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Different types of clay by The Ceramicist aka Vivien Phelan

October 26, 2022

The Ceramicist Vivien Phelen Skylark Galleries

It's been a while since I last wrote my ceramic artist blog due to commissions flooding in following my TV appearance on BBC One's 'Home is where the art is'.  It led to me making lots of personalised ceramic pieces, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Skylark Galleries in Gabriel’s Wharf - and Skylark Galleries online - is where six ceramic artists show our work - including Erika Isaak our glass artist.

We have all been busy and have taken part in many different national exhibitions and opened our own studios in our respective home towns.

Richard Dickson Porcelain head of Homo Factus Stoneware

Porcelain head of  Homo Factus by Richard Dickson
Stoneware 34cm H x 40 cm W Price £800.00

Ceramics are ubiquitous - from house bricks to bathroom tiles, to dinner plates and artefacts.

Different clays

Clay is present in soil and can be found in many gardens. There are several different clays and all contain natural chemicish, notably linked to the Samurai Warriors who are, themselves, known for their loyalty, strength and bravery.  Even when these fish are caught, they do not wriggle or bounce, even when the fishermen use their knives, they just keep perfectly still and accept their fate - just like a Samurai warrior would.

Jonquil tells me, "I have always drawn and sculpted fish, possibly because I am a Picean so I was always being given things with fish on them: birthday cards and suchlike.

A platter in progress by Jonquil Cook using white slip over a brown/black stoneware clay body.

A platter in progress by Jonquil Cook using white slip over a brown/black stoneware clay body.

"I remember falling in love with a beautiful, antique ceramic pot in the window of a shop on Lee High Road back in the '80s. I couldn’t afford to buy it but it must’ve stuck in my mind because it was the fishy motif that I was inspired to carve on my first sgraffito piece.

"For the design of the koi carp I remember looking at a lot of Chinese and Middle Eastern wood block printed fabrics too. I try to be vaguely anatomically correct in my drawing, but it’s more about the movement, and the way the fish move around the surface that I have created.

"Apart from very large platters, made in a mould, all my pieces are first thrown and turned from stoneware clay. The slip that I carve through to create the design is a 50/50 mix of china clay and ball clay, with an addition of cobalt oxide.

Stoneware Wildflower vase by Jonquil Cook

Stoneware Wildflower vase £490 by Jonquil Cook

"I paint the slip over the entire surface, allow it to dry, and then sketch out my design using my trusty handy travel box of watercolour paints. Once I am happy with the placing of the fish, I begin to carve using a selection of tiny scraping tools.  The finished piece is twice fired and glazed with a transparent Chun glaze to 1260 degrees c."

The Ceramicist Vivien Phelan Skylark Galleries

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