The persistence of impressions

It was the coldest, bleakest part of this last winter. That was when my right arm was gripped with such intense pain that I had to stop working with the clay. I was not happy! The medical advice was to take a break for a month, but what was I going to do?  It turned out that this was an opportunity to completely rethink my making process. 

All my forms up to this point had been made by honing them into shape using a metal scraper held in my right hand, and it was the tension in doing that that had led to the pain. I loved that process, and I felt that the gradual refinement of the firms over many days was part of what people perceived in them. I thought that, in some way, it was the source of their calmness and what they communicated. So to be deprived of access to that process was a challenge to what I had come to believe the work was about.

But my commitment is not to the outcome of the making process, it is to the process itself – to try to find a rightness in the making process and see what that quality leads to in the finished pieces. Clearly the scraping that I enjoyed was not right for my arm, so could there be a new way of making that would involve less tension and more balance in my body? 

For some reason I had also been reflecting on my early days of recording wildlife sounds which eventually led to my first career in natural history radio. Thinking back to the child who stuck a microphone out of his bedroom window to record the garden bird song I realised how long I have had a fascination with recording the natural world in one way or another. I was thinking how clay also keeps a record of everything that happens to it until it is fired, at which point the story of its making is locked into its form and surface. Maybe thinking of the clay as a recording medium could lead to a new way of working.  And so it did. 

If I can find a unifying theme for these last months’ travels it is stone.  Red stone outcrops carved to make rock houses on Kinver Edge and cut through by the canal which I followed. Cotswold stones from cool blue grey to sunset orange in the walls of Tewkesbury Abbey. Massive columns of golden stone in Greek temples, fine stone fragments in Roman mosaics, and freshly spewed black lava on the slopes of Mount Etna. And these earth colours and textures complemented or contrasted by a shock of blue sky, a tumble of green ivy, the polished gold of an icon or the orange skin of a persimmon. 

The plan during my travels had been to paint daily, but with the exception of a few very unfinished canvases I have filled my time with the mechanics of life on the move.  Now I am home and I am writing this partly to pull together my thoughts, partly to convince myself that these months will provide the basis for a significant development, and partly to put off picking up a brush and proving myself wrong.

 

I am now as far as can be from painting the landscape in front of me, from the security of being able to look again, or of going to source for further inspiration.  Of course there are the photos, some sketches and notes, but these may be the seeds rather than the raw material for what happens next.  Since what fascinates me is the essence of landscape and place maybe it’s time to embrace the separation and let the sifting of memory and persistence of impressions do their work.

Follow Grant’s blog

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

more posts like this...

ceramics

Impressions – a completely new way of working

It was the coldest, bleakest part of this last winter. That was when my right arm was gripped with such intense pain that I had to stop working with the clay. I was not happy! But it turned out that this was an opportunity to completely rethink my making process.

read more >
ceramics

giving bowls / sharing bowls

The Giving Bowls have just raised over £350 for the Stroud District Foodbank. I’m delighted. They seems to have found a real purpose in life, and their development is a story that is still giving life lessons to me.

read more >