I always start a new project with primary and secondary research – I’ve always loved researching new topics and it’s partly for this reason that I first fell in love with clay. It wasn’t so much the actual material that drew me in, it was it’s endless possibilities that really grabbed me. I could never be the type of potter that sticks with the same style of working for years – I get bored too easily! My collections have a maximum life span of around three years and then I’m ready to move on to the next thing. In fact I’m often thinking about what I’m going to do next as soon as I’ve begun a new project!
Whatever I’m researching, my first stop is always a visit to the library. That first moment when you open a book on a subject you know nothing about is really exciting. I know that I have to understand the geology of the area so that I know where to source the clay and the other materials I need to make and glaze my pottery. Until today, I wasn’t even sure exactly what geology was, but armed with a stack of books about the geology of Purbeck, I’m ready to immerse myself in a subject I know nothing about!
So, on opening the first book published in the 19th Century (!), I was surprised by just how interesting it was, in fact, the study of geology is fascinating! I’ve walked, cycled and ridden my horse across the Isle of Purbeck my whole life, since it’s the place where I grew up. I’ve felt totally humbled by its beauty; it’s hills have protected me from the outside world; I’ve watched the seasons change and have revelled in the colours turning from Spring greens to the orange hues of Autumn and contrasting stark greys of Winter; it is my inspiration, but I have NEVER asked myself how this beautiful landscape was formed. This 100 year old book has all the answers!
There are numerous references to different types of clay that I didn’t even know existed – Oxford, Kimmeridge, Wealdon, Gault to name just a few! I’ve no idea what their properties are so this is something that I’ll need to study further. There’s also references to different minerals which I know to be glaze ingredients for example Quartz, Chalk and Feldspar. This knowledge is reassuring – there is clay I can use and there are glaze ingredients to be found.
I feel a little bit closer to my project idea becoming reality!