- Jonquil Cook
One of the great pleasures of being a studio potter, aiming to create functional and beautiful ceramics, is when a client comes to you with a request that both fuels your creativity and challenges your powers to adapt to the vision of others! Last year an old friend of mine came to me with just such a request. He and his wife are actors, splitting their time between their home in Venice, California, London, and wherever else the studio requires them to be present. Last year was particularly harrowing for them, juggling careers and family life, and not getting to spend as much time together as they would have liked. It was for this reason that my friend asked me to produce an extra special wedding anniversary gift for his wife- and, as total chance would have it, this just happened to be their 9th anniversary which is symbolised by... Pottery!! you couldn't make it up.
My friend had already seen and admired most of my ceramics via instagram, facebook etc, but wanted me to create something much more personal for his beautiful wife. We discussed the various options at length, and eventually came up with the idea of adapting an original design that had appeared on their wedding menu cards 9 years previously! My friends had met playing opposite each other in a highly successful vampire-themed TV series, and one of the show's designers had produced the graphics for the menu:
This was the starting point for my commission: it reminds me of the much-loved early 20th century illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley, but the closer you look the more you see a cleverly disguised gothic horror vampire theme woven into this clever design: spot the spiders, the scorpion's tail, the carnivorous flora and the T rex amongst other creepy motifs!
Here follow a selection of images showing the process of making this gargantuan water jug and the set of drinking vessels that accompany it:
Here you can see clearly my working process: thrown vessels (made from Vulcan stoneware clay from Potclays uk) are painting with a tin oxide and china clay slip onto which I carefully draw my design. The slip is then carved away to reveal the raw clay beneath.
It was a really lovely process, from beginning to end, producing something that actually represented my clients' own love story, with a bit of gothic-horror fantasy thrown in!
The same couple went on to commission a dinner service from me. Again, this was all about producing something that was not only to be of high quality, entirely handmade, but was customised to suit their own tastes, interiors etc. Having agreed that the dark clay was a winner for them, the only other information I had to go on for the production of the following pieces was: 'she likes roses'!
So here they are: 6 plates, 6 bowls, 6 mugs (except I actually made 7 of each- just in case of breakages!!)
These images show the process, from freshly thrown plates (always bigger than the final plate- to allow for shrinkage), through decoration, drying, and then the final glazed product.
Of course being that my friends live in California this all meant an awful lot of careful packing and paperwork, but good old UPS delivered the pots safely and I was delighted to receive this picture recently of my work actually being used, as it should be, both functional and beautiful!