Hampshire Open Studios, August 20th - September 10th 2016
My current theme of art I’m working towards now is based on the heritage of the Whitchurch Silk Mill in Hampshire, which is on an island in the river Test. It is the oldest Silk Mill in the UK built in 1814. Still working in its original building it is one of the few Mill factories using Victorian machinery that dates from the days of the Industrial revolution. Its winding and warping machinery is powered by the river Test. I feel very privileged to have been invited to exhibit there.
Through my research at the Silk Mill I came up with the idea of designing Ceramic Silk reels as both small and medium sized vases along with ceramic table lamps using silk shades. This original design concept for my ceramics ties in with the Silk Mill’s working factory. Both the Silk Mill and the ceramic pieces I create are about “Process”. The materials used in the factory will also come into play with the display of the ceramics; using silk and wood. I hope that my use of colour and materials will promote interest for the Silk Mill. The title of my exhibition is “Passion for colour.” The history of the Silk Mill is integral to my project, being a starting point for research. As a local artist being approached via my website was hugely encouraging.
I set about construction by making my pieces using a white earthenware clay that has a low shrinkage rate and excellent response to colour. The sizes of the clay reels were based on the dimensions of the wooden reels which I’ve scaled up by factors of 2 and 3. After throwing each seperate section, the pieces are then placed onto the wheel to begin the process of turning once they are dry enough. I enjoy drawing into clay through fine scraping to make lines and incisions. These details give each piece an individual feel and most importantly allow oxides to be incorporated into the process at the biscuit firing stage. I do numerous tests for colour using slips, underglazes and oxides and like the depth and richness of colour that they add to a finished piece. Once I have painted on the slip, the work is bisque-fired overnight in an electric kiln to 1,000 degrees centigrade.
My glaze application is different for each piece depending on what spectrum of colour hues I use. I spend a lot of time thinking about and visualising colour then decide which combinations work best, using the information from my glaze tests. I think lots about the surface treatment and which material qualities I am interesting in displaying. Applying a thickened slip gently using a cloth gives an appearance of paint that has peeled away and expresses the “time worn” element of the silk reel. This rustic quality is enhanced by using a thinly applied matt glaze afterwards. Overall several different glazes are used on the reel, including a lead glaze.
I’m currently researching the slip casting process, something which I'll shortly be using in my ongoing search for a clearly defined language of shapes. After my pieces have been slip cast I will continue to turn on the wheel and apply colour, giving greater scope for repeat work. The idea of multiples in different colours and sizes is intriguing as I look to place individual pieces into groups and set up a dialogue within the Silk Mill, so that the work creates and defines the space into which they are placed.
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Find Arabella Ross
Whitchurch Silk Mill, 28 Winchester Street, Whitchurch, Hampshire, RG28 7AL