Subject Reflection

imageOver the course of my degree, I have learnt that my interest lies in geometries. I thrive in the satisfaction of transforming a lump of squidgy clay into a collection of angular Tessellating shapes. The manifestation of my ideas evolved from linear patterns to geometries. I began to decorate 3D slab constructed vessels with optical illusions, and was very concerned with the surface. The theme that remained the same right from the start of the year was my production of Interlocking forms. I began first by making 3D tangrams. This then of course evolved to Tessellating tiles. It was vital for me, that the tiles created an optical illusion which submerges the audience into an enhanced, dreamy mood. I am delighted at how my ideas developed as it has enabled me to go down a completely new avenue of creating wall pieces that can be both an installation in a gallery or functional bespoke tiles.
It was essential that I used cobalt blue stain in the making of the slips, the colours are all cool and refreshing, adding to the enhanced mood I wish to give the audience. They also had to be satisfying to look at, so they all combine well, with no two colours touching each other. This was very enjoyable for me as I had chosen these specific colours and was pleased with the outcome when it came to composing them on the wall. I am truly happy with physical outcome of my idea development. I am my own worst critic so for me to say the more I look at my tiles the more I like them is something!

Creating these tiles required me to step outside of my comfort zone, it had always been my wish to creat such smooth straight shapes, and in order to do that o felt my best option was to make plaster moulds of laser-cut Perspex shapes. A positive of this it that I had worked in the plaster room quite a lot in the previous academic year, creating my building blocks moulds and making slip casted spoons. However, I had never used illustrator before and hadn’t really stepped foot in the soft modelling workshop during my degree. I was actually quite nervous about doing this as I don’t see myself as a “digital person” and felt I would make silly mistakes. Worries aside, I did it, and I’m glad I used this digital approach… Not only were the soft modelling technicians incredibly helpful, I was surprised at how relatively easy the process was. In my head I was making a bit of a mountain out of a mole hill!
Moreover, I have gained a new skill and I will definitely be progressing with more designs on illustrator after I graduate. Is also worth noting that I’ve mastered my finishing techniques; a process I will stick by in the future: spend time making quality, pristine moulds. The neater that are the less work you have to do later on the castes article. Even with lovely moulds, I had to sand all my tiles after bisque, to keep their sharp appearance which for me was so critical in the composition, as the tiles will slot together smoothly, lending to the 3D illusion. To my delight the final kiln firing was a success without any breakages, I was like the Cheshire Cat when I unloaded my kiln!

The contextual research which helped pave the manifestation of my ideas had a lot to do with two things, architecture and colour. Interestingly, my trip to Rajasthan in Level 5 provided a massive source of inspiration for me, it was truly an assault to the senses, and the variety of beautiful architecture has been stamped in my memory. The most inspiring source of deign were indeed the step wells. The repetition of steps continuing downwards in an inverted pyramid was so satisfying for me to observe; the continuation of steps re,indeed me of Escher’s impossible landscapes which then resulted in me looking at Reutersvard’s 2D impossible shapes. This was the seed which planted my interest in optical illusions .
I must say it took me a while to work out where my original source of inspiration came from for the degree show; I had to retrace my steps. Going through my photographs on Instagram helped me discover my trail of inspiration; it provided a timeline of condensed research. This tied with our blogs set the scene; I would often go back to posts I wrote a few years ago, and it’s amazing how relevant some of them are to my current work.
Lastly, but not least, colour was key. Whilst I was creating certain colours- Celadon, Prussian Blue, Puce and Ultramarine- I realised how much I thrive in deciding what colours go together, and there significance- both culturally and psychologically. For example, green is known as being a calming colour, reducing eye fatigue which an be caused by looking at red – hence the reason why hospitals are full of green floors and surgeons often wear scrubs of that colour. The fascination I have for colour and the stories behind each one encourages me to explore and research them more after I graduate; retaining an emphasis on my colour palette in future projects.


Ideas for pattern within the composition of my tiles

Using photoshop, I took existing photographs of my tiles and duplicated them to produce patterns. It’s refreshing to use a different medium of exploring composition rather than my usual cutting out printed out pictures and collating them in my sketchbook.
It’s also interesting visually looking at the outcome when only a few colours are used. With a repeated pattern and only two colours, it gives an entirely different, more orderly feel to my pieces. I see this as a positive as it means they can be used for different purposes and maybe blend in to the interior of a house rather than being a statement piece of wall art.

I particularly like the rotating grey marble rhombus. Repetition proves a nice contrast to the random nature of the marbled effect. Also, just the blue and green Tessellating tiles on their own look very formal, and extends their possibility of being used in more of a corporate, stricter environment.

The star arrangement with the pale blue marble, blue and green lends itself to a more traditional Asian interior; so this ties the designs nicely back to my original source of inspiration: Rajasthan.

Green is good

Expanding on colour, I am very intrigued by the calming properties green has. Since one of main aims and ideas is to enhance the mood of the audience: for them to slip into a daydream, choosing the right colours is a necessity.

I initially researched the effects of greens and blues. Green was originally introduced in hospitals to reduce the glare of traditional hospital whites. Also it is a sign of health and wellbeing: Healthy plants always have fresh green leaves.And blue is often associated with calmness, like calm waters in the Mediterranean for instance, and a clear blue sky.

Although I am not designing these tiles for a hospital, I found a very interesting study by the NHS on colour in hospitals.

The information I read can be applicable anywhere, not just in hospitals. Green also provides a high contrast environment, reducing eye fatigue caused by looking at too much red (blood). Perhaps this is why the Royal Infirmary in Cardiff decorated this space pictured above with green tiles.

It also makes red blood splashes ‘less conspicuous”. Overall, the colousr of my tiles are pretty easy on the eye, but still capture the audience’s interest through the optical illusions the tiles make up. Interestingly, the best colour for judging colour is grey, so by slotting in my marbliesed grey tiles,it refocuses one’s attention to the puce, ultramarine, celadon and prussian blue tiles.




For the actual composition of my tile collection, I am inspired by fractals. I want to use the space I am using to it’s full capacity and I have a height of at least 10 ft to work with. The only way is up!

Fractals are basic fundamentals of nature. Starting off with a single stem each stem had two branches growing from it so fractasl look something like this

imageDescribed as a geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Their structure can be seen in snowflakes: Similar patterns repeat themselves at progressively smaller scales. This natural geometric  phenomena is observed in crystal growth and galaxy formation.

Interestingly, fractals are actually apparent in Jackson Pollock’s work. The geometry of Pollock dropping paint onto canvas can be measured and that if one looks at a painting of his-in incredible detail- there are regularities(In 2002,A machine called the Pollockiser was created and used to replicate his paintings, the end result is pretty uncanny).

I liken this to my tiles. There are three basic shapes which are repeated, and unfold to produce a beautiful manifestation much like vines going up a wall.


Optical Illusions

Step wells have served as being the roots of inspiration for my current work. Having always had a fascination with architecture, I enjoy how one can translate architectural elements into clay work. So , taking in the angles and inverted pyramid shapes of step wells;my work began by creating vessels which form up a tangram. These could be used as dipping bowls or for tapas.



Chand Baori step well in Jaipur (or also known as the Pink City)

By working with geometrics, this research has led to me looking  at Escher’s impossible landscapes. I think also this is because Escher’s landscapes remind me of stepwells. Their angles and the questioning of where the end is or vanishing point (the stepwells had water in it so one is unsure about how deep it is or long long it could go on for) lends to a dream like quality. I am also intrigued on the power of a 2d image and its ability to confuse and disorientated the viewer.


Escher was inspired by Swedish graphic artist’s Reutersvard’s impossible shapes. He designed many optical illusions; the pen rose triangle being one of them. He commented illusions “play havoc on the brains intuitive knowledge of physical laws”. This research led to me making a 2d pattern on ceramic appear 3D.


Iron oxide infused slip painted onto terracotta with an aqua translucent glaze

imageI am now playing with the idea of forming a pattern on a 2D surface and making that surface appear 3D. With each 2D element lending to a greater pattern. This idea has come quite organically as I have been making lots of test tiles recently. All with different linear patterns. So the next step is to create tiles,

The Plaster Room

It’s rather funny as I didn’t think I’d ever do lathe turning again; after having an induction last year and ruling it out… However, I am now going to be doing it again!

Basically I’m making a cylinder to represent a mug, and at first I initially thought I could throw this shape… But, to get a more pristine shape Caroline (one of the technical demonstrators for plaster) suggested I made one using the lather turner. This was after I showed her a drawing representing an imagined outcome.


This stemmed from what I was exploring before we began our field project, inspired by the Jacobsen chairs at the Ken Stradling collection.

The notion of what one leaves behind when they sit in a chair; the connection of object and body. Then this transitioned to the connection one has with a mug and how they hold it. Do they place their hand on the handle or hold it at the bottom. or just hug their hands around it. I know I like to wrap my hands around a cup of tea to warm them up!

This led to the idea of making to separate entities: a cylinder shape representing the mug and a linear sort of shape to represent ones hand. They then join together to make one piece; rather than being two individual items.



Moving forward with my ideas, skills and context


One of the people working at the Stradling gallery brought to light about “the whole dilemma about makers, they make things which are tactile. I think when a maker makes something most of the time they’re not thinking well maybe it’s going to be on a shelf and never be touched again.”

It’s very important that my objects are picked up and handled. I want people to feel an emotion. Even if they don’t like it!

My next step from simply responding to the materiality of clay and its capacity to record the activity of sitting etc was to appy actions of resting to thrown forms. This of course lends a more thought out and skilled approach to the concept; as I haven’t just recorded an action in clay straight out of the bag or that’s been rolled out; I’ve made an object with a particular shape to be misshaped through an act of resting.

It’s then this mishap of the pot, which I want to incorporate in the handling of the pot. So if I made a dent in a vessel through a particular action; where pressure pushed against the clay would have pushed another part of the pot out. This would be where people pick up the pot.

I want to govern where the pot is misshaped and to what angle; so it can be used as a mug. This leads to me researching the ergonomics of a mug/ cup. So my idea has evolved from chair to comfort to mug. I believe this is a circle more than anything though, as when one drinks a warm drink they normally do so sitting down. It’s that notion of one sitting in a chair, in the gallery, admiring the Ken Stradling collection, whilst drinking a cup of tea.

So I need to spend more time on the wheel; and explore more textures to accentuate the areas of pressure applied to my pot. I want to explore warmth. For example the heat distribution when one sits on a chair and gets up off it. Another person would sit down on it and it will still be warm- in some parts. Maybe I could create pots with varying thickness; the heat transfer is different depending on where one holds the mug.


This is a photograph from my instagram, of a porcelain jug I’ve made. See how where I have pinched in has made a pourer and an area for one to hold the jug.