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Unmasking the Elements series: fire, earth, water and air.

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

The idea of layers of colour laid down over time, with masks protecting hidden colours beneath is something I've been exploring in my new Elements series which incorporates the four elements: fiery oranges, gritty dark underglazes representing crags of earth, the use of liquid waxes and wispy circles representing air lying above the surface. There's something resolutely geological in this, which extends beyond the simple properties of the clay itself!

Creating masks using papers and wax is a long process, and the potter has to think backwards, so that the first mask applied (in Elements, the white air circles) will be most prominent on the final surface. Each layer is built up carefully, with patience needed between each stage to give each layer the chance to dry thoroughly before the next is applied. I admit to being eager and hastening this along with a heat gun far too often!

In the piece above, just the first two layers have been added, the wax brushed on directly to the bisque ceramic surface, and broad brush strokes of liquid underglaze create the solid blocks of colour. Further wax and underglazes are brushed or printed on, to build the final look, with the orange glaze forming the final colour layer. Before a transparent protective glaze is added, boiling water is poured over the whole piece, in a kind of fiery baptism, that melts some of the wax enough for the glaze to adhere but doesn't destroy the layers already laid down. The final effect speaks dramatically of dynamic textures and layers, some opaque and some translucent, some seemingly transient... with a certain 1960s retro vibe thrown in for good measure! I'm looking forward to developing this work more in the future.

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