This has been a beautiful autumn, with the wet spring, long warm summer and late arrival of gales and storms allowing the colours to form and hold…. The Tulip Tree that I pass on my Tuesday walks to and from Sion Hill Campus from Bath-Spa Train Station has provided me with moments of wonder as the season turns. Given that my mind is so full of thoughts and the pressures of trying to maintain a freelance business, build and fit-out a new workshop, re-start my ceramic practice and build ideas as part of our Research Methodologies module, these moments of wonder are vital re-connections with the natural world that stop me in my tracks….
I missed Akiko Hirai‘s Open Studio event over the weekend of the 1st December, but Akiko kindly agreed that it would be OK for me to visit her studio at The Chocolate Factory, Stoke Newington, London on the following Wednesday. I am finding that visits to makers like this utterly invaluable as I reconnect myself to the world of ceramics. We discussed her approaches and techniques and I was particularly interested in the way that she uses a variety of techniques to bring the effects of wood-firing through her gas kiln. It is inspiring to visit a maker in their workshop space; to see the creativity possible from a small, confined but perfectly conceived space. Wheel, kiln, work-surfaces and shelving take up most of the space – with her wheel covered as a display table for the Open Studio event.
Photograph – RB courtesy AK
In order to start working in ceramics again (after a 9 year break), for my part-time MA, I have had to develop a workshop. This has been a challenging and of course, vital project, given that for me, it is essential that my work and practice considers sustainability as a central theme. Six years ago I designed a new workshop space to fit in our garden which we built with a local builder, Jim Wallace, during a snowy winter (see picture). Given my interest and commitment to sustainability and my work on this theme at the time (as Learning for Sustainability Officer with Worcestershire County Council), we decided to experiment with lime-hemp wall construction and using sustainably sourced, FSC grade or local timber for the frame and the cedar shingles on the roof. Lime-hemp walls provide excellent thermal insulation.
However, the “workshop” had become, in-line with many family outdoor spaces, a dumping ground for bicycles, garden tools, camping equipment etc. As a result, a second shed needed to be constructed, this time entirely on my own and following some of the same design priorities as the previous build. This time, there was no need for insulation, but it is entirely made from local timber from Mick Goodman’s woodland and timber yard at Ockeridge, Worcestershire, less than 10 miles from here.
All photographs – RB