During the first lockdown in April 2020 I applied to Arts Council England for funding to work with another artist on a collaborative project. The lockdown restrictions had curtailed my planned exhibitions and galleries were closed. I needed a creative project to work on that I could incorporate new approaches and theories into my practice.
I've exhibited alongside ceramists David Preston previously, and felt our work has similarities but I was interested in how he approached the work from a three-dimensional mindset. I discussed the idea with David for a collaborative project, combining our different skills and techniques to create new three-dimensional pieces.
Colour is important to my work, so achieving a similar colour palette was one of the first elements we looked at. Unlike oil or acrylic paint, ceramic glaze colours depend on chemistry and firing conditions rather than mixing colours directly on the clay. The colour glazes can also vary drastically after they have been fired - the only way to ensure accurate colours was to experiment with glazes and firing times.
In total over 50 different glaze combinations were tested. Trial and error resulted in a serious of glazes we were happy with and had elements that linked to my work. As well as the glazes, texture was also experimented with to give the pieces a tactile and painterly quality. The thick application of paint in my work is a result of building up and scraping back layers to revel hidden layers. The ceramic pieces combined smooth glazed areas with unglazed textured parts, echoing my use of a palette knife and oil paint.
Due to Covid restrictions, planned sessions at David's pottery studio had to be abandoned and instead we collaborated remotely, sharing ideas and getting feedback on each other work. We met up for social distanced meeting so I could look at the glaze tests and sample pieces, as the subtle colours and textures didn't always accurately translate to a digital image.
Over a period of 3-4 months we had managed to work towards a series of pieces that constituted a body of work for both of us, which successfully combined our different styles and techniques.
As David commented "The project has really pushed me to experiment with glaze combinations and I’m really happy to share the results of my work."
For my part, it made me think beyond the two-dimensional surface and I'm exciting to use some of the new techniques in my paintings. A big thank you to Arts Council England for supporting this timely project, which came at a crucial point during a tough year.