Reflecting on our field module

Creating the terracotta puzzle centre piece and spoons as part of the interior design group project ‘Fo[u]r Rooms’ was a significant point in my ceramics journey, I learnt a lot about what I like and how I work best…

This project taught me that I work more efficiently when I have a brief to stick to and a deadline looming. Also when I have a team relying on me, if I don’t pull my own weight, I’m not just letting myself down, but the whole team. Also how essential it is to plan things in advance and managing your time to ensure everything is done in time for presentations, installations and meetings, not just for ‘hand in”. Moreover, I think because we didn’t just draft a concept and pitch it to our field group lecturers, we felt a greater sense of satisfaction in our work… We actually made everything and put it in a real space, where people actually worked! We all improved our presentation skills too which of course will be a useful asset in whatever job sector we end up working in after we graduate.

I want to carry on to develop my skills in slab construction and slip casting. I know now that I thrive in making angular objects, things with straight lines, things that fit together with each other. Maybe it’s the smoothness I find satisfying, or it’s because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. But then, I like mixing things up by scratching into a would’ve been smooth surface, adding digital images or sponging on slip to a perfect cube to achieve a very tactile finish.


Our Machine Aesthetic Room- Fo[u]r Rooms

The interior components of this room were designed and made to showcase aspects of a minimalistic industrial workspace interior. Through use of materials with machine influences aesthetics i.e. metal, and materials associated and constantly used in industry, wood and ceramic, to create a comfortably rustic working office interior space.


Our room brings to light the purpose of this building- the power of making and how machines are an important element in our art school, in our making process, in design. Connor did a fab job completing the table. It isn’t too big that it consumes the space- wheelchairs will be able to go around it. Scaffolding wood seemed like the appropriate material to make the table with as one- it was cheaper to obtain, and two, it had a rustic, machiney feel to it as it has already been used to make a building (coming from Bristol, Fintan’s brother owned a construction company), people and machines have been on these pieces of scaffholding; they have a story, and that story is now being revived in this room. As with the shelving: made of cable ladder, it was shipped over from a factory Emma worked at in Belfast. Paired with the wooden shelves, they really do show off Cameron’s stoneware cups -influenced by the shape of chimneys; referencing to the bottle-top chimneys at the Stoke-On-Trent potteries- paired with my white earthenware spoons, with imprints of nuts and bolts, the texture lending to the user experience when one handles the spoons.



And then there’s my terracotta centre piece… reflecting back on Cardiff’s industrial past- the terracotta referencing to the red bricks of Cardiff Bay’s Pierhead building- and decal images shedding light on the machinery used to make the very objects in this room, and of course its complete with stenciled cogs on the surface, these stencils coming from Emma’s laser cuts which she used to end her LED tube lighting with; details have been bought together.




The positioning of the rail enables the shelving to obviously be moved and the pole they’re attached to is far enough away from the window that people can walk around the shelf, admiring the artwork on them, and also for the people on the 1st floor to look at this marvellous feature of the room from a distance too.

Not forgetting Laura’s cushions decorated with digitally printed cog designs, some she drew and scanned in, others she created on the computer. These are not only visually appealing- being a cream colour they contract well with our metal seating and stained table, matching nicely to the pale elements of my centre piece and spoons- various people have said how comfortable it is having the cushions on the chairs. I feel this softens up the would be hard- rustic interior of our room, therefore retaining a balance.


Jon and April made a wall piece featuring our logo, using a rusted sheet of steel metal. The metal compliments the features of the furniture especially the scaffolding wood.

Last but not least is the oak wood coffee table, Jon found this wood and thought it would be silly not to put this great piece of wood to good use; which, conveniently fits underneath the monitor, doubling up as a laptop table. And Connor’s coat hooks: nuts and door locks which have been screwed into a section of wood. Something so simple and pleasing, yet it’s serves a function.

Fo[u]r Rooms Project Hand In

So that’s it! Our Room is finished! All that stress over!

Although it was a group of 9 it was Cameron, Connor, Emma, Laura and myself that saw this project through from start to end, and we are so happy that we managed to install the room by 12 am (the deadline) last night! You should have seen us get the shelving up the stairs- that’s right, we had to go up 2 flights of stairs, as it wouldn’t fit in the lift!

Connor had a few hiccups with the table, it was very wobbly, a drunken table. But thankfully, Richard came to our rescue and he helped Connor sort it. Then Emma, bless her, took about 3 hours fixing the lighting- she had a few complications with the wiring, but after hours reaching and balancing on the ladder she did it!

Laura’s cushions look fab against the metal chairs (which we managed to borrow from the Student’s Union) and Cameron and my Ceramic objects- a mixture of terracotta and white st thomas clay- look great on the stained wood, the textures complimenting each other well. And Emma’s shelving… We’ve had so many comments on how great it looks in the room! Richard mentioned about keeping it there permanently too!!!

So am I pleased with how today went?… Kind of, I will be very happy on Friday once everything I’ve made is in the room- completedI still have to wait for my two pieces from my table piece to come out of the kiln. I checked the kiln temp today and it was at 263 degrees at 10 am… which means I probably can’t crack the kiln (open the door ever so slightly) until later this afternoon. Our presentation went well ,we all managed to talk about our work, and explain sources of inspiration and our journey of the making process, this was through talking about it and through a little video I made of us.

One thing the lecturers did say is that we’ve got to be more positive about our work, and say things with conviction. Like, okay, not everything went according to plan: such as one of the walls in our room. one of them is particularly bare… but that was do to certain people in our group not turning up and pulling their weight, which meant that the resulting wall piece didn’t look great. However, we kept positive as we spoke to Cardiff University students afterwards; they interviewed us and took pictures of our work for a new interior design magazine which they’re currently working on! Our work is going to be in a magazine!

Fo[u]r Rooms Glaze Firing

Well I am stressed now. This is the last week of field and there’s lots of things to do before hand in on Thursday. I am stressed because I wasn’t able to fire all my things together in one kiln. One group of things is currently in a toplaoder (which is a lot smaller than I originally thought) and the other I’ve just loaded in one of the larger kilns. This is a glaze firing and I am hoping my objects all come out in one piece. I have spoken to Richard and explained the delay and he said it’s fine, I can put the finished piece in the room on Monday.


Display board showing my Final Designs. One of the pieces will be the other way round, a compartment to hold the spoons!


How I’ve imagined the room will look when we install it on Wednesday 10th Feb

I think it’s the most I’ve ever used a kiln in the space of a week: I did a bisque on Thursday, and put on a glaze firing yesterday and today! Finally getting to grips with it and not getting as scared doing them. I think the hardest bit is getting enough things together to put into the big kilns, so it’s not a waste of energy just firing half a loaded kiln etc. Kilns use lots of energy as they require so much heat- a decal fire is around 840 degrees and that’s the lowest firing I’ll do! That will be the next step. On Friday (yes I’m running behind schedule- everything is supposed to be done for Thursday morning), on Friday I have to apply my decals -after collecting them from the post office- an then put them in the kiln to bond the pictures to the glazed surface. I’m excited as I haven’t worked with decals before.

To add the cog design, I used Emma’s laser cuts- the same pattern she’s putting on her tube lighting. The decals will then be placed within the lines.


Applying the decals on Friday 12th Feb

These are the pictures I’ve sourced from our group to apply to the centre piece! For the first time ever, I had to resize the images and make sure the resolution was correct and then send them off to Digital Ceramics, a decal company based in Stoke-on-Trent. So I guess I could say I’ve developed a few basic Photoshop skills. This project has really opened up many different options I hadn’t really thought about with what I could do within the Ceramics discipline. It’s nudged me to get a bit more creative on the graphics side of things and tying two areas of Art and Design together.

*UPDATE* my ceramics pieces have finished in their decal firing! EEEK! It worked!



Watching for the cone to go down. For this particular decal firing, I wanted to turn the kiln off at 825 degrees.


SO the kiln read 800 degrees, and I couldn’t make out where the cone was.. After looking through the peep hole very carefully (making sure I used goggles and gloves), I decided that the cone had bent (the cone would bend at 828 degrees and ideally I wanted it to bend halfway, and that would indicate 825 degrees); I could very slightly see a glowing white curve, which could only really be the cone. I turned the kiln off at 810 degrees.



Fo[u]r Rooms: Making progress Pictures

Here are a collection of images showing the progress I’ve made over the past week in making processes. Slab building has taken me a lot longer than anticipated, so I have had to come in on weekends to do a bit here and there. Surprisingly, slip casting isn;t taking as long as I imagined it would. I think the longest part is actually making the moulds. Once they’re done the whole process is relatively quick, bearing in mind I have other things to do whilst the slip casting are drying.

spoon cast

The video I made of our making processes shows the stages involved in slip casting.



I’m really grateful Jess (on my Ceramics course) had an earthenware glazing firing on Monday. She had a bit of space in her top loader: just enough to place my spoons in and my maquette of the centre piece (pictured below). I’m really happy with the white and red finish and looking forward to doing this on my actual larger piece.



Busy with Fo[u]r Rooms!

Today has been the busiest Friday I’ve had in a while. Normally, Fridays at uni are quite slow paced. But the pressure was on today, as I had to get back home in time to catch a train!

It’s the 6th Week of our interior design project! The pressure is on; highlighted by Duncan mentioning the fact that we will be halfway through our degree when this project is finished and that “it’s like our degree show”. I’m not going to lie, this made my stomach churn somewhat.

What did I get done? Well, I found out that it was infact easier to roll out slabs of clay rather than use the slab roller. Which is funny because I thought the slab roller would be more efficient. As it turns out, the size slabs I wanted were too big for the slab roller. And why do I need slabs you may ask? Well, after chatting to Ingrid – the course leader for the Designer Maker course at CSAD, she said making molds of the interlocking shapes would take far too long, and a task too big for a 5 week project. Instead she suggested slab constructing the piece. This simply involved rolling out slabs of clay, waiting for them to go leather hard, and then joining the slabs together through scoring and applying slip.


I decided to change the design of my spoons from the original hexagonal shape to something more functional; something- as Duncan said- to eat your yoghurt with haha. Pictured below are my final designs with some samples of the terracotta I wish to use.

IMG_0670My final three designs. I asked for people’s opinions and they preferred the middle one. Feeling confident with this design, I have impressed a nut on the end and used the end of it to build texture on this inside of the spoon.

I also started casting one of the terracotta spoons I made. They were unfired, and after nearly breaking the spoon after I tried to take it out of the freshly made plaster cast of it, I decided it’s best to fire the spoons first and then cast them. They look more like soup spoons than sugar spoons, but the plan is to cast them using porcelain slip, and they will shrink by 20%, once they’ve been put through a glaze firing.

Next on the agenda is making a clear glaze and white earthenware slip for the centre piece. I did worry a bit that I didn’t get a complete mould made today for the spoons, but I got lots of slabs rolled out; which can be quite a tedious task!

Oh and went to a dissertation lecture. Ahhh! The struggle will soon be real.

*UPDATE* I am now using earthenware slip, keeping with the use of earthenware for the centre piece. Also, it is a lot easier to get hold of -given the time restraints- I would have to get porcelain slip out of the clay store on designated days only, whereas I can use earthenware slip as and when, without the worry of running out and waiting a day or two to get some from the clay store. This means I can put them in the same kiln as my centre piece too, instead of booking two separate kilns.


Fo[u]r Rooms: Designing the Centre Piece and Spoons

Inspired by David Rhys Jone’s work, we have decided to incorporate a centre piece within our Machine Aesthetic themed room. This will be placed on the table, which will be made of scaffolding wood. The idea is to create an interlocking shape; inspired by the connecting of different components within machines, much like cogs working together.

david rhys jones

Initially I played around with clay, chopping up leather hard chunks at various angle to see what happened. And adding impressions of nuts and bolts etc.

Realising that I wanted a table piece which be around 30 cm squared and 15 cm tall, I wouldn’t be able to make a solid piece out of clay; as it would explode in the kiln during bisque firing. I would have to make it hollow.

I then thought about how I would split the sections of this table piece up. And it was then I had a light bulb moment. To make a ceramic puzzle, which, when taken apart would reveal images of the machinery used to construct the very items in our room!

After experimenting with various angles and lines, I settled on a square which would be split up into six units. These unique shapes would form a puzzle. Instead of the piece just pulling apart, it involves interlocking shapes; something quire challenging to make. I am still not entirely sure how I’m going to create this.. whether to go the casting route or slab construction… we will see.



Accurate Measurements of the centre piece. This is important for me to get right; otherwise the puzzle pieces will not slot together.



Blue foam maquette with pictures I wish to place as decals on the final ceramic piece.

And then there’s the spoons! I’ve literally never made anything quite like cutlerly before, so I’ve definitely set myself up for a challenge. But without a challenge there’s no fun to be had. And I will potentially develop a new skill from this- I will be able to make spoons!

I’ve looked at a few designers, some being on Etsy and others on instagram… These are the ones I particularly like:

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 23.08.04



I particularly like this angular spoon. Rather like a stirrer. The function of this spoon is very limited-could maybe pick up a few sugar granules- but it looks great!

Keeping the industrial feel, I’m working with terracotta, It’s a great clay to sculpt with and records textures well, especially when paired with oxides after bisque firing. I think, rather than make, say 6 spoons individually, I will make one prototype and use that as a master copy and make a cast of it. That way, all the spoons will be the same shape and size. Since this is based on the machine aesthetic, I think it’s important to keep a regularity within the spoons, much like things would be repetitively manufactured using machines in a factory.


Image taken from drawings in my sketchbook


My first ever experimental spoons. These are quite small, smaller than a regular tea spoon.


Some more detailed sketches of possible spoon shapes


Second batch of experimental spoons, still wasn’t happy with these shapes, asking the others what they think of them. They liked the far right hand one.