ceramics | imagined corners | material woman





about elspeth owen









My mother taught me very early to cook but I did not discover how fire could also transform clay until I was in my thirties. Although my ceramic work has never been overtly political, it was through joining the Women's Movement in the seventies that I became a potter; my political engagement led, curiously, to my commitment to clay.

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I have stayed with the basic techniques of pottery and use very simple methods. Either I pinch: that is I start with a ball of clay and slowly hollow it until the shape is formed; or I roll out and then bend and curve the clay. Layers of coloured slip are painted on, the surfaces are burnished and the work is low-fired to a temperature of about 1000c. Sometimes I will then smoke or second fire the pot. Finally everything is lightly polished with beeswax. The permeability of the walls, which results from the low firing temperature, is a way of suggesting a link between the inside and the outside of the form that has fluency and ease. Water can seep in and out. A breath might pass through. The eye may even be able to enter the forms that are closed. The walls, though made of many layers, are only just holding their shape. The pots, I think, emerge more from my memories of holding and of being held than from any study of art or nature.