During the year I spent at Bristol School of Art I became very excited by process and relentlessly keen to learn new working methods. I was working in an environment with far more resources and equipment than I had ever had access to before, and I felt obligated to make the most of these facilites for my own development, considering that I may not have access to such specialised tools for some years to come.
I place huge importance in understanding processes, partly because by mastering process and understanding the materials I am using, I am able to gain more control over the final outcome. But more importantly to me, are the ideas that have been conceived as a result of learning new methods. The inspiration behind my series of 'Bristol Bowls' came about whilst experimenting with using enamel to create abstract textures on ceramic forms.
One of my experiments used black and red enamel on white clay, applied with torn strips of newspaper while the clay was still malleable. Once bisque fired I coated this top surface with a clear glaze. I was impressed with the outcome, the clear glaze gave the colour texture much more vivid contrast, which was complimented greatly by the network of small cracks that appeared whilst the piece was cooling following final firing. This was actually a happy accident; a result of glaze being applied thicker than intended.
I looked closely at the final piece, the soft textured enamel contrasting with the jagged cracked surface. It reminded me of satellite images of busy suburbian cities. The enamel represented land mass, the cracks suggested a road network. So this got me wondering if it was possible to apply a real satellite image of a city to ceramic, to create what would appear to be an abstract pattern, but in fact represented something real.
Low and behold, it was possible! by using enamel paste dilluted with water to make an 'ink' of sorts, combined with standard silk screen printing equipment (and a little help from google earth) I was able to effective print ceramic before forming into shape, firing and glazing. Having lived in Bristol for 20 years, the right satellite image was a very easy decision to make!
During the time that I underwent this project, I was also experimenting with glass 'slumping', using formers and moulds to change the shape of a flat piece of glass in a traditional kiln. Based on the success of an experiment with a small square of blue glass, I went on to repeat the same process with a larger square of clear glass, first printed with the image of Bristol, fired to set the enamel then fired a second time in a ceramic mould to give the bowl a rounded profile
2 years later, I remain happy with the final product. Many shape and colour variations of the basic design were produced, some of which were sold at an art auction in Bristol to raise funds for a local community based music festival