinion is to stop immediately as it’s rubbish.

I decided to use the slurry made from the white clay and water to paint the surface of the black clay as I’m trying to layer the surface treatments so they will look weathered and mossy. Should be ok as they are both stoneware and the same temperature. And I sprinkled more of the slate dust onto the clay after lightly spraying with water. I tried to do on similar direction facing planes.

So to conclude, I worked without any plan or drawing, the clay formed the shapes by their nature partially, due to how it came out of the bag and how it behaved while being sliced. Once everything was assembled I tried to make shadow gaps between each object, as you would get on a dry stane dyke. I tried to pay attention to the relationship between each object and the space they form between them, the negative space. I added some samples from the site/vernacular structure, and will attempt to communicate the essence of the place by making an assemblage to represent the geology, vernacular structure and weathering prevalent in the area.

I will hopefully put it in for a bisque firing on Monday, unless I can’t get to the studio because of the group crit.

I need to organise my images of the site and plan to spend a week at Loch Lomond durning the Easter break.


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