front cover Pot number 6
Essay by Tim Gent
The pots in this exhibition have been taken from the first five firings of a new kiln I built last year. It is three times bigger than the last, yields pots that are very different and I am still getting used to its idiosyncratic ways. The firings still last five days and nights and I still get through mountains of wood but because the kiln is longer, much of the setting is further away from where most of the wood is burnt. The ash that reaches these pots is finer and lighter. The pots at the front still get heavily ashed and can be affected by the embers that roll back from the fire box into the front setting and by stoking wood among and on top of these pots.I seem to be firing fewer pots on their sides and am using fewer scallop shells. You try things and then you move on. The pots from further back are much quieter. Even so they have been subjected to the same five days of firing and are profoundly affected by that process. The celadon glaze is a good example. I like it because it tends to be a cool grey and it is rarely watery. The ash that lands on these celadons transforms the grey to blue with flecks of yellow. Because this is taking place throughout the five days of the firing, I think that it adds depth to the glaze which might not otherwise be there. By the way, I am red/green colour blind. Maybe everything I say about colour should be taken with a pinch of salt. Svend Bayer 2012
Niels Bohr, a rather impressive Dane in his own right, once remarked that an expert is simply a person who has been doing something long enough to have made all the mistakes. After nearly four and a half decades of wood-fired potting, and if only by this definition, Svend admits that he may qualify. If you poke a nose down the side of Svend’s smaller kiln shed, between the remains of an old field boundary bank and the ragged rear face of one of his many neat woodpiles, you will find the evidence. Fortitude may be needed by those of a more sensitive disposition. A deep swathe of shattered vases, bowls and teapots drifts up against the bank. Broken pots disappear off beneath dead beech leaves with the disconcerting suggestion that the devastation may continue for some distance. It does. When Svend needed to improve the drainage around his combined home and pottery, to deflect the results of Devon’s ever impressive rainfall, he filled his trenches with barrow loads of these sherds. If you own a Svend pot, you possess not only a thing of beauty, but a survivor. Not that these mistakes are often made at the wheel, at least not any more. Cardew’s opinions on the matter are well known, and few would doubt his estimation of his pupil’s innate throwing skills. Another four decades of hard graft and experience, supported by a relentless sifting through ceramic shapes from around the globe and across millennia, have turned that inherent ability into an act of almost pure expression.
All forms of art echo their maker. Nothing can be produced without the personality of the creator showing somewhere in the product, even when removed directly from the process. A Pininfarina car may evolve on a drawing table or computer screen, to be fashioned by machine, yet still emerge from the factory door into the warm Italian sun very definitely a Pininfarina car. If the maker is apparent here, it is no wonder that a pot is so heavily charged with either the substance or insignificance of the potter. Each subtle pressure of palm, finger or thumb is transmitted immediately to the clay. Every angle of force, each leg brace, bow of the back, lift of the arm, results in a direct transmission of ideas, experience and skill from thought, through body, to pot. A poem is a product of mind. A pot is a product of everything that makes a potter. At their most elevated, each vessel embodies a direct representation of experience, contemplation, physical skill, co-ordination and character. As they leave the wheel these are supremely personal objects. And then, consciously and deliberately, Svend sets to work to ruin them. Or he may as well. Even in his more successful firings a significant number will simply fail to hold up to the rigours. When things go wrong, occasionally quite seriously wrong, he may pull literally hundreds of pots from a still very warm kiln, before taking them straight round the corner to add to the pile.
Iâ€™ve heard that event. Anyone who still harbours suspicions that woodfired stoneware potters indulge in firings simply as a means to establish some tough outdoorsman credentials, should really consider the cost in time, effort and fuel, should dwell for a moment on what is being dispatched. There are much easier ways to look rugged and independent. There are also far easier ways to make pots. But for this potter there is no other method to transform his cool, grey raw vessels into something in which aspirations and hopes may coalesce. Svend knows what he wants, and has learnt how to achieve it often enough to keep going â€“ just. In fact Svend doesnâ€™t actually like firing his kiln at all. This may come as something of a surprise. It certainly does little to bolster the image of the solitary pyromaniac, striving to make vast numbers of pots for no other reason but to burn huge amounts of wood in some selfindulgent and very dehydrating frenzy. He loves building kilns mind you. Hardly a moment seems to pass at Duckpool without there being either one in planning, or fresh new fire bricks rising swiftly in curving courses from the dusty ground. Although even here, with all his experience, he is quick to admit that it is fortunate that the flame seems to enjoy the results as much as he does. In the manner of a good traditional boat builder, Svend relies on constructing a kiln that is right because it looks right. Science is there in the mix of course, along with many a hunch and supposition, yet in the end
line and curve are all. Hardly a surprise. But the firing itself? Not only is the process drawn out, labour intensive, often uncomfortable and just plain expensive, too many things can go wrong. Too many things do go wrong. Svend has likened the whole experience to juggling. As the firing begins, up they go. No problem in the first couple of days, just two or three very familiar little balls. A simple pattern, seen so many times before. Eyes lifted, you focus on the pattern; maintain the flow, constantly adjusting, introducing minor corrections in response to experience and intended outcome. Then, as the firing extends, from out of nowhere a new ball enters the mix. That’s fine. This happens, and you’re pretty sure you’ve seen this ball before, haven’t you? You start to make corrections, the pattern is almost restored before another sphere appears as if from nowhere, this one a little smaller than the others, yet also, irritatingly, a touch heavier. The interlinked arc of flying colour and shape trembles. Trying not to overreact you shift your feet, eyes flitting amongst the tumbling orbs, which now glow and flicker in the light and heat of the kiln. Is one missing? It’s hard to tell, and you haven’t time to look down and check because the small ball is still refusing to fit in . . . and isn’t that another colour up there, possibly not even a ball at all . . . ? Often the pattern of the firing is maintained, even in those last few frequently fraught hours. Svend has been juggling for a long time now
of course, often many times in a single year. Yet even then, when everything is held together, the number of truly inspiring pots can be very few. I once joked that Svend’s methods, firing so many pots in the expectation of such limited reward, were not far removed from a professional photographer, who may reject hundreds of slightly substandard images from a shoot, before selecting possibly no more than half a dozen. I thought he might object to this analogy, but it seemed to appeal. Yet as with the photographer, a good one at least, I wouldn’t want to give the impression that this is hit and miss. Far from it. Both Svend and our imaginary cameraman carry significant experience into the creative arena, to combine it with very definite goals, aspirations and expectations. Neither would take any single photograph, nor make even a solitary pot, without the absolute intention, or at least realistic hope, that the product will shine. Fortunately Svend’s pots often do just that. Yes there may be many rejects, but these individual losses shouldn’t be confused with failure. That would be missing the point. With his experience, a vast swathe of mistakes littered behind him, Svend could easily create a firing regime in which almost all his pots pulled through, but would any demand, or even deserve, attention? Would
a single vessel require closer inspection, to be picked up, turned and appreciated, for the saga of its unique creation to be unraveled? Not as far as this potter is concerned. Nor this writer. Svendâ€™s firings are a gamble, a conscious and sometimes very uncomfortable speculation. Fortunately for us that venture of chance, painful as all forms of risk taking can be, carries with it just enough true nerve-tinglingly exciting examples of success, to keep this very valuable potter going. Despite that pile behind the kiln shed Svend persists. He continues to put himself whole-heartedly into each pot, continues to take risks and make mistakes, sometimes even the same mistakes, but ultimately, and ever so importantly, continues to place those rare and rather wondrous ceramic success stories where we can put our hands on them. Tim Gent writer and photographer 2012
Biographical Notes 1946
Born in Uganda to Danish parents. The youngest of four.
1965-68 Exeter University. 1969-72 Pupil of Michael Cardew. 1972-73 Thrower at Brannam's Pottery. 1973
Marry. Travel to Japan, S. Korea and S.E. Asia to look at potteries and big woodfired kilns.
Set up Cornwall Bridge Pottery in Connecticut with Todd Piker.
Set up pottery at Sheepwash in Devon. The pottery site was chosen for its proximity to the North Devon ball clay mines and local sawmills. Since 1975 has lived, worked and raised a family at Sheepwash.
Exhibitions Solo and group exhibitions both in Britain and Europe and overseas in N. America, Australia, New Zealand, Kuwait, India, Malaysia and Brazil. Solo exhibitions since 2000:Harlequin Gallery, Greenwich. Beardsmore Gallery, London. Rufford Ceramics Centre, Rufford, Notts. North Cornwall Gallery, Cammelford, Cornwall. University of Utah, Logan, Utah, U.S.A. Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A. Sturt Gallery, Mittagong, N.S.W., Australia. Gallery Lykke, Odense, Denmark. Beaux Arts, Bath.
John Ruskin Award.
S.W. Arts Major Award.
S.W. Arts Major Award.
Utah State University, Logan, Utah, U.S.A.
Sturt, Mittagong, N.S.W., Australia.
Has given workshops in Britain, Germany, Holland,
New London Arts Center, New London, Minnesota, U.S.A.
Belgium, France, Canada,
Sturt, Mittagong, N.S.W., Australia.
U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand.
Kilns I love designing and building woodfired kilns. I have built 14 and have at least three more in the pipeline. Most have been for me but I have also built kilns for others in Britain, Australia and the U.S.A.. The first two were 600 cubic feet. The largest, which I had for 10 years, was 800 cubic feet and the smallest, built for a friend in Wales, is 50 cubic feet. All are based on kilns I saw in Thailand and Korea on my year-long travels there. Their beauty is more important than their function, but fortunately the two things seem to be related. They have all worked. S.B.
sizes in cm
1. 2. 3. 6. 12. 14. 19. 20. 27. 65. 66. 67. 69. 70. 74. 76. 79. 84. 88.
77.0 x 55.0 64.0 x 56.5 62.0 x 45.0 68.0 x 53.0 50.0 x 44.5 55.0 x 40.0 44.0 x 30.5 15.5 x 54.0 9.0 x 35.0 33.0 x 26.5 36.0 x 25.5 26.5 x 17.0 26.5 x 20.0 35.5 x 24.5 34.0 x 25.5 34.0 x 27.5 26.5 x 20.0 29.0 x 23.0 19.0 x 14.5
Large Jar. Shino with shells & heavy ashing Large Jar. Kaki glaze with ashing Large Jar. Unglazed, very heavy ashing Large Lidded Jar. Unglazed, very heavy ashing Jar with Lugs. Unglazed, very heavy ashing Large Round Bottomed Jar. Unglazed, very heavy ashing Round Bottomed Jar. Unglazed, very heavy ashing Large Dish. Shino with under glazed iron bird Dish. Mishima. Celadon over white slip Jar. Unglazed with very heavy ashing Large Pitcher. Unglazed with very heavy ashing Pitcher. Unglazed with ashing Pitcher. Unglazed with ashing Bottle. Mishima. Celadon over white slip Store Jar. Shino with heavy ashing Store Jar. Kaki glaze with ashing Store Jar. Celadon with ashing Store Jar. Pale celadon Handled Bottle. Unglazed with heavy ashing
sizes in cm 89. 98. 99. 100. 109. 111. 114. 115. 117. 127. 177. 179. 189. 213. 216. 218. 221. 255. 273.
Handled Bottle. Unglazed with heavy ashing Jar with Lugs. Black glaze with heavy ashing Jar with Lugs. Black glaze with heavy ashing Box. Celadon Small Box. Shino with very heavy ashing Box. Celadon Teapot. Unglazed with heavy ashing Teapot. Kaki glaze with heavy ashing Jar. Mishima. Celadon over white slip Small Bottle. Celadon Jar with Lugs. Unglazed with heavy ashing Jar with Lugs. Unglazed with heavy ashing Small Handled Bottle. Unglazed with heavy ashing Large Jar with Lugs. Unglazed with heavy ashing Jar. Celadon Jar. Celadon with heavy ashing Jar. Kaki with ashing Small Jar with Lugs. Unglazed with ashing Small Bottle. Celadon
19.0 x 12.5 17.5 x 16.5 19.5 x 16.5 18.5 x 20.5 14.5 x 14.5 14.0 x 14.5 14.5 x 15.0 15.0 x 14.5 20.5 x 15.0 18.0 x 11.5 35.0 x 32.0 33.0 x 30.0 12.0 x 9.0 58.5 x 58.0 32.5 x 26.0 31.0 x 25.5 31.5 x 27.5 13.5 x 14.5 15.5 x 12.5
The ones that didn’t make it.
Goldmark Gallery, Uppingham, Rutland, LE15 9SQ 01572 821424 Text: © Tim Gent 2012 Photographs: © Jay Goldmark Design: Porter / Goldmark / Uttley ISBN 978-1-909167-02-5 goldmarkart.com
GOLDMARK CERAMICS MONOGRAPHS 1
Phil Rogers New Pots 2005 2 Clive Bowen New Pots 2006 3 Lisa Hammond New Pots 2006 4 Mike Dodd Recent Pots 2007 5 Ken Matsuzaki (2007) Thirty Years of a Living Tradition 6 Svend Bayer (2007) New Pots 7 Jim Malone (2008) The Pursuit of Beauty 8 Phil Rogers (2008) A Potter of our Time 9 Lisa Hammond (2009) Unconscious Revelation 10 Ken Matsuzaki New Pots 2009
11 Mike Dodd New Pots 2009 12 Clive Bowen New Pots 2009 13 Svend Bayer New Pots 2010 14 Nic Collins New Pots 2011 15 Ken Matsuzaki New Pots 2011 16 Jim Malone New Pots 2011 17 Mike Dodd (2011) The Perceptive Spirit 18 Anne Mette Hjortshøj New Pots 2012 19 Lisa Hammond (2012) A Sense of Adventure 20 Svend Bayer Svend Bayer 2012
GOLDMARK CERAMICS FILMS 1 2 3 4
Phil Rogers - A Passion For Pots Ken Matsuzaki - Elemental Svend Bayer Nic Collins
5 6 7 8
Jim Malone Mike Dodd Anne Mette Hjortshøj Lisa Hammond
For further details or to order: visit www.goldmarkart.com or phone 01572 821424
At their most elevated, each vessel embodies a direct representation of experience, contemplation, physical skill, co-ordination and character. As they leave the wheel these are supremely personal objects. Tim Gent
Published on Nov 9, 2012