Making a hand-built sculptural porcelain flower vessel: I made four short videos showing my process as I hand-built this form, and I’ve put them all on this post, in reverse chronological order. The piece was built over a 5-week period, to the constant background of news coming from the radio—I’ve shared more about my thought process, and the difficult sources that were my inspiration, at the bottom of this post.
The final video, Part 4, shows me refining the form and details, and cutting away clay supports that have cradled the vessel over the last few weeks. The vessel is now loosely wrapped under 4 layers of soft plastic, and settled in for the long, slow dry before it can be fired. Scroll down for Parts 3, 2, and 1 to see how the form was developed.
Time is an essential component in building complex pieces like this; clay will soften as it is worked, and by breaking my work up into sessions of a few hours a day, it allows physical processes to occur in the clay. As it rests—the texture will stiffen, or set-up, re-gaining the internal strength it lost as I worked. However, I always have to balance water loss over time too, hence the plastic layers that you will see me using to protect all but the area that I am working on. Slightly stiffer and drier clay is more able to support the layers and features as I build upwards, and I constantly monitor how the clay feels or behaves to determine how much work I can do.
Reel 3, 2x speed: continuing to develop the form, refining features.
🎶 Mark Mothersbaugh "Pearl"
Reel 2, 4x speed: tools, lines, and bumps of clay—landmarks that help me sculpt to the right height, imagining water in the bowl, and the fall lines that flowers will follow, thinking about how they will relate to openings—fenestrations—in the final form.
🎶 audionautix.com “There You Go”
Reel 1, 2x speed: first four days of slowly developing the base form and the internal scaffolding for details.
🎶 Mark Mothersbaugh "Refreshing Pint"
I started this piece on March 3, 2022. It felt trivial to make against the sound-track of heart-break that came with the hourly news, as we learned of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I was planning to start something new that day, and this piece emerged. It came from thinking about what it takes for us to learn and grow as individuals—the barriers, risks, and rewards embedded in the psychology of behaviour change. I was wishing, hoping, that somehow minds might still be changed. My mind went back in time, to the research base at the heart of my former work in public health, and my hands went into clay. A random, 15-year old newspaper headline showed up under the piece, from a newspaper section about “Real Life”: lifestyle, health, home, work-life balance—all the usual chaff—except when it isn’t, if “usual” has been capriciously taken away from you by an act of war. The working title and concept for this piece is “Growth is a Radical Act”. There’s a (misspelled) biologist’s pun in there—a radicle is the embryonic root emerging from a seed, but what I am saying is that strength lives in choosing to engage, acknowledging and learning from situations, choosing to find new options, and in dealing with mistakes: strength lives in showing others that we have the ability to change our minds, and grow. My intention is that the piece will be a functional sculpture: it could be filled with flowers in an act of commemoration, or renewal. Hopefully it will find somewhere useful to be, eventually. For now, #standwithukraine 💔
You can see a portfolio of finished work here: