Sunday, 24 February 2013

Chicken or Egg?

Short, dark, winter days and long, cold starry nights are slowly giving way to the lighter days of the coming spring. There are tentative signs of things waking up at last.

The first Snowdrops have pushed their noses through the frozen ground and the Hellebores have unfolded to reveal their delicate blooms in mauves and dusky reds in all the darkest corners.

Given a rare sunny day the Robins make moves to explore the kiln, an unhealthy interest in the exit flue means that I have to place a wire screen over the wicket.
Don't want a nest in there thank you Robin. Otherwise it will be May or even June before the kiln can be fired.

The Chickens have ventured out more at last. Flo's comb and wattle turned bright red and she has been pecking up enough for two. Now the snow has finally gone, the hens can scrat in the dirt below the Cedar tree, pecking up scraps of peanut, spilt by the garden birds to supplement the layers pellets we give them. But something has gone wrong with Flo's body clock. Her first few eggs were without shells or yolks and a confused chicken has retired to spend the rest of the cold days perched in her favourite tree until spring comes proper.

The collection of pots is growing. It's slow progress, building on warmer days and wrapping the pots against the frost at night. Juggling bits of sacking and plastic sheet to make sure all the work dries slowly and evenly or not at all if further work is required.
Winter allows time to think and play, experiment and coax new directions from the clay. Later in the year there is never enough time to fully explore. There is always the need to fill the kiln to get out pots for shows and exhibitions.

It takes over two months to build a body of work that will fill the kiln. Wedging, coiling, scraping and drying my way through a hundred kilos of clay. Some of the new bottle shapes look promising. There is always something experimental in each firing, it's how progress is made, how forms evolve and develop. Finding a better glaze for a particular shape or tweaking a recipe or trying out the slip gleaned from the brook.
But even so, it's the complete process that I find exciting, even stacking wood has it's part. I'm not just a mud and water man as Cardew noted. Just like Flo's egg, until the pot is glazed and fired it is not a whole. Only then is it time to take stock, evaluate and the whole cycle starts again.