Introducing the the first of 6 Creative West End 'creative collaboration' projects for 2023 Made in Morecambe by Andrew Morris of Ramceramic working with Glen Duckett from Eat Grow Thrive. Blog by Andrew Morris https://ramceramic.co.uk/
I've always been interested in the intrinsic nature of materials and its impact on art. Materials possess inherent properties and characteristics that influence expression and evoke responses embracing organic natural materials to create environmentally aware artworks.
There was an opportunity offered by Creative West End to realize a collaborative project alongside Eat Grow Thrive, surrounding our relationship with what we eat and what we eat it in by exploring our awareness of the urban/local environment, from where things originated and how they are produced.
The idea is to produce a series of bowls inspired by Terra Sigillata Samian Ware made directly from and in Morecambe. The bowls will serve as the centerpiece for the main event in the Creative West End September Market.
The MADE IN MORECAMBE project will be run over a number of workshops and events, from digging out the clay from the Micro-Gardens site (if viable), processing, forming and casting to stamping/sealing with a series of contextual words and phrases. Followed by firing the pieces hopefully as a public event. These will be used as the sole item for food (spoons accepted) and a cup to contain tea+golden milk. This will be prepared in collaboration with Eat Grow Thrive using local and seasonal ingredients sourced by, among other places, the Micro-gardens in the West End.
A couple of years ago I visited a disused mid-nineteenth century pottery at Wetheriggs in Penrith. It was originally sited there the unlimited supply of clay which was dug out, processed and used for throwing and casting. It got me thinking about digging some clay myself. I've been looking around ever since.
I remembered doing some digging in the cellar and discovered some clean soft clay then. I didn't do anything with it at the time but very recently a possible opportunity to realise a project has presented itself. I thought if its in the cellar its got to be elsewhere so with my interest re-kindled I took a look at a void underneath a recently collapsed concrete floor where I found some more.
Digging for Gold
4 March 2023
A few basic tests to check the workability of the clay later I have what looks like a half decent earthenware clay. I wanted to feel how well the clay responds by forming on a hump mould to make a small test bowl.
I want to know how tough this stuff is so I am going to try and test to destruction. After flash drying overnight the test bowl went straight in the test kiln the next morning and taken up to 1000 deg C in around 40 mins. Once the max temp was reached it was taken out red hot to see if it could withstand cold shock. A nice ring when pinged with no cracking so all's good so far. The colour of the bowl when cooled is a nice bright terracotta so pleased with that. Now on to test some glazes.
There are 5 glazes I want to try out. A few low fire raku crackle glazes and a couple of runny cone 6. I used my own base glaze recipe, one with copper and one without plus commercial a white and turquoise. I also tried out a cone 6 white porcelain slip over a raku base glaze.
Next I will be trying to fire to increasing temperatures to find ultimate melting point of the clay but so far I am extremely impressed. Smooth strong and very workable nice colour.
As part of the developing project I want to be able to mould cast the same clay. with the addition of a little water and sodium silicate it was transformed into casting slip. From there I cast 4 test cones ready for drying and firing.
5 March 2023
The slip gels up a little but otherwise it casts and demoulds really well. It looks like it works well for slip casting. The left test piece was fired to 1000 C. I tried to destroy the right one be raising the temp to 1220C which is much darker and shinier than the left due to the iron developing and acting like a flux which partially vitrifies the clay causing the sheen on the surface.
There's quite a lot of iron in secondary clays which accounts for the orange colour when fired to around 1000C. The higher the temp however, the darker the colour from buff to orange to deep brown. After that it all goes horribly wrong and either cracks or collapses into a heap on the kiln shelf.
10 March 2023
Now that I have a workable clay for hand building and casting I can start to think about what to do with it. No pot is ever fully complete without an Identity mark or stamp so I think this might be good place to start developing an idea. Impressing information onto malleable materials has always been an effective method of communicating ideas
so I made a start and etched out a large MADE IN MORECAMBE stamp and used it to Impress onto the base of a shallow bowl along with my makers mark.
16 March 2023
I want to see how well the clay responds to casting. I used the slip made earlier to cast a small intaglio bowl mould. I placed 4 pieces in the small test kiln and 1 came out intact that rings when pinged. 2 were my fault for being too impatient, the other one just cracked. Good finish though. Nice colour. Feels like silk. I am now at a point where I can move on to developing material applications, a research and community project which will begin soon.
I've always been interested in the intrinsic nature of materials and its impact on art. Materials possess inherent properties and characteristics that influence expression and evoke responses. Artists are increasingly embracing organic natural materials to create environmentally aware artworks.
There is a form of ancient Roman pottery called Terra Sigillata which translates as Sealed Earth. Seal as in a signature stamp or maker's mark. Terra Sigillata is also now used as a term to describe the material used to coat the pots. It is a highly refined liquid form of the same clay used to make the pottery. It's used to seal the clay making it much less porous therefore better suited to contain and store products. Apart from functionality, what it also does is create a silky smooth textured surface making it very tactile. The polishing also gives it a much richer and deeper tone. What the most important thing in my mind is the local sourcing of ALL the material used in production so Terra Sigillata is a firm winner.
Meet Andrew and find out more about the Made in Morecambe project at the We Love West End - More than a Market | Saturday 13th May | 11am - 4pm