Italy 2016 – Pots…from start to finish

Overview of this years event –

I emailed this scheme of work one week in advance of course start which was cutting it fine. This followed the first introduction to formulating ideas a week before this…so lots to contemplate. If you read all of this and are still interested in going on the mailing list for future courses please contact Marcus or Lucy Toop at

(I use the dreaded ‘quality controlled’ terminology with a sense of irony and flippant sentiment for all those years I spent within HE mainstream art education). However, I still believe that preparation is the key to effective transferral of knowledge so I leave no stone unturned, perhaps because being out of control is not an option. Careful planning allows us more freedom to teeter near the edge of danger (or so I kid myself). WE did in fact manage to align ourselves to the core of the chosen subject matter…without being restricted by it, the interpretation being as diverse in message as it was in individual style. All students did have prior knowledge of clay, but experience was wide, from no formal clay tuition accepting my ‘Creme de la Creme’ private tutelage (tongue in cheek reference to Miss Jean Brody and her girls), 3 Graduate students from my HE days of managing a 3D Design course over 12 long years, all are now in diverse practice and business involving clay, also members of ‘Creme’. French and Dutch (ex physics teacher) professional potters, (both of whom I had not met before the course which I found nerve-wracking). I did build a rapport during the planning phase which helped my shyness. Both added charm and decades of professional experience to the mix including a fine art painter/sculptor (hostess), an eco warrior architect (host), an ex mountaineer/rollerblading champion (French husband) and joyful little Lola (child of Cornwall and her forest) – What a mix!

Main activity – pinch/thumb pots.
We will be making our ‘homage’ versions of these beautiful vessels with a view to both domestic and ritual use, as our ancestors are proved to have done (ref: carbon dating) The method we use will be the same as they used – Perfect for communal practice because it is rhythmic and meditative, I can imagine the potters working amongst the roundhouse settlements of the day, as we will be doing…a lot in the first 3 days to allow for drying time, building of kilns, foraging and spontaneous expressive drawing/clay limbering up exercise’s if we are to be ready for the crescendo of kiln lighting/communal supper/painting/sing-along finale… and one, possibly two excursions into civilization…to be discussed with Lucy and Marcus.

We can have times of concentrated silence, music and debate as you wish. I am sure that we will find a natural rhythm and trust in our common goals…to be discussed!
Maybe we can have a subject of the day, not that we will stick to the rules but good to have a structure in place, don’t you think?

Suggested workshop sessions as follows:

Wednesday 11.05.16. Pinch pots and expressive drawing /bookmaking.
Brief demo and concentrated making beginning after breakfast continuing into afternoon. The aim is to make approx. 10 each, use self critique and take through only the best, this means making many more than 10 but I suggest we wedge small amounts of oxide into the rejected pots every time they are squashed. Consider scale carefully, making them a stackable assemblage of parts, using the ones that failed to convince as test pieces, some of which will stay at Rimondato as thank you gifts for Lucy and Marcus. Form to surface aesthetic compatibility is complex and to some extent dependent on personal taste but I am adept at giving empathic feedback and useful suggestions to do with different ways of seeing.
Depending on temperature and air humidity leave to harden off overnight (loosely covered with plastic sheet if air temperature is too hot. Leave studio tidy for surface decoration workshop in morning. Take a siesta break after lunch.
Expressive drawing and bookmaking workshops
Afternoon – Use ‘evolving process’ method after introduction and short debate. We will start with a blank roll of wallpaper lining paper for an evening indoor workshop down in the basement. Monotone materials using walnut ink pressed from the shells, graphite, charcoal and white emulsion to hand, tonal studies of who knows what!Also Frottage and fummage techniques demonstrated and tried out. I shall give one to one guidance throughout and expect the allotted time to be 2 hours for each session. Start by loosely drawing the elemental shapes that make up all of life.
Evening –
Study your work and cut up to suit your book design, choose fixings, bindings, page order and cover etc.
Some ideas given but very much personal choice. Consider whether the outcome should/could? match your clay style.
I would like to run this workshop sooner rather than later because I see it as a ‘limbering up’ exercise for our clay work, the books also being precious pocket sized souvenirs of this extraordinary time.
*I use this principle as one of my main lateral thought techniques, especially when I feel I am becoming too tight in my forms and mark making. It helps to sharpen up the power of imagination when complacency sets in. It takes endless practice and you have to learn to go with it, knowing that it has the potential to reveal the deepest aspects of your being, depending on how you read the results. The important things to remember is don’t play it safe!
The beauty of it is that it shape shifts and adapts to every users style….

Thursday 12.05.16 – Surface decoration and burnishing.
Brief demo on my surface techniques using incising with sharps, freestyle slip and oxide application leading into your own interpretation of method with one to one guidance from me (if wanted). I am wary of over teaching so at times of deep concentration I will leave you to it and get on with prep work so that all runs as smoothly as is possible.
Keep going, if pots are dry enough to burnish we will move some of Fridays AM session to this evening and work late into the night.

Friday 13.05.16 – Burnish pots and tile assemblage
Group critique and burnish selected pots, Mark them on base with your initials, (a pottery pin is best for this as opposed to oxide and brush.
We need to make more than enough work to fill a bisque, so be prepared for the first few days to be full on, then we can relax into the calm!
Decorative tile triptych. Demonstration on semi-relief flatware… my way, leading to guided workshop. Experimental is the key word so it is important to record in a glaze notebook as much detail as you can, so that you can replicate these systems of working, develop them and adapt them to suit your own practice. Lucy has kindly prepared some test tiles, which you can share out and apply, tinctures, compounds and foraged organic matter. The ‘saggar’ tins are ideal for placing small work and layering with chemicals and organic matter.
WE are guaranteed 100% reduction this way. (if we reach sustained top temperature) * see overview

Saturday 14.05.16. Educational field trip and free practice.
Trip out to see The Pregnant Madonna by Piero della Francesca, finished around 1460. It is housed in the Museo della Madonna del Parto of Monterchi, Tuscany, Italy, followed by communal al fresco lunch and wander.
Finish off all free decorating practice and burnishing, (with wine and music).

Sunday 15.05.16. Foraging walk and pit wares preparation.
Explore the surrounding walnut woods and ‘Viper’ house ruin picking up combustable organic matter along the way, also take photographs of textures and colours closeup.
Prepare wares for pit by filling with matter including sea salt from mussel tins, banana skins, copper wire, base metal strips, paper envelopes of oxides, sawdust, bracken etc in preparation for pit filling.

Monday 16.05.16 – kiln building, filling and firing.
Drum and pit preparation and ignition.Photograph action.
Raku throughout afternoon and evening, early night.

Tuesday 17.05.16 – Treasure hunt and photography.
Search embers, clean pots and flatware, analyse results.
Photography workshop on how to photograph 3D form and surface detail. Discuss the importance of cataloging your work for future reference. Pack selected pots and tiles for return journey home, ease of carriage being one of the reasons we are being selective and working to small scale (Marquette’s).
*Think of this experience as a starting point for future work.
Wednesday 18.05.16 – Farewell breakfast and Florence.
Depart mid morning to catch train from Arezzo to Florence (educational field trip), where we stay overnight and some of next day.
Thursday 19.05.16 – Pisa (educational field trip).
Travel by train back to Pisa, staying afternoon/overnight.
Friday 20.05.16 – Homeward bound.
A.M. Early breakfast and fly home.

*Raku firings – I would expect to take a back seat on this one, my job being to help you with your form and surface, provide the chemicals, slips and stains and to suggest ways to apply 2 base raku glazes over your already highly decorated bisque ware…expressively!
We have the system in place (Kiln, glazes, gas, burner, protective gloves and goggles, tongs, dustbins, sawdust and water. I am thinking a few firings can be achieved with group interaction as and when we have a space in time.

*Extra curricular activity – If possible time wise we could factor in an evening supper at the restaurant on top of the nearby hill.

None of the above is set in stone but I feel more confident with this framework to refer to. It is also possible to take yourself off to a place of solitude if the group stuff becomes overwhelming which I suspect you already are considering, if you manage to get to the end of this tome! It is by no means compulsory to even read this document, maybe scan it, pick out the parts that interest you and delve deeper when you return home to your individual practice.

On the trail of Piero della Francesca
On the trail of Piero della Francesca
First introduction by email.

I am so looking forward to our time in Italy and can hardly believe next Tuesday is nearly upon us. I am busy concocting an approximate scheme of work which I had hoped would be finished by now but I am working against the clock, juggling many deadlines…and I am too thorough! I am writing a document that revives the best of what has already gone before and adding some refreshingly new concepts into the mix that have evolved from other projects I am involved in. I shall have hard copies of the course outline to hand out next Tuesday evening for bedtime reading and will also email you electronic copies before we leave… so here’s wishing us all a fabulously creative Italian adventure 2016.

Please find below dates and details of travel:

Marcus is picking us up from Pisa Airport on Tuesday the 10th May. Our flight gets in quite late (21.30) Bristol to Pisa Ref EZY6189 arriving at Rimondato around midnight, which assures that we can begin the course bright and early on Wednesday morning (11.05.16).

Overview – I will work alongside you in the building and firing of kilns, guiding the interpretation of initial ideas and feelings, offering one to one and group tuition, assessment and feedback, practical demonstrations and workshops in both 2D and 3D and facilitate group seminars, initiate informal debate and lead educational field trips including foraging in the nearby walnut woods and streams. You will be encouraged to use a creative journal, within which you will explore and interpret the colour, tone and texture of your Italian experience. This working process will be based on intuitive response, which will help to access the intangible essence of your clay outcomes, strengthening the potency of your ‘souvenir’ artifacts that hold the memory of this particular time and place.

We will also plan to venture out and about in the local region during our stay but the first 3 days need to be the busiest making wise, so that your work has time to dry for bisque. The majority of our time will be spent on site (in the zone),

I hope this helps clarify the general plan and that you are all fired up and raring to go!

Links to hotels_

porta al prato hotel in florence (I think you are joining us AnnaMieke, have you booked)?

hotel moderno pisa This is where we stayed last time but we are going to have a look around to see what else is available aiming to find somewhere exceptionally beautiful but cheap – It will add to the adventure!

Important – Please bring a camera, sketchbook, pen and pencil, studio overall and an empty lidded biscuit tin. To help prepare us for our creative journey could you start a new sketchbook to record the journey and 2D preparatory course study? Lucy has A1 paper, charcoal, walnut ink and white emulsion for our intuitive mark making.

Points to ponder – Please consider the nature and concept of ‘Home’, the tangible and non-tangible meanings. List key words, thoughts on what you regard as ‘home’. Are you minimal or maximal in style, is this influenced by your upbringing, how do you feel about ‘clutter’. These are recurring themes in our lives as they have been throughout time, I suppose what I am asking is what it is to be human? How do you achieve a universal message within the ‘pot itself’?

To help us do this I suggest anagramming our names. To do this use

Mine came out as ‘Menially. Disaster’, maiden name used,  which I can work with being that both words sum me up! It can be liberating to forget ones identity for a short while, to pretend that nothing else exists outside of the tranquility that is Rimondato.

Calm and rhythm is what we are aiming for and simplicity is the key, added to which we will engage in a little domestic ritual and have a tea ceremony…our way! Stackable pinch pots/tea bowls are the objects of practical choice (to aid carriage). We will run an experimental testing programme on the pre-prepared tiles added to which you will make you own semi-relief triptych, all with a view to future enquiry. Look upon them as Marquette’s.

We will also each make Lucy and Marcus a simple bowl as an extra thank you for opening up their home to us.

Some questions to ponder:

Do you think reality is distorted by memory, the further we are in years from actual event? Is clarity important?

Can we invent our own reality?

How important is it to be creative?

Creative expressionism distorts and exaggerates, what happens if we see life through a skewed lens?

My background.

My art practice relates to the exploration of the instinctual and expressive, manifesting in colourful chaos. As an undergraduate in 1995 I was selected for Ceramic Contemporaries 2, held at The Victoria and Albert Museum and was also commissioned by Sir Terence Conran to design an exclusive range of breakfast tableware for the Michelin House Conran Shop. In 1996 I went on to achieve a 1st class [Hon’s] in Studio Ceramics closely followed by PGCE (post 16) teacher training. I maintained an academic profile for many years and gained much experience in both FE and HE sector Art education, my main role being course leader in HND 3D Craft Design, alongside which I project managed unorthodox and independently curated public art events and academic research projects that achieved EEU, Heritage Lottery, CUC and Arts Council funding, alongside my main occupation of creative practitioner.

See more about me at Des Models de Linda ART

Photographs of clay work being built, raw decorated, post bisque, prep for pit /raku, final results.

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4 years ago


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