Helen Baron Studio
Clay is the most wonderful stuff. Any trip to a museum will demonstrate the endlessly varied ceramic objects made over the centuries in different cultures and by different potters. The difficulty all we potters have is trying to find the use of clay which suits us best in a world of possibilities. You will see from this website that I use clay in different ways - to make pit-fired pots, domestic earthenware, tiles and mosaics. I enjoy making them all and find that in 365 days there's time to develop each of these different strands every year.
These earthenware, heavily grogged pots are thrown, turned and burnished with the pit-firing in mind, where they will be transformed by smoke. The lines on the pots, the flashes of colour, the curls of grey and dense black areas come from wires wrapped around the pots and an alchemical mix of carefully placed oxides, salts and sawdust which imprint their patterns on the burnished clay in the pit firing. I can influence the effects of the firing, but never control them. The position of every pot and piece of wood, the intensity of the fire and even the wind will all affect the movement of the smoke across the surface of the pots, and while this process is unpredictable, it is also very liberating and tremendously exciting.
NB As these pots are not glazed, they will not hold water.
It seems to me that working in pottery one is bringing together the four elements of earth, water, fire and air and adding to them humanity. Whether by luck or skill, if these five elements are all balanced in a pot it can have an indefinable rightness - soul. Occasionally one comes across a pot which looks absolutely right, in its proportions, decoration, honesty, usefulness. It is evidently made of clay, one can see that it was soft whenformed, but the clay hasn't taken over, nor the fire with all its pyrotechnic possibilities, nor the potter with laboured decoration. Many medieval jugs have these qualities. Perhaps there's no replacement for a long apprenticeship turning out workaday pots until skill is assured and self consciousness has been carried away.
Domestic pots are at the heart of things. It's good to make pots that become part of everyday life. I want to make pots which
- look as if they're made of clay
- are in the English tradition
- are functional
- are thrown
- are earthenware
- are straightforward and a pleasure to use
- are timeless and quiet
- tell their own story
- retain the life and energy they have when first thrown
- have decoration that seems like part of the pot
Most of all I want to make pots that have soul.
I always enjoy making flowerpots - which make plants look their best
These low relief tiles are made by carving a lino block and pressing it into soft clay. There are lots of different designs available (see shop) and I can also make bespoke tiles.
The first part of the process is making the mosaic tesserae. The clay is stained, kneaded and rolled out, then burnished and cut into small squares and fired. The mosaics are made in reverse, the pieces being stuck face down onto brown paper in the required design. I try to draw with the pieces, so the lines of tesserae explain the form of the animals. When complete, the mosaic is concreted, turned over, then grouted and polished.
NB The mosaics are made from unglazed ceramic, so are porous and need to be protected from frost.
Hertfordshire Mosaic Project
Recently I have been joined at the studio by some friends to make a huge Roman-style panelled mosaic featuring Hertfordshire birds and animals. When circumstances allow, we'll put them all together, with twisted mosaic borders around each one and show the world! If you would like to get involved please contact me 07765 555 501