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Trying my hand at pottery at West Dean College

14 May

West Dean College Chichester

West Dean gardens

I love ceramics and always enjoy having a go at new crafts, so when my friend Amy suggested we try our hand at pottery, I agreed straight away. We decided to make a weekend of it and signed up for the throwing pots taster day at the beautiful West Dean College near Chichester. After a sneak peek of the house itself (former home of surrealist art collector Edward James) we headed to the pottery studio.

pottery studio at West Dean college

head sculpted from clay

pottery studio details

glaze sticks

art pencils in craft shop

There’s always something so lovely about craft studios and now I’m getting used to my camera, I couldn’t stop taking photos of all the little details around the place. To begin with we were shown ram’s head kneading, which gets rid of any air pockets in the clay and can lead to wobbly pots. Once we were ready our tutor Alison Sandeman demonstrated our first task: a simple cylinder.

Alison Sandeman pottery demonstration

how to throw a clay pot

cylinder thrown pot

Simple as that!

There were eight of us in the class and pottery was new to nearly everyone, but after seeing how effortless Alison made it look we were all confident about our chances as we started the wheels.

learning to throw pots on a potters wheel

cylinder pot on wheel

It soon became obvious that it’s most definitely not as simple as that! Thankfully, Alison was really encouraging and always on hand to share her 25 years of experience. Even though I was far from a natural, I fell in love with the challenge and it was hard to tear myself away from the wheel at lunchtime. The little bowl above right was my first attempt… unfortunately it kind of went downhill from there. Here’s a couple that didn’t make it!

failed thrown pot

failed thrown pot on wheel

By the end of the day we all had five or six pots of varying size and shape to show for our efforts. They’ll be glazed for us in the next few weeks and hopefully some will survive so I can show you the finished articles.

beginners thrown pots
beginners thrown pots{all Decorator’s Notebook}
I definitely want to go look into doing a longer course and have to admit I’ve been searching for secondhand potters’ wheels on fleabay. I’m hooked!

My new favourite blog: Coffeeklatch

18 Feb

I stumbled across this blog beauty quite by accident and it’s immediately become a firm favourite. Think Freunde von Freunden meets the Brooklyn Makers Project, then transport to Belgium, and you’re just about appreciating the creative loveliness that is Coffeeklatch.

Coffeeklatch blog coffee pot on metal tray

red room with house plants Belgium

creative artists apartment in Antwerp

green kitchen tiles

vintage typewriter

room with red painted walls{Bart Kiggen / Coffeeklatch}

I wouldn’t have necessarily had Belgium down as a creative hub (mainly out of ignorance) but a few minutes spent exploring its homes, studios and workspaces and I soon realised I’ve been missing out on a whole country’s worth of design talent. This place in Antwerp belongs to artist Kati Heck – head over to Coffeeklatch right this second for loads more tours and interviews.*

*If you’re like me and haven’t yet joined the tech buffs using Chrome, you can paste the URL into Google Translate for a translation of the whole website.

The Makers Project: meet Brooklyn’s beautiful creatives

5 Nov

I’m fascinated by photo projects and am always intrigued by the niche subjects people choose. Kinfolk magazine (my new obsession) led me to The Makers Project by Brooklyn-based photographer Jennifer Causey. Jennifer has made it her mission to capture the creative goings-on on her doorstep. From painters and florists to perfumers and distillers, she’s recorded the relaxed beauty of the people, their products and places of work.

It was a struggle to pick one maker to showcase here because each photo story has its own beauty and charm, but I loved the simplicity of this profile of woodworker Ariele Alasko. She started off studying sculpture and now works full time crafting headboards, tables and breadboards from salvaged wood gathered from buildings being pulled down in her neighbourhood.

In between stints in her workshop Ariele also manages to write the very lovely Brooklyn to West blog (check out the about page for a sneak peek of her apartment), fit out an extremely cool restaurant and sell her wares.

{all Jennifer Causey / The Makers}

The Makers Project website is a pretty addictive so I strongly suggest you while away an hour or two flipping through Jennifer’s photo stories. You can read more about why she started the project in Kinfolk volume five which I’ve recently discovered is available through this trusty online outlet. Kinfolk fans of the UK rejoice!

Explore an artist’s studio in Istanbul

8 Feb

I’ve posted before about my fascination with artists’ studios,  but I’ve never seen anything quite like this amazing live/work space belonging to Turkish painter and sculptor Melih Özuysal.

{Ege Okal via Freunde von Freunden}

What a fascinating space… looking at it you can imagine the smell of oil paint and turpentine mingling with orange zest, pomegranates and plaster dust. Everywhere you look there are snippets of inspiration for Melih’s paintings and sculptures – find out more in this interview with the artist.

Explore an atmospheric factory conversion

21 Sep

I seem to have developed a bit of a taste for warehouse and factory conversions recently. There’s just something about those huge windows, concrete floors and bare brick walls that speaks to my inner hipster who (very occasionally) tries to get out. This Australian coat hanger factory is particularly lovely – it’s owned by painter Adriane Strampp who has given it a warm atmosphere without it feeling pretentious or losing the building’s rough and ready character.

Two sashes just weren’t enough for this building – has anyone seen triple sash windows in the UK? I can even forgive the ubiquitous Union Jack cushion in amongst this jumble of soft crumpled linen.

The house I grew up in had a cream Aga exactly like this and I’ll always be under their spell. On chilly mornings my brother and I would sit in front of it with our feet on oven door warming our toes!

Perhaps the bare plaster and exposed lightbulb is too minimal for some, but I actually think there’s something quite cosy about this bedroom. Perhaps its those layered linens again..?

Adriane’s painting studio is a short walk from the house. I love the creative chaos of artists’ studios, especially when they also have their own work at home. This ghostly landscape would look perfect above my sofa too.

{all Sean Fennessey via The Design Files}

How do you feel about the industrial look?

Creative spaces: artists in their studios

23 Jul

A year or so ago I decided to try and re-awaken my artistic side by taking life drawing classes, and in preparation, spent some time studying Lucian Freud‘s paintings. I fell in love with his honest, evocative portraits, so was very sad to hear yesterday that he’d died this week at the grand old age of 88.

The papers have been full of photographs of the artist and his work. The picture I find most poignant is this photo from 2005 showing Freud in his London studio, working through the night as he often did.

{Via Art In America Magazine}

Whenever there’s one of those Artist Open Studio events on nearby I always try and go. Partly because I’m interested in the work, but also because I love seeing where people work. The differences between each artist’s studio fascinate me. Some are a creative chaos of paint and canvas, while others have a surprising ordered calm.

Judging by this photo, Freud was one of the former – he’d never screw the tops back onto his paint tubes and would flick and swipe the caked-up paint onto the wall. Over 40 years, this created a kind of artwork in itself and even features in this ‘painting of a painting’ intriguingly named The Artist Surprised by a Naked Admirer.

I guess for a man described as having “at least 12 children”  this kind of thing happened a lot…

{The Artist Surprised by a Naked Admirer, Lucian Freud}

All this set me on a search of pictures of other artists’ studios. On the creative chaos scale, this one – Francis Bacon‘s – makes Freud’s mess pale into insignificance. The painting on the easel is thought to be the artist’s final work.

{Via The Tate Galleries}

Jackson Pollock‘s workspace is exactly what you’d expect from the master of the splatter.

{Via Nobodyintheartworld}

By contrast, these are surprisingly neat and ordered. Both belong to female artists, obviously!

{Via Inspiring Interiors}

American painter Georgia O’Keeffe‘s studio at The Ghost Ranch in New Mexico has been recreated just as it was in the 1940s. She was best known for her paintings of bones, rocks and flowers. “I thought the ranch would be good for me because nothing can grow here and I wouldn’t be able to use up my time gardening,” she said.

{Via The Tate Galleries}

Turner Prize Winner Rachel Whiteread‘s workspace looks more like a typical magazine’s art department that a studio. I suppose if you’re casting a Victorian house or making 14,000 giant sugar cubes, you probably would need a few work experience people around to give you a hand.

Even Marmite artist Tracey Emin‘s place is a lot neater than you might expect. Although it appears she’s taken the criticism she had over her infamous unmade bed to heart and opened some kind of launderette in the back room.

{Via The Guardian}

I’ll finish with another Brit favourite – Mr Sgt. Pepper himself, Peter Blake. A man after my own heart, Blake began collecting junk at the age of 14, to the point where he’s almost  hemmed in by his collection of curios in his London studio and has shifted some of his lovely tat to The Holburne in Bath, where it’s on display until 4th September 2011.

{Via The Independent}

{The Holburne Museum}

Vintage typewriter. Check. Dusty bell jar. Check. Rusty sign. Check. Hmmm. Perhaps I do have a career ahead of me as a top artist after all!

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