Ben Cresswell Riol
The processing and production of clayware is time-consuming, which was evident when I recently visited the Royal Stafford factory in Stoke-on-Trent where numerous ingenious solutions have been developed to accelerate production. One area that is highly complex is that of getting rid of water, namely the pre-drying and bisque firing stages, which are vital parts of the chain before final firing with glaze can be considered.
One means to accomplish this is to drastically reduce the material thickness, which naturally produces its own set of issues, and is where I began my journey. Unsurprisingly this has to be approached mechanically as there is a limit to the thickness we can evenly roll physically, and so I purchased a pasta machine.
In my pursuit to manufacture the thinnest sheets of the material I could manage I found that there was a stage in which the moisture in the clay would adhere to the rollers, producing fascinating textures and curves. These contributed to an even greater sense of delicacy than the material itself.
I have attempted to capture this and allow the forms to develop, which has dictated the means by which I have combined them, and this has defined the family of four pieces in the collection:
- Allowing the form to remain complete
- By draping over another form
- By rolling over another form
- Using a slip cast mould and inflating the form into it
The final collection is an assortment of vessels, sheets and forms. Whilst the focus has been on using porcelain, I have also experimented with other clays with slightly less dramatic results, and more damage to the rollers.
Lastly, glazing adds a further dimension to the process, for in addition to colour and sheen it also helps bind, seal, smooth and strengthen the delicate sheets.