Helen Baron Pottery

 
big jug pears 

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. Many people can identify at a glance the work of an individual potter or factory. It can be very humble or high art, there is a huge array of materials and techniques at our disposal. 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 burnished, 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. 

Domestic Earthenware

 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 when formed, 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. 

Anyway...

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.

And in my very long odyssey in search of the Perfect Jug, I'm trying to make the kind of jug that might be used in a Thomas Hardy film, that Tess of the D'Urbevilles might have filled with armfuls of wildflowers and plonked on the kitchen table after a romantic walk.

 

big green jugs 003   jugs and plates 038

031

 
 
Smoke-fired Pots
 
These earthenware, heavily grogged pots are thrown, turned and burnished with the pit-firing in mind, where they will be transformed by smoke. I like them to have a narrow base to give them lift, but strong rims, which I think help to give them poise and power and the visual anchor necessary for the atmospheric, often planetary effects that will come later. They are turned to reveal their form and left with a smooth, white outer surface but retain their throwing lines inside. When they are sufficiently dry I burnish them at least twice by rubbing over the whole exterior surface with the back of a teaspoon. When completely dry they are fired in an electric kiln. The colours come from the subsequent pit firing.
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. A fire is built over the pots and once burning the pit is covered. The following day the pots are removed and washed and the successful ones are polished.
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.
 
 
3 new pots 003  selected 2 6 smoke fired pots 003