Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Weave

It has taken some time to bring into being but at last I can get started on the Jacquard weave fabric for bag making. I have an appointment with Wendy Kotenko tomorrow to begin the transference of data and imagery for weaving. 

I began with the % of the gabbroic clay thin sections from QEMSCAN and then converted these to binary code. The binary was then translated to 2 different colours within a grid. 

The pattern can then be mirrored and repeated. This needs to be done 4 times as there are 4 thin sections from different clay sherds. The resulting pattern from just one of those sections may look something like this. I have had a look at the different threads available and we can try several different options. I understand that there are a variety of weave patterns that can be used so will explore these tomorrow. 

Busy Week

Busy few weeks ahead managing the resources before they are taken away as the result of the Contemporary Crafts course closure. Spent a good deal of time trying to be ready for this point in time, and yet nothing can quite prepare me for this loss. The petition has gone in and was presented, sadly no management were there to receive it. The final year show went well with lots of sales - next stop New Designers.

As well as getting prepared for a marketing meeting at the RCM this week, I am preparing illustrator files ready for decal printing and vinyl cutting in order to produce plates.The last time I managed Illustrator was over a year ago when the best I could do was these traumatised heads - how fitting!

I have been making and firing more standard ware pieces as some of the higher fired ones were failures and needed to be made again. Interestingly I am speaking at conference in Norway in two weeks about the power of failure as a maker - I have plenty to contribute on this subject! 

I asked Josh Kerley for assistance with Illustrator, I have the course under my belt but haven't used it for ages. Josh was a huge help and I now think I can manage the remaining images and files on my own. I have 10 designs but not entirely sure whether they will all manifest. I need to have several templates cut on the vinyl cutter so that I can apply to the surface and sandblast through the existing glazed surface. The remaining designs will transfer to decal and be printed by digital 

The published images have been approved for use by the Cornwall Archaeological Unit. 
I have chosen to use the majority of images showing sections from the prehistoric period. After scanning into Illustrator, the numbers and comments need to be removed. Many of the images are separated out and used in isolation or abstracted for the final designs. In order to make the images work I first needed to enlarge and photocopy as well as trace and embellish using black marker. This whole process has proved to be particularly time consuming and fiddly but well worth it. 

I have chosen a basic palette; grey, red, black and white. Some texture should appear thanks to the sandblasted areas. I will have approx. 3 decal sheets for printing, including some adjusted imagery of the thin section from the Gabbroic clay slide. The plates can fire in my own kiln as they are only 27cm diameter. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

King Edward Mine Reconstructions

I was commissioned to make a small number of Gabbroic clay reconstructions for exhibition at King Edward Mine. These are some of my favourite late neolithic/early Bronze Age pieces, one of which is a part reconstruction, on display at the Royal Cornwall Museum.

I was delighted with the display and the final results. They had also requested a short film to accompany the display, which showed the whole making process from digging the clay to firing the pieces. 

Reclaim & Standard Ware

Reclaiming Gabbroic clay is indeed messy and time consuming. The first part of the process involves driving over to the Lizard in order to dig a couple of buckets of the clay. The clay is plastic and workable but needs reclaiming to get a good mix and to ensure that many of the larger inclusions can be removed through sieving.  'Slaking down,' is the process by which the clay is made into a large quantity of smooth slip before being dried out on plaster batts and wedged into workable clay.

I now have enough of the clay to continue with the standard ware and complete three sets. I  fired one set to 1200 degrees, this will be the highest temperature achieved for the Gabbroic/ball-clay/paper mix. The pots were fired the right way up and unfortunately due to the heat work in the kiln and the high temperature, one of the pots ended up flat bottomed. I had to remake and will fire it on its rim, hoping that this time it won't be effected by the weight of the whole piece bearing down during the firing. The second set is fired to 1060 degrees and the final one to 1120 degrees.

Bisque fired Standardware to 980 degrees
Making in progress
Largest size unfired and still wet
Standardware fired to 1200 degrees

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Prehistoric Domestic Landscape

My Practice - The Domestic - Activity at Tremough

My works frequently map attitudes towards protection, consumption, reproduction and systems of belief.  I clearly borrow and abstract meaning and significance from ancient domestic and ritual objects in order to create contemporary cultural indicators, recently highlighting shared domestic activities, connecting past and present. 

I am preoccupied with our basic drives and needs, my practice therefore, has a heavy emphasis upon he domestic. I am interested in the  everyday, those activities that may have changed so little and yet take up so much of our lives. Sourcing, preparing and cooking food is just one of those preoccupations and something that we now take for granted. 

There is evidence of cooking and food preparation going on at Tremough during the prehistoric period. Burnt stones, fire pits, and many pieces of pottery were identified as well as a number of grain remains. The presence of burnt stones often indicates cooking, heated stones being used to heat water or for roasting meat in pits. Many pits contained charcoal fragments but also charred weeds and small chaff items. 

The remains were in poor condition, due to the acidic clay soils at Tremough. In the early Neolithic pits sherds of early neolithic pottery, flint and hazelnut shell fragments were found. The charcoal that was found had clearly been produced from hazel, oak and hawthorn.

Pits dating to the early Bronze Age contained pottery, hulled wheat, several preserved cereal grains(spelt, barley, oats) and bulbuls of onion couch. One single Celtic bean was identified, though rare to find, charred beans have been found in a middle Bronze Age roundhouse elsewhere in Cornwall. The beans may have been used as a useful source of protein and carbohydrate. 

There were also a number of wild plants, grasses and weeds identified from the digs at Tremough. Black bindweed (also known as convolvulus), cleavers, ribwort plantain, selfheal, heath grass & onion couch tubers. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Prehistoric Standard-Ware

The Making Process

Initial sketchbook work for standard ware
Several months ago I began to work on designs for a small series of contemporary functional Gabbroic clay vessels. I want to in some way emulate some of the early Bronze Age pieces found in Cornwall, with a focus on the round bottomed bag shaped pots excavated from Carn Brea. I want to maintain a continuity of use for this remarkable material and show the use of this material spanning time.


Having worked on a series of direct reproductions, I decided to produce a contemporary range using CAD and CNC milling to produce the models for standard ware forms. I then  used traditional plaster mould making techniques to ram press mould these objects. Thinking about communicating archaeology through digital craft practice, these straightforward emulations invite the viewer to experience the familiar.

(John Peters) Computer Aided Designs from my paper cut outs
(John Peters) Final imagining of Gabbroic standard ware pieces
The next stage is to mill out the solid forms from blue foam, this was done with the help of Mark Squire, technician to sustainable product design at Falmouth University. 

Milled out blue foam formers with handle
The rounded bases have been joined using water contact expanding glue (Gorilla glue).   The foam solids are then sanded carefully to achieve a good finish. 

Initially I will use the same clay mixture to produce these pieces as was used for the giant pin. The Gabbroic mixture contains 20% paper pulp as well as 20% hyplas ball clay, and some heavier brick grog. This aids the plasticity and workability of the original clay body, whilst the grog helps with even drying and warping.

Freshly milled blue styrofoam pieces
I halved the sanded foam pieces, stuck them down onto a glass base and covered them in a thin layer of vaseline ready for the production of plaster casts. It was at this point I realised that I could have just had half of each piece milled in the foam, it would have been cheaper and quicker. 

I spent half a day making moulds, as well as more time preparing the clay. In order to present a range of these sets of standard ware, I am experimenting with different firing temperatures as well as different mixtures. 
Plaster moulds 
Gabbroic clay drying out before reclaiming

I want to continue with the paper pulp, grog and ball clay but also add some small feldspar chips for one of the sets. At 1260° the feldspar will melt and burst through the surface, creating a real contrast with the deep red/brown of the gabbroic clay. The making process is slow and there is a need for accuracy in order to achieve equal wall thickness. The work must be dried slowly and evenly to avoid cracking and warping of the form.
Smallest size of Gabbroic clay Standard ware
These images show the smoothed surface, the grog and the round bottomed form.

Finished pieces drying

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Scanning Gabbroic Clay Sherds: Printing and Sewing

In early 2015, with the help of Dr. Imogen Wood from Exeter University and staff from The Royal Cornwall Museum, I was able to source pieces of gabbroic pottery found on site at Tremough, one fine ware and one coarse ware. I had long been digging and using this unique clay in my ceramics practice and was familiar with the myriad finds on display in Truro’s museum. 

These 4000-year-old gabbroic clay shards were thin sectioned, mounted in resin and scanned at the highest magnification. At the heart of this particular investigation sat a machine owned by Exeter and Cambourne school of Mines - Qemscan, a sophisticated machine providing automated mineralogy and petrography. 

This scan gave me detailed data on the clay formation; the clay is interesting in its make up, the blend of minerals makes it a good refractory material, more suitable to withstand thermal shock, perhaps explaining the number of large scale finds. This scan gave me data on the clay formulation as well as vibrant imagery. After establishing the colourways I transferred the information in SMARTPRINT software and digitally printed onto fabric. 

I then created a large paper pattern for the oven gloves, an exact 4x replica, cut them out, tacked them and machine stitched them finally finishing off the edges with bias. 

I marvel at the perfect circularity of this ongoing investigation. I find it exciting that I am only now able to look at a shard in such microscopic detail as has ever been technologically possible. I can only wonder at the coincidence of the placement of a machine that allows us to do this. Who would imagine when there are only 60 such machines in the world, that one of them would be situated directly on the ground where the 4000-year-old shard was dug?