Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Carpo Diem

...starting from tomorrow!

I can't believe it's such a long time since my last post. Time has whizzed by.  As I sit and question what on earth I've been doing these last 3 months, I'm aware this is the last day of 2013, the last day of what has been a Huge and Unforgettable year for me. Wow!

Chawan at Embassy of Japan, London
I had a nice little surprise in October when I was invited to take part in an exhibition at the Embassy of Japan in London. It was called Chawan : Insight into Beauty. All participants submitted a few chawan tea bowls : they had to be functional which meant I adapted my choice of slips and glazes which gives them a calm and contemplative quality I feel.

Here are a couple of examples. I was delighted to take part in the exhibition, and very pleased with the results too. More to follow in 2014!

Making has now stopped for a few weeks.  I deliberately stop making at this time of the year. To be honest,  I've run out of steam, or clay, or both. The idea is that when I start again, I'll have a new release of energy and will be chomping at the bit to get cracking. I now have chance to catch up, reflect, and try to get organized. Very virtuous.

For a while now, I've been collating thoughts and pictures from my residency in Australia to put together in some kind of document, although I haven't quite decided yet what form it will take. It's taking hours and hours and hours - some of it constructive, some of it just daydreaming. I'm sure I'll have more news on this in my next post.

For those of you who have trouble daydreaming, listen to this lovely little song I'm A Dreamer by Josephine Foster, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfdBZUFWHFs.(WARNING: not advisable if you are already prone to daydreaming. I first listened to this song in September, and look where we are now - it's December 31st!!)

Bark vessel
I've also put together a leaflet on my residency too. You can download your copy from this link:

Robin Welch bowl

The RWFC (Robin Welch Fan Club) and I went to see Robin's work at the Sainsbury's Centre, Norwich.  If you're looking for a day out, it's a fascinating exhibition called Materpieces: Art & East Anglia ( http://www.scva.ac.uk/exhibitions/current/?exhibition=113).
Here's a picture of a very handsome Robin Welch bowl which was bought by the Attenborough's in the 60's. It was in good company alongside Elizabeth Fritsch, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper pieces.
Stunning setting at SCVA  with Mrs Welch and Mr McInnes.

Tuesday class at Rufford Craft Centre

My classes at Rufford Craft Centre wrapped up nicely with a festive fuddle. I'm lucky to have a great bunch of enthusiastic students. A big thank you to all of them for their good humour, application, and support. They make pretty good pots too and make Tuesdays a highlight of the week. Thank you everyone!

 A blog post wouldn't be complete without a few pictures of The Outside (and they also count towards one of your 5-a day). Here are a few I took around Hathersage/Stanedge Edge, Derbyshire, on Boxing Day this Christmas.



In my first blog back in January (There's No Other Place Like Home? http://rachelwood-ceramics.blogspot.co.uk/2013_01_01_archive.html), I mentioned eating frogs. Time to clarify - I was referring to a great motivational book I'd read by Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog, 21 ways to stop procrastinating. The Frog in question at that time had been applying for my residency at Sturt. And look what happened. Watch this for a taste: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W7GB5Fh2XM

And thinking about the question There's No Other Place Like Home?, I think the answer for me is yes, definitely, as I found out this year during my residency. It's also made me aware that home isn't necessarily related to a physical place. It's more about the knowledge that  if you know where you heart lies, then that's when you've found home.

To end the post with a little sunshine, peace and a relaxing moment, I've included this short video I took whilst having sandwiches at Reef Bay, Sydney. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mMR_PCVnlc
Thanks so much to the Bush and my bush walking buddies.

I wish you all the very best for 2014. Thank you so much for reading my blog and I look forward to another exciting year to tell you about. Happy New Year.

Friday, 4 October 2013


 "We in our own human imperfections are repelled by the perfect, since everything is apparent from the start and there is no suggestion of the infinite. Beauty must have some room, must be associated with freedom. Freedom, indeed, is beauty. The love of the irregular is a sign of the basic quest for freedom."

Soetsu Yanagi: The Unknown Craftsman

I read this passage on a wet (but not miserable) moment at the Keramisto international ceramics event in the Netherlands 3 weeks ago. It had rained a lot so it was quiet and, as most visitors were waiting to visit on Sunny Sunday, it was a good time to catch up on some reading. Sometimes I find it difficult to articulate how I feel about my own work and its aesthetic, but the above words really struck a chord with me. Those words to my mind open up a vast world of opportunities, possibilities and space. I found them in an article about Carme Balada's work (Neue Keramik 4/13 p.17)

Table for Two, and breakfast time at Keramisto, NL

I'm pleased to say my new barks were received well. I can't wait to get stuck into developing those further.

 I love doing the European shows, the travel, the language, the possibility of something new happening, and of course, the people and the potters. I just like the fact that I Can. I always feel topped up when I come back to England. In August I was in Oldenburg, Germany.  A very high standard of work at all these shows, and just the sheer variety is refreshing to see.

My passport has served me well this year. International travel over for 2013 (unless anyone wants to surprise me!!!)

I've enjoyed delivering several children's summer workshops this year carrying on with the Australian walkabout theme. We just explored the local bushes and parks to pick up foliage and twigs as inspiration for drawings and surface textures of mini-bark pots. The children loved it.

So it's been a hectic few months - making, shows, travel, workshops, freelance work, admin. It's funny how the admin work goes at the end of the sentence, when in fact it takes up a far larger chunk of time than people realise. Admin incorporates, and holds everything together. Next time I should put it at the beginning of the sentence with a capital 'A'. My work pattern has been very fractured this summer. Normally I like to get in a groove with making in the summer. Not this year. Oh yes, and a bit of time to try not to think of pots...which led to a weekend in Scarborough for some sun and sea...... You have to laugh!

Scarborough Castle, and view of beach from castle!

Sunday, 14 July 2013


Now then.

I wouldn't say I've been depressed, but I've been tempted at times to ring the 0800 helpline number for  SBCFP (Sturt Bereavement Councilling for Floundering Potters). Enough said.

Rehabilitation. Tricky. I thought I'd come back and hit the ground running. It's taken me longer to adjust to working back in my own workshop than it did at Sturt! It's like trying to fit into the past - a lot has happened since then. I think back to my opening post to this blog, There's No Other Place Like Home? The answer to that question for me is Yes, there is. After 3 months at Sturt and in Australia, I did feel very much at home and had settled into a comfortable rhythm. At the end, it was like being unplugged in the middle of my prime.

So, how do I move on? My first inclination was to smash all my pots and start with a clean slate. If it hadn't have been for Earth & Fire on the horizon, I think I might have done that. I really did want to. Instead, about a third were unceremoniously dropped on the floor...some rather hastily I realise in hindsight...

I painted a wall bright yellow to represent the sun, as I reckoned this was the only semblance to sunshine I was likely to see this summer. Fortunately, the last few days have been fanatastic.

I also had dozens of photos printed and pinned them all over the workshop walls to help me feel at home, and as tangible evidence that the last 3 months hadn't been a figment of my imagination.

The final of the ornithological version of the singing competition, The Voice, was very tight. Open to the public vote (i.e. me), the Bush Birds beat the Swallows & Starlings hands down.

I set up a shrine to my Sturt pots, all of which have found very good homes in Australia. I kept two for myself which invite frequent handling and admiration. 

Here are a couple of new barks I've made since I've been back.

The annual Earth & Fire ceramic market held at Rufford Craft Centre, Nottinghamshire, went well. I was lucky to be in a sheltered spot away from the blustery gusts of wind which caused havoc in more exposed areas of the show. The next port of call is the Oldenburg Ceramic Festival, Germany, beginning of August.

Besides that, I think things have pretty much settled back to 'normal', whatever that is......

I take that back. No, they haven't. I'm fibbing.

I don't want things to be normal anymore.

Till next time.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Back To Blighty

It's weird being back.

I feel neither Here nor There. In fact, I think I'd prefer to be There.

Flight OZ521 from Seoul, Korea, to Heathrow landed on May 9 at 18.40. I on the other hand, did not (metaphorically speaking). I'm here in body but definitely not in spirit. It's not so much that I'm not glad to be back, but more a case of I'm sad about what I've left behind. One of the first things I did was order a CD of Australian birds in the bush to make me feel at home.

The journey home was smooth and comfortable. I can definitely recommend flying with Asiana Airlines for longhaul flights. Not having been to Korea before, the stopover in Seoul was fascinating. So glad Kim Jong Un (leader of NDKR) decided not to nuke it!


A fantastic idea to have cultural shops in the airport supported by the Department of Korean Culture. Whilst waiting for a flight, tourists can have a go at painting, mother of pearl lacquer work, and other crafts.


 I've been into my workshop a couple of times, and ended up just staring into space and daydreaming. Even a walk in the Peak District yesterday on the third sunny day of the year didn't do the trick.


It is beautiful I have to admit, but very neat and tidy, isn't it? As if it's just had a grade 2 haircut.

'It's life, Jim, but not as we know it!'

.....I think it's going to take a while to settle back in.

Friday, 3 May 2013


Remember I said I was saying Yes to everything? Well, I think I overdid it this week! With great regret, I had to say No to a few things. This past week has been very stressful, and I've really struggled to think straight. 'Packing' was far more complicated than I thought and took a lot longer than I thought too. And I'm not referring to my suitcase. I've made a lot of work, a lot of pots...a lot of large heavy pots...a lot of large heavy pots to transport to the other side of the world...a lot of large heavy pots to transport to the other side of the world which cost the earth to send, more to the point! It seems a ridiculous thing to have done but I just got carried away. What was I thinking of?? A bit of a learning curve - decisions what to leave here, what to sell, what to take home...airfreight/seafreight...amidst tearful goodbyes...think I'm emotionally worn out! Anyway, I got there in the end. Was I glad to get rid of that box!

The last few days have been absolutely glorious; the leaves of non-natives trees so rich and colourful. They stand out like gems in contrast to the powerful native bush.

Sturt Gardens
Sturt Pottery today

Last week both Adam Rish and I did a slide talk presentation to Friends of Sturt and visitors. It was a lovely evening (the highest attendance to such a talk) set in a friendly intimate atmosphere - Adam talked about his exhibition, and I about my work and residency. Always apprehensive before a talk, but I quite enjoy it once I get going. The following day I went to Sydney to see Alex Standen's exhibition at the Sabbia Gallery (http://www.sabbiagallery.com/). Alex is also resident at Sturt and it was great to see her work displayed so well, after watching her develop her work at Sturt over the last few weeks. She's one to keep an eye on! 

We then went to visit the NSW art gallery (http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/), host to the Archibald portrait exhibition. Refreshing to see artworks from another culture. Irresistibly drawn to the aborigine totems.

Australian landscape painter, Fred Williams

Back at the ranch, the Woodies are in full swing, totally dedicated to their year long course working 25 hours  a day, 8 days a week. Amazing quality of work - they've just completed their superbly crafted  tool cupboards which they erected by their work stations during the week. So silky smooth, and they looked fantastic.

...plus the exciting work which is happening in the weaving workshop - cross fertilisation of ideas and materials. Looking forward to seeing what they've done by the end of the year.

Alas! This is likely to be the last blog post before I leave Australia. If I carry on writing, I'll just get overly sentimental.  I'll add more to the blog when I've had chance to reflect and the dust has settled. This residency has been wonderful, more than I realise until I've had time to digest, and so very memorable. I've met some great people, made new friends, contacts, and some pretty good pots too. I'll rephrase that - some blinking good pots! The impact of this residency will stretch far beyond the parameters of these last 3 months. It goes without saying, I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family now, catching up and having another summer to look forward to...I hope. It's late - time to pack my suitcase. I leave tomorrow, then up to stay with friends north of Sydney before flying home on Tuesday .Everything feels a bit strange at the moment... Till next time.