I’ve always been a sensory creature; where the touch and feel of something matters a great deal. It’s the same with sound, taste, vision and smell. I’d rather do without than have lots of something crap.
I can also have an overly strong reaction or response to something, my mum would say as a child I either loved or hated something. And I think that definite line is still with me today.
So when I say I fell instantly in love with Southern Ice porcelain when I first came across it I am sharing with you a personal moment I had in public!
I couldn’t stop touching it, taking in the texture and all my sensory lights were switching on. I tried to curb my enthusiasm and ask some questions about the porcelain, I didn’t know something so wonderful existed in the ceramic world. I also didn’t want to come across as some sort of nut job because I know my sudden in love enthusiasm has given the wrong impression before!
So I found out it was an Australian clay, when fired it metaphorised into our finest porcelain. So good Aussie dirt made this amazing porcelain. That amazed me. That the white colour was the natural tone of the porcelain and made it easily identifiable as no other porcelain has the same colour.
Down the track I was to learn that it is a clay with a lot of memory, that it remembers a thumb impression it had for all of 5 seconds and this comes out in the firing, sometimes, not always. I learnt that when sanded it can have a very smooth finish that is a joy to play with. I learnt that it is surprisingly light in weight and this is a feature of porcelain.
It didn’t take long for me to come to the point of wanting to work in it. My thoughts became full of designs and ideas.
I dreamt about it for three nights and design dreams are exhausting, there’s no restorative sleep when you’re dreaming so energetically.
So I learnt some basics and got to it, making Christmas tree decorations to start with, using a general purpose green glaze. It dawned on me how long the making process was turning clay into porcelain. I was amazed and stumped.
I was use to making jewellery from artisan glass, fresh water pearls and gemstones. While the sourcing of the components took time, finding the right suppliers, picking out the right treasures it didn’t take long to make a piece, especially once you had figured out the design for the series. But making porcelain jewellery took two firings, three sandings and days in between. It isn’t a fast process.
Now I know it takes on average seven weeks to for a piece to go from clay to being on my market stall. Each piece is handled at least 17 times in these seven weeks. It involves three trips to the pottery studio I fire my work at and my own little studio at home is in a constant state of flux with the different making stages in progress.
But I love it.
I love that it is a messy process. I love that it evolves. I love that it is so tactile.
I put favourite music on when I’m making and I sing away – fortunately with no one else about, except the cat, and she’s use to my ways now. I have a collection of beautiful Tasmanian wooden bowls I use for sorting the pieces at different stages and I love the smell of the Huon Pine bowls.
The hardest thing when making is the constant range of decisions that need to be made – which designs in what colours and how many, which ones need to be pendants and which one brooches.
It is easier when I am making for a particular event like the Tasmanian Craft Fair. I have a make list and I just work through that. The same goes for individual orders. But when it is for general stock I just have to accept that I will make mistakes with the guessing. I think everyone who has grown a business from scratch knows that mistakes are a constant experience and you just have to make the most from them.
Three years on and I’m still in love with Southern Ice porcelain. My original idea of having my own designs, mainly photographs, as part of the range is still coming together. Now I’m looking at having my drawings and paintings made into the transfers and that is a much longer process than I thought, but it is coming together. I expect to be making in Southern Ice for years ahead. When I think of building my own house it is with a studio with room for a pottery wheel and more space to work in. What a joy that would be!