I make my pots by cutting and carving a solid block of clay in very quick, gestural movements. Once the outside has firmed up I can then carve out the inside and shape the foot of the pot. I use various types of stoneware clays from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Korea and Japan. Each clay has a different colour and texture. The pots are then decorated with an iron oxide or an ash based slip and glazed in a Japanese shino style glaze. Shino is a traditional Japanese glaze made from a local feldspar found in the Mino region. It became very popular with the Zen tea masters of the 16th century for their ceremonial wares. Shino’s white and brown surface has been compared to the last traces of winter snow, with the promise of spring in the air. I first became drawn to shino when I was searching for a glaze to suit a particular pot. Once I started experimenting with this glaze I became fascinated with its compelling nature. The crazing, the pin-holing and crawling, all factors normally considered glaze defects are what give the shino glaze its special character. Because we are unable to obtain the Japanese feldspars here, western potters have developed glaze formulas using available ingredients that mimic the nature of the Japanese shino. But it is really the interaction between the clay, the glaze and the fire that makes this glaze such a challenge for me. Using the same clay and glaze in the same firing cycle can produce completely different results.
When I first started working with this technique a few years ago my main focus was on making tea bowls. For me a tea bowl is a fascinating thing, an object of appreciation and contemplation. It allows a unique combination functional and sculptural elements My aim in making a tea bowl is not perfection, on the contrary, it is the imperfections make the bowl come alive, makes it easier to relate to, makes it more human. During my residency in Japan a couple of years ago I started to experiment making bigger pots, sake cups and bottles, vases etc.
In 2009 I build a wood fired kiln at my studio north of Auckland. I now fire most of my pots to 1300C for 15 to 18 hours in this kiln. I love the effect that the wood ash has on the shino glaze, the subtle colours and ash deposits.