Reflections

In this project I have made a series of positive discoveries that have changed my view of the materials I work with, including:

  • what happens to a range of oxides and compound when mixed into a clay body
  • a new way of working with clay
  • a fantastically diverse culture in Colombia

Contextually I have completely expanded my view of ceramics, and changed the way I work. From my experience in this project research works really well starting broadly with secondary research and narrowing down into primary research. This enables a much more focused analysis on the primary research visits.

I was finding was that there was a massive difference between what I was drawing and what my skill level allowed me to do. This meant that some drawings were purely fantasy. It wasn’t until I had spent time in the workshop exploring the materials and possibilities that I could start to make drawings that were functional. I also found was that I could think much more functionally through making than by drawing because there is no separation between idea’s and what’s possible. My rate of being able to produce drawings was outstripped by my ability to think by making, so making became the driving force.

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Working in ceramics has meant I haven’t been able to get the most out of my group tutorial sessions because my work has either been in a state too fragile to move, in a kiln or covered in glaze. This has irritated me because I have not been able to show my work to others in the group to give feedback on. I could change this in the future if I set aside some work at the green ware or bisque stage that could be brought to the sessions.

The leather aspect has been part of this project that I don’t feel that I have been able to give it a fair share of testing. Only after the ceramics are finished can I begin experimenting with the leather element. It is unfortunate that the number of leather tests that I would like could not be completed prior to the project deadline. I will test any that missed the deadline at the first opportunity because it will give me more knowledge for the future.

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The extent of my experimentation with the agate process was as much as I could manage within this project. I had to restrict myself to testing each oxide/compound at a consistent percentage of 10% (with the exception of cobalt at 5%). Only by using consistent percentages could I get comparable results, and I have tested every oxide/compound that was available to me. Testing and research into agate ceramics in this project has given me a base of knowledge to build on in the future.

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I tried to test each oxide/compound in as many combinations as possible. Because of this, and the need to practice the hand building process, I found these two needs extremely complementary. After some experimentation I got an idea of the most effective ways of mixing the oxide/compound clay body. Unfortunately it was just a suggestion of what worked, as I didn’t have any fully finished tests at that time to give more information to make better informed decisions.

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I need to improve the speed that ceramic work gets processed. I think the best way to do this would be learning how to pack and operate a kiln myself. It would be prudent to learn for my future practice, so I should do this as soon as possible.

I have found that without notes on clay mixes, glazes and oxides then my results are useless. Throughout this project I have been more rigorous with record keeping than previously but there is room for improvement.

My Key motivations behind this project were:

  • wanting to work directly with clay.
  • wanting to learn new skills and techniques.

I can safely say that I have satisfied both these motivations. In the last batch of tests everything I had learned started to come together into what I had intended at the outset . If I do choose to pursue a future career in ceramics the things I have learned in this project will be invaluable to me. I think there is still a lifetimes worth of work to explore in the agate process and its applications. So far I have only scratched the surface. If it is relevant in the future I would love to pick it up from where I left off.

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