Guests at Almohalla 51 always ask questions about my ceramics! And I am always flattered that they like them so much, especially when they want to buy or commission some pieces. So this blog post will give you a better understanding of the process I go through when making new pieces, my inspiration and why making ceramics is so special and personal for me.
Why did I start making ceramics?
When I started making ceramics in 2018, I was a lecturer in Graphic design and a practising Graphic designer. I work in the constantly developing digital design industry and whilst I loved every minute of it, I was frustrated by being on a computer all day and wanted to use my hands to create things, so ceramics (along with cooking) became my main outlet of creative expression. After a year of making ceramics, the pandemic hit and then we embarked on our life-changing move to Spain, pre-Brexit and bought Almohalla 51. Suddenly I had a reason and made as many plates and jugs as possible to use in the hotel! I was also fortunate to find Juan, (post pandemic) who has a ceramic studio in Villanueva de Rossario. @ceramica_el_jaral @potteryworkshop_eljarel and it now impossible to stop me making ceramics!
Inspiration for my ceramics.
There are so many different types and styles of ceramics to design and build or throw, so research is key to understanding how ceramics have developed through centuries, looking as far back as crude pots made by ancient mankind and moving through a variety of cultures such as Chinese ceramics, to our own British porcelain industry in Shropshire. At night I often lie awake planning my next piece. Do I want it to have a function or should it be a contemporary piece of Art? Inspiration can come from everywhere; nature, particularly the Spanish countryside, the sea, the chickens and flamboyant cockerels who roam freely behind the hotel, illustration and geometric shapes and patterns. Inspiration also comes from books, the internet and other art forms. Each piece created is unique, an original artwork and each stage takes many hours, the making, the firing and the glazing.
Making my ceramic designs?
First, I always design in my sketchbook. Then I choose a clay to work with, often white or terracotta, depending on the glaze or design. I usually hand build my designs using techniques such as slab, coil and pinch pots, rather than throwing, using the wheel. After that, the piece will be fired at the ceramic studio by Juan in a kiln, which takes ceramics to extreme temperatures for a few hours. At those extreme temperatures, the clay inside the ceramic piece melts and fuses into one piece. After that, I decorate or paint the piece, glaze and refire again.
The different glazes I use
Glazes are very important when making ceramics. They are the coatings that make your ceramic designs come to life. The glaze you choose for your ceramic designs can make or break the entire piece. For me, they are the unknown, the experimental, slightly magical (and a bit scary) part of the process. The chemical process which happens during firing often transforms the piece into something completely unexpected and often unrecognizable! I also find for this reason it is very hard to replicate exactly something I have previously created. There are two main types of glazes: transparent and coloured. Transparent glazes are just what they sound like: clear! Coloured glazes, on the other hand, are coloured. The difference between these two types of glazes is how they interact with the ceramic piece. Transparent glazes sit on top of the ceramic piece and reflect colour. Coloured glazes, on the other hand, are actually mixed into the ceramic piece. I also use oxides and coloured slips to scratch designs into, a process called Sgraffito.
Ceramics is 3D form of art, making it visually challenging to create from a 2D drawing but also incredibly satisfying (when it works!). The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. From useful functional vases, bowls, mugs and plates to ambitious abstract sculptures! The amazing thing about ceramics is that it is a form of art that lasts for centuries. There are so many different techniques to learn and so many different types of ceramics, the possibilities are endless and I realise I am just at the beginning of a very long journey to become a good potter. I have the creativity, but the experience and knowledge comes with practice. Some pieces turn out well, but often they are ‘happy accidents’ and with ceramics, you also have to learn to fail! For me, ceramics is my ‘time out’ from a busy hotel management schedule. Time to lose myself in a few hours of absorbing, cathartic creativity. Challenging myself (and Juan!) with an urge to experiment and see what is possible to produce. At the request of my guests (many of whom have ordered and bought pieces), I have started selling my work, each piece an original work of art. The photos in this blog are typical of the type of pieces I produce and an example price list if you are interested in commissioning a piece. And if you would like to book a private session with Juan, a few relaxing hours in the studio start from €30 per person, minimum 2 people
Large plate €20
Medium plate €18
Small cake plate €15
Cacti bowls €20
Small Vase (sgraffito) €25
Large commissioned pieces, vases and sgraffito pieces, price on request.