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  • Jonquil Cook

Umbell-ievable

I have a thing with umbellifers. It began when I was living in southern Burgundy, in the beautiful French countryside. The month of May is always so exciting for plant life and our small village was surrounded by fields and woodlands and riverbanks for fabulous dog walking. We planted an angelica in our garden and in it flowered to magnificent proportions. I did a whole series of paintings and linocut prints using a motif of the huge umbrella shaped blossoms.




I painted a fresco, with the help of my lovely friend, Renée, on my bedroom wall. It was white on pale grey, umbellifers and hollyhocks and grasses. Waking up to it every morning probably helped imprint on my consciousness a motif that I return to again and again in my work.





Last year I found myself working in a very different, very urban and industrial environment near Woolwich Dockyard, south London. I was experimenting with stoneware, new slips and glazes, and I made a little bowl with my old familiar umbellifer design. It very quickly sold from the Made in Greenwich shop and I realised how much I enjoyed engraving it using sgraffito technique.

I just can't help it. I find myself producing pottery with certain motifs depending on the seasons. It's only really in winter that I compulsively engrave brooding bare silhouettes of trees on my plates and bowls and jugs. In the spring it's all about umbellifers, and in the summer when it's really hot and sticky it's quite nice to carve fish swimming in cool fresh waters!

This exceptional, bizarre spring of 2020 has allowed me lots of time to explore and appreciate my local natural environment here in leafy southeast London. I am happy to say that some of the best things about living in the remote French countryside can also be found a stone's throw from my home in the borough of Lewisham. There are river walks and woodland full of woodpeckers and nesting waterbirds. Twice a day I take my dog up through Hilly Fields to wonderful views across the city in one direction and far away towards the Kent countryside in the other. Hilly Fields has got some wonderful wild areas; the horse chestnut blossoms have been absolutely stunning this year, as of course has the cow parsley which has freshened my desire to make a few more pots.

This is why I decided to decorate the third and largest of my recent vases, hand built in my back garden during lockdown, with a dancing array of flower and seed heads. Here are a few images of the pot in the making, and after it had been biscuit fired. I will post an image of the finished pot once it has been fired to stoneware temperatures.

















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