Fresh from the kiln!

These are some of the first finished tiles to come out of the kiln! I’m really happy with how they look, the glazes have a good fit and the colours are exactly what I wanted – a couple of them cracked during the firing but I think I know how to solve this for the next lot of work to go in. I shall be placing them on a bed of sand so the tiles can move as they shrink and hopefully this will stop any further problems.

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London Design Week 2015

This week was London Design Week where some of the best interior design companies open up their showrooms at the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour. My university arranged a trip up to see what was on offer, it was primarily aimed at the textiles students but as I am working with tiles this year, I thought it would be good to go and see the latest designs.

There were some gorgeous things on display and I couldn’t help ordering a few samples of wallpaper! I was very impressed by the variety of tiles, in several different mediums, not just ceramic and I will be using the images I took as inspiration for some of my own work.


Artist research – against the wall

Isobel Egan

Isobel Egan writes this about her work:

“It explores issues of fragility, personal space and memory. I make delicate porcelain box sculptures and construct miniscule environments, abstracted spaces, cities and houses. These recall the cardboard box houses and other fantastical environments of childhood, the flimsy structures made robust by force of imagination.

My work also suggests secret compartments where we can store or hide our memories.  It questions the stability and durability of our homes and
our environments, the reality of the walls that we construct around us. Viewers are invited to contemplate their own experiences of space,
childhood and memory.

The box structures are like micro works of architecture. They represent environments for the nurturing of imagination. The walls in these pieces, although somewhat malleable, represent the essential boundaries that define personal integrity.”

Firth Macmillan

Firth Macmillan makes beautiful ceramic works which are displayed on the wall, although his work is different to my own I hope to be as successful in my use of space as he is.

Mari Ruth Oda

Mari Ruth Oda creates beautiful wall mounted ceramic tiles with interesting textures – her work has similarities to my own but mine will be on a larger scale and incorporate more colour and pattern.


Level 5 – Dissertation PDP

So, today I handed in my dissertation….all 17,000 words of it (inc. appendices!). I chose to do a business plan instead of a traditional thesis for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’ve always liked the idea of running my own business and the older I get and the more places I work in, the more I realise that working for someone else, isn’t working for me. I’m pretty sure that the only way I’ll ever be really happy with the 9-5 is if I’m the one calling the shots and if I’m doing something I love…hopefully ceramics! Secondly, I hated the idea of putting in months of work, reading books, researching a particular topic and then spend weeks stressing out about writing the ‘perfect’ essay only to then dump it straight in a box under my bed and never read it again – what a waste! So, I went for a business plan and what a perfect time to do it, when I’ve got the support of a dissertation supervisor to help and guide me and I’ve also got the luxury of time and being relatively financially secure at the moment – thank you student loans company.

It was a couple of months after making this decision that I started to think I may have made the wrong choice…I’ve previously done an English degree so writing essays comes fairly easy to me, as does reading books and doing research. Numbers, mathematics and tables, however, do not. There is a lot of maths that goes in to a business plan and trying to learn the formulas and calculations from ‘The Dummies Guide to Business Plans’ is not easy! My lack of confidence with numbers was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome whilst writing this dissertation, I’m glad I’ve done it now. I have a much greater understanding of what is required from a small business owner and a lot more confidence in my ability to use mathematics (although fairly basic stuff!).

Another big hurdle I encountered during this process was that the university didn’t seem to have put in much provision for those writing business plans. When I was at the proposal stage I received very little information about how my proposal should be structured and therefore ended up with quite a low mark for this module last year. This year wasn’t much better at the start, the tutors I spoke to had never written a business plan before so they couldn’t help me in a practical way. Also, there didn’t seem to be any guidance from the university for tutors or students on how to approach this newly created dissertation option.

Eventually I was given Sarah Rajoo as my dissertation supervisor who was brilliant, really helpful and informative and very encouraging. She gave me lots of advice and useful places to get information. I do feel, however, that the university could have made her job a lot easier but giving her a set of clear guidelines for what is expected of students writing business plans – I still do not know if what I have produced is ‘correct’. Also, if she had been brought in to the programme earlier on, we could have had an opportunity to go through a sample business plan as a group which would have saved many, many hours of floundering in the dark (on my part anyway).

Anyway, I eventually came across the Prince’s Trust business plan template and workbook which was a godsend, really simple and clear, all in plain English and handy hints and tips for research. After reading through that it became much easier and quicker to produce my own plan. The idea was the easy part, I love arts and crafts and I love food, so why not combine the two and create a really interesting art cafe? A place where you can get an excellent cup of coffee, a delicious slice of cake and also learn something amazing – who wouldn’t like to make their own curtains whilst chomping on a chocolate brownie – I know I would!

Once I decided on my business model, the next part was researching what was already available in the same market. I found out about some really amazing places across the country, especially in London, and that Cardiff has some brilliant art/craft venues too. One thing I learned early on was the importance of having a great website with loads of interesting content to boost SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) as many of the Cardiff based business were really hard to find on the web due to their website being really low on Google’s list – even if your search terms are really specific, many of these companies won’t show up. The way to counteract this is by constantly updating your website content, using a blog or connecting to social media and re-publishing interesting articles on your site – there’s also a new application that can do this for you, it’s called Social Churn and it will update your website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc…all with the click of a button, saving you loads of time!

I feel that for me it’s been a really worthwhile process to write a business plan, it’s been incredibly challenging at times but it’s very gratifying to be at the other end of the process with a result I’m proud of and an idea for a business which (according to my slightly dodgy maths) is actually really profitable! I really hope that one day I’ll be able to open my own business and if I ever do I know that I’ll be digging out this document, it’s been really useful and opened my eyes massively to what is needed to be a successful small business owner.

Fingers crossed one day I’ll be able to put all this new found knowledge in to practice…

Although next time I have to write a business plan, I’ll probably start a bit earlier – this deadline was a bit too close for comfort!


Artist Research – a sense of scale

Tara Donovan

I find Tara Donovan’s work fascinating, she uses very ordinary objects such as plastic drinks cups but presents them in a spectacular way and on a grand scale – although her work is very different from mine I want to have a similar impact on my viewers.

Cornelia Parker

Cornelia Parker is probably most known for her exploded shed, seen above right, I really like that she uses discarded objects but displays them in an unusual way and makes the viewer want to move around and inspect the work. The lighting used in her exploded shed really brings the work to life and the shadows of the shed’s contents adds to the sense of intrigue around the piece.

Anders Ruhwald

Anders Ruhwald’s work is very different to my own but he uses colour and space very well – I like that his audience gets to move amongst the work, it an immersive experience.


Artist research – contextualising memories

Dawn Youll

Dawn Youll uses simplified shapes of familiar objects in her work, she combines them in unusual ways to construct a narrative – the shapes become symbols that relate to our memories, childhood, happiness, danger Etc.  I like her bold use of colour, simple style and the crispness of her work and want to translate this in to my work.

Richard Slee

Like Dawn Youll, Richard Slee uses familiar objects but in a more unusual way, he has a humorous take on traditional objects like the Toby jug and the umbrella – again, I like the strong colours and how he plays on nostalgic items.

Caroline Slotte

Caroline Slotte uses antiques plates to create her work, she sandblasts them to reveal details of the patterns and turn them in to 3D landscapes – the use of traditional blue & white ware is central to her work as she relies on their familiarity and tradition to bring an element of nostalgia – playing on our cultural heritage and memories surrounding these objects.

Michelle Taylor

Michelle Taylor uses antique crockery alongside stitch and textiles in her work – the plates and cups provide a link to the past and she alters them with textile interventions. I have collected some fabric which are remnants from my childhood home, old curtains, bedding and clothing all of which have a very tangible link to my past and I want to find a way of incorporating this in to my work.

Rachel Dickson

Rachel Dickson uses antique ceramic objects, casts of things like shoes and text to create her delicate, nostalgic works – memories and the past are clearly central to her practice and link together to create a narrative. I want to incorporate text and casts of items from my childhood in my work and I want to work with decals as well to be able to replicate images across my pieces.

Wendy Walgate

Wendy Walgate uses casts of trinkets, children’s toys and figurines in her work – it is a commentary on consumerism and possession rather than memory but for my work I want to use casts of some of my childhood objects. I like her use of colour and the dense way she presents the work as well.


Shifting ideas

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I’ve cast my first set of tiles and I’m really happy with how they’ve turned out, the detail has come out perfectly and they’ve dried really well without cracking or warping. The more I move along with this project however, the more I feel that trying to turn these tiles in to wall planters is not the right direction. It feels like I’m trying to force this idea on what I’ve made rather than responding to the outcome. I’ve had a bit of a break from making over the Christmas holidays and having to focus on finishing my dissertation but my tiles have been on my mind. I’ve been focusing on how I would decorate them and because of the surface texture, any image that I put on the tiles would distort. This got me thinking about how time distorts memories, especially childhood memories. We all have stories passed down to us from our family that have been retold so often that we think we can remember what happened even though we were far to young at the time it happened. Also, speaking personally, I have many childhood memories which don’t add up to the stories and the smiling photographs of me as a little girl. As children we lack the benefit of experience and hindsight to understand things that happen around us and so we have a tendency to exaggerate or be overly sensitive to positive or negative events in our lives and I want to explore this in my work. I have collected a series of photographs of me as a child along with toys, books and textiles that were part of my growing up and I will use these as inspiration for the decoration on my tiles.