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Several years ago, when I was *very* new to clay, I attended my very first clay conference. It was really my first introduction to the clay community. I remember it being a wonderful and unforgettable experience. I got to try rakuing for the very first time at the preliminary workshop hosted by Ottawa Valley artist Leta Cormier in her, as I remember, extremely immaculate studio. I also got to take part in my first mug exchange in which I remember receiving a lovely salt-glazed mug by potter Jackie Seaton. My name was even drawn and I won some nice oriental brushes. But that was not all (and this was the pinnacle for me), John Leach, of Muchelney Pottery, was the main presenter. His pots were like nothing I had seen before (I told you I was new to clay) and I was impressed by what a real person he was … very gracious, generous, and down to earth. He left a lasting impression on me.
I recently discovered John’s brother Simon Leach has posted a series of videos on YouTube over the last year or so, showing demos, kilns, visits back to England and to friends’ studios, his philosophies, etc etc. What I like is he presents things face on and shares his victories and disappointments, the good and the bad, taking it all in stride. I don’t think a lot of people are aware how hard it can be to be a potter and that things, quite beyond your control, can go extremely wrong after many, many hours of hard work, and all for naught. Here is the 2nd of 2 of Simon’s videos taken while unloading Seth Cardew‘s kiln:
Have you visited the NCECA web site lately?
For those who are not potters, NCECA is the “National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts”. Their objective is to enrich and promote the ceramics through education. Most people know NCECA for its annual conference they put at different locations across the country, their exhibitions, and publications.
One of their upcoming events will be a symposium this fall in Jingdezhen, China!
NCECA/Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute International Symposium –
Shared Journeys: Chinese/American Ceramic Art Education
October 22 – November 2, 2008
On the Preview page of the Symposium are slideshows from around Jingdezhen, the Ancient Kiln Museum, as well as a few great Quicktime videos of people there skillfully making and decorating pots, all compiled by Richard Burkett and Joe Molinaro when they were there earlier this year .
The pure magnitude of some of the pots produced there and the skill of the craftsmen is, to say the least, somewhat humbling. ..five foot platters, 4×8′ handmade porcelain tiles, 6/9/12+ foot tall urns… almost unfathomable, especially to those who have worked in porcelain before and know its finicky and particular nature.
So what is their secret? Apparently, I was told, the porcelain in Jingdezhen isn’t like the smooth plastic body we know here in the west, in fact its not very plastic at all, but they have learned to work with this. They throw thick There’s a picture of one segment of a particularly large pot on the Symposium page being thrown by a team of 3 people. For large pieces such as the massive urns pictured on the website, sections are thrown separately, let dry to bone dry, then the segments are bonded together using slip. Once that’s done, they trim the assembled vessel and decorate.
There are still some spots available too.. I sure wish I could go.