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political pottery

wobbly shelf or shard luck?

Last week I walked into the studio and slammed the door behind me. There was a resounding crash. I knew then that I should have repaired the wobbly shelf that held stacks of three legged bowls. However, all potters develop a protective skin that steers them away from howling at the moon, so I swept it all up.

beyond glueing

I hope the night of March 28th is clear and cloudless because this month’s full moon, called the Full Worm Moon, is a “Supermoon”, the nickname given to a full moon when it’s closest to our planet. It’s named the Worm Moon due to the softening of the ground that typically happens in the spring that allows earthworms to emerge. And I couldn’t resist bringing worms into the blog again.

supermoon

But March in the UK is usually associated with the yellow splash of colour that daffodils provide, and we rather take them for granted.  I didn’t know that the word derives from “asphodel”, a variant of Middle English affodil, from Latin asphodelus.

daffs

Yes, we Brits do go on about our daffodils, but we’re not the only ones. They are also valued in China. They bloom around Chinese New Year, and symbolize good luck, prosperity, and good fortune. If the flowers bloom exactly on New Year’s Day, it means that you will have good luck for the entire year. The Feng Shui three legged Money Toad will also bring luck – in fact all things three legged are a good thing, unless they are on a wobbly shelf.

three legs = good luck

Now that we’re talking about China, I can remind you that this is a ceramics blog and that porcelain developed in China and exported to Europe was so named after its country of origin. Porcelain and china, by the way, are fired at a higher temperature than stoneware, which is what I use, but are made of a finer particle clay, which results in a thinner construction and more translucent body.

willow pattern story

So, still with China, many of you will be familiar with The Willow pattern. It is a distinctive and elaborate chinoiserie pattern popular at the end of the 18th century in England when, in its standard form, it was developed by ceramic artists adapting motifs inspired by fashionable hand-painted blue and white wares imported from China. Part of the marketing ploy, claims Spiro (in charge of Marketing at Peter Arscott Ceramics), was to come up with a good story to sell it.

the Duke arrives in his boat

This is the story: once there was a wealthy Mandarin, who had a beautiful daughter. She fell in love with her father’s accounting assistant, angering her father. He dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to keep the lovers apart. The Mandarin was planning for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke. The Duke arrived by boat to claim his bride.

the lovers escape, Dad with whip in hand

On the eve of the daughter’s wedding, the young accountant, disguised as a servant, slipped into the palace unnoticed. As the lovers escaped, the alarm was raised. They ran over a bridge, chased by the Mandarin, whip in hand, though it looks more like a ball and chain.

the lovers transformed

They eventually escaped on the Duke’s ship to the safety of a secluded island, where they lived happily for years. But one day, the Duke learned of their refuge. He sent soldiers, who captured the lovers and put them to death. The gods, moved by their plight, transformed the lovers into a pair of doves

protest vase

I decided I would give the traditional pattern a more up-to-date interpretation. My visit to Hong Kong three years ago was an eye opener, and I enjoyed the vibrancy and energy of the place – click here to visit the blog – so with the suppression of free expression and democracy in Hong Kong and the repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang in mind, I made a willow pattern protest vase, since I feel strongly about the issue, and I am a potter. Instead of the doves, two helicopters, instead of the lovers escaping over the bridge, prisoners with guards. You get the idea :

Confucius said that an oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger.

And Confucius did not say the following:

 “Man who keeps both feet firmly planted on ground has trouble putting on pants.”

zaijian – 再见 (Goodbye)

the great Paul Klee’s never ending reach

a line of hand painted belatrova tables

belatrova conga at the Open Day

So many of you came to our Open Days on Saturday 30th November and Sunday 1st December, that we ran out of coffee, white wine and mince pies.  Although Unit 9 Bankside is a workshop, please feel free to drop by at any time, though a ‘phone call beforehand is a good idea, just in case.

two lines of belatrova coffee tables

belatrova squad

Those of you who came were able to see the exhibition of table  paintings which we set up just for the two days, and this proved very popular. These tabletops are all hand painted, each one a painting in acrylic and then varnished over with a heat resistant lacquer.

With a big space dedicated to the tables only, most viewers took their own time to look at each individual piece and enjoyed the experience of a gallery-like atmosphere and the pleasure of looking down at paintings and walking around them. Try it at home, it’s so much more comfortable than looking up at paintings on walls. And you can put hot mugs of tea on them too.

One or two of you, having been to the Paul Klee exhibition at the Tate Modern, noted a connection between his painting and some of the tables. Well spotted. Klee is a particular hero of belatrova’s and every now and again surfaces in our work. Here are some Klee-like examples:

belatrova paul klee table painting

paul klee table

klee reference on belatrova table

a bit more klee

The Klee exhibition is one of the best to be held anywhere, and even if you are not familiar with his work, belatrova recommends a visit (we’ve been twice already); he was innovative and always trying out new ways to make marks on a surface, and, seventy three years after his death, you can see how much he has influenced artists.

belatrova is not sure that Klee ever made any ceramics, but had he done so the results would have been as engaging as Picasso’s, though gentler. Here are two we made earlier with P.K. in mind:

two pots in the Klee style

two Klee pots by belatrova