Published 24 April 2020
I realise I am very lucky in many ways throughout this whole shutdown period. I have a lovely house right overlooking the estuary; and a big studio building only 200 metres away. I can continue to work.
To start the day I drink my morning coffee from my favourite cup; a recent one of mine with a rich juicy turquoise glaze which has run down the outside, forming luscious huge globs at the base. It is a lovely generous size and fits my hand well.
I have several favourite small plates for my toast too; each one using a combination of inky cobalt blues and softer copper oxide greens. They are friendly and keep me company.
I love living with the pots I make; it gives me a huge amount of pleasure. I learned from my time in Japan that using ceramics which are works of art transforms the dining experience.
I like living in silence a lot of the time. I like working in silence in the studio too, as I often find music is a distraction, taking me off somewhere else in my head. One exception to this is a delightful CD given to me by an apprentice I had a few years ago, a young Japanese student. His friend is a musician, and composes idiosyncratic sounds using, for example, a child’s piano, incidental sounds, and the seductive shakuhachi.
Another time I do like listening to music in the studio is if I am doing something physical like kneading clay or moving things from A to B which I seem to have to do a lot of. Then I listen to a lively Swedish rock band called The Refreshments, who have a brilliant piano player. It is rocky, energetic, fast and rhythmic. Impossible to be still. I love piano music, of any kind, classical, boogie, anything; particularly bouncing rocknroll piano.
I am enjoying this time to develop new glazes, there is time to try things out and to test fire. I have a lovely new deep turquoise, a variation on the one on my favourite coffee cup. This one is near the blue end of turquoise. I do enjoy the alchemical aspect of ceramics; it is a kind of magic. When I paint my coloured glazes onto a sculpture, the colours are completely different to how they will look after firing. The inky cobalt blue is grey when raw for example, as is the deep translucent oceanic copper oxide green which is also grey when raw.
I am often asked if I have something in mind when I am painting, if I am imagining how its going to look, and the answer is no, I am not able to do that!! I have no idea how its all going to look after the firing, which is why opening the kiln is so exciting and terrifying!
And my way of working is instinctive and spontaneous, so I deliberately resist planning, as then I would be trying to reach something which is in my head. That therefore prevents me from concentrating on what is actually happening in front of me. So I am in the moment, like a sort of moving meditation, a painterly dance.
Right now as we speak I am working on a commission to make what could become, if all goes well, the tallest ceramic sculpture in the UK. There are still things to sort out, like how to make it for one! I have a maquette, which is lovely, and when it comes to scaling it up all sorts of things come into play, as it is of course much too big to fire in one piece. Even though I do have a large kiln its nowhere near big enough! So I have to work out how to make the form so that it can be fired in sections and then reassembled on site. That sounds quite simple, written in a short sentence!! But oh dear no! I have to work with engineers as there is a metal infrastructure to hold it all together, and the clay forms have to fit that, and we have to create a method of being able to join them all together while swinging about in the air.
So I am glad to have this time to experiment!!
Also, I am doing some commissions for clients in the form of large clay paintings; making very large tiles, and putting them together to glaze paint them as one big artwork. I have one in the kiln as we speak. That is very satisfying to do as allowing me to use the coloured glazes over a larger area is a lot of fun! I don’t plan what I am going to do, all I might allow myself to do before actually starting is to know what the first movement might be. Beyond that I actively resist planning in advance, and focus on my hands and see what they want to do.
This is also a good time to develop things which have been on the back burner; one of which is the second Temple. Since I made the first one which was exhibited to great acclaim at Chatsworth in Beyond Limits; 20th Century Sculpture in the Landscape, I have been itching to do another one! I learned a huge amount about architecture, about how to build a ceramic building, and now there is more I want to do with that knowledge! I can see more possibilities! So I do what I always do when embarking on large-scale projects, which is to doodle about on a small scale, trying things out in a playful spirit.
I suppose I am used to self-isolating anyway, I do it most of the time!!
I am very lucky too in that although I live in a village, on an estuary, we have a wonderful food shop just 50 yards from me. It is well-stocked, run by delightful cheerful people, and it means I have no need to go anywhere else. I cant remember the last time I was in a supermarket, I find them overwhelming! I sometimes have porridge in the evening, made with muesli, and eaten with a banana, blueberries, raspberries, yoghurt, and a dash of blackcurrant jam. Yummy!! And of course I eat it from one of my bowls.
Usually I have an assistant most days in the studio, and now that is not possible, so I am alone all the time. I don’t feel alone though when I am being creative. I also feel that the estuary keeps me company.
Just before lock down we visited Sandy Brown in her studio to select new work for our next exhibition, we are very much looking forward to the time when we can open our doors and welcome you to the gallery to see these.
Life under Covid-19 by Sandy Brown, for Josie Eastwood
Thank you so much for your support by voting for our gallery in the 2018 Muddy Stilettos competition. Thanks to you, for the second year running we have won the Best Art Gallery Award for our area!