It was winter, early in 2018. Rain battered the glass panes in my bedroom window and a howling wind stole through all the nooks and crannies in the 300 year old house where we were living in France. Duvet pulled up to my chin I was devouring the latest publication of Philip Pullman: 'La Belle Sauvage', the first instalment of what was shaping up to be a breath-taking prequel (and since, sequel) to his Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman's writing has always resonated with me on so many levels, and ever since my first reading of the story of Lyra and her daemon, Pantalemon, back in the mid 90s, I have adored his work, and he remains one of my all time favourite writers. As I read the book the deluge continued outside for days: it turned out to be one of the wettest winters since records began; '...the rain had set in with a fury. It fell not in drops but in sheets, and the ground was running with it, so that you couldn't see anything solid: just flowing fields of bitter cold water...' (Pullman, 2017, The Book of Dust, volume 1).
The flood in Pullman's story takes on immense, powerful, far-reaching proportions, destabilising the human occupied world and blurring the boundaries between the material and immaterial. It's an amazing read, and it inspired me to make something that solidified my own responses to the writing and the constant rain that fell day after day in my own world. The book cover of the handbook Penguin edition bears an illustration by Chris Wormell:
I found myself doodling a design inspired by Wormell's representation of dark water, in blue and black, and sought out a black clay that would serve as the basis for a series of vessels.
The vessels (or bottles, or vases if you like) were all to be subtly different in form and size, but the 'water mark', the upper limit of the sgraffito wave design, would remain consistent. Originally intended to be an installation of many vessels, displayed together, these individual pieces have proved quite popular and there are now hardly any left.
Black earthenware vessels, decorated with cobalt oxide slip and a glaze with
added copper carbonate.
Chris Wormell's illustration for the sleeve of Philip Pullman's Book of Dust, volume 1, La Belle Sauvage. Penguin Books, 2017.