Beinn-na-Caillich – Photograph by Simon Larson (www.simonlarsonphotography.com)
Patricia Shone was born in Scotland but grew up in South Devon where she met clay at school. After studying ceramics in London, finances and a love of food led her into working as a chef both there and in Italy. Eventually the cooking took her to Skye where she returned to potting and where she has remained for twenty years.
My work is informed by the powerful landscape around me on the Isle of Skye. It develops in response to the feeling of connection with its inhabitants and their passage across the land. By walking the paths of predecessors I contribute to the formation of the paths at the same time as obliterating previous footsteps; as an incomer to this community I absorb and am changed by its culture whilst altering it by my presence here. The nuances of contradiction in the human experience of life are very visible here, but the community survives, just as the surfaces of the land are eroded but the substance of it remains constant and immutable.
I make mostly functional forms, boxes, bowls, jars, rather than direct representation of the landscape, because they are innately human vessels; they represent the human condition of surface and content.
The natural textures produced by clay reflect the formation and erosion in the geology of the land. The techniques I use to make my pots encourage the development of these textures on the surface of a tight and formal vessel.
It has taken many years for me to begin to understand this path in my work, and that our scars from living can be seen mirrored in the scars on the land.”
Patricia uses techniques in her clay work which reflect these processes. The pieces are hand formed by texturing and stretching. Sometimes by throwing, sometimes carving from solid lumps. The muted colours are achieved with oxides, slips and glazes but most of all by the firing processes and different clay bodies.
“I want the natural forms, colours and textures of the work to engage the viewer with a landscape beyond daily experience. As we advance, technologically, the surfaces we touch become increasingly synthetic and machine finished. I feel that what challenges us now is the reality of nature – wild, uncomfortable, dirty, unpackaged, visceral experience.”
Video by Craft Scotland
Wood firing is a long and hands-on method of kiln firing requiring continual stoking over many hours. Depending on the type of kiln, clay and the nature of the ware, the firing can be as short as 10 hours or as long as 10 days. The longer firings tend to be higher temperature (1280º -1320ºC) often to develop heavy deposits of ash on the pots. The ash melts at these temperatures to form part of the glazing.
“I have a small fast firing phoenix-type kiln which I built in 2013. I fire this on my own to 1280ºC in about 18 hours. Sometimes I can extend the firing depending on available help and the weather. We are exposed to the prevailing south west winds so weather is an important consideration in the progress of the firing. I use locally grown timber, mostly pine, and garden prunings. I am not aiming for heavy ash deposits but a fluttering of speckles to dirty up the surfaces and give the work a physical connection to the place of its making. Recently I have been using charcoal and peat filled saggars for some of the pots to achieve the dark black and stone like qualities of the rocks around me.”
The work produced from the wood kiln is stoneware, often glazed and will usually function to contain water. Due the the stretching techniques used to obtain the textures occasional pieces will be porous even when fired to these high temperatures.
Raku is a low temperature earthenware technique involving a very rapid glaze firing cycle. The pre-fired pots are placed into a hot kiln, heated up to about 1000°C and removed carefully using long tongs.
After removal from the kiln they are immediately immersed in combustables, sawdust, peat, leaves, the local newspaper, within an enclosed chamber. This leads to an incomplete combustion known as reduction, which draws chemically combined oxygen from the surface of the pots and gives them their unique range of colouring.
It was traditionally used in Japan to produce bowls for the tea ceremony but the pots were left to cool without the post firing reduction, this being a development by potters in America.
It is a fast and immediate process of transforming clay into ceramic. The weather plays a part in the progress of the firing and the subsequent smoking.
This type of low fired raku ware is porous and should not be used for liquids or food. It should be kept out of bright sunlight which will bleach the colour.
(The pots can be washed in warm water with a little soap or brushed gently with a soft nail brush to remove dust. They should be dried thoroughly before coming into contact with wooden or delicate surfaces.)