correct tension

In my work the notion of correct tension refers to making with a tension that is appropriate for the work to survive the firing process.  In a broader context, correct tension relates to my attempt to achieve a balance between work and relaxation.  This has become a circular process as, through quirky circumstance, my relaxation has become my work.  Correct Tension is also the title of my solo show at Pan Gallery in May 2009.

Knitting is formed in rows of continuously looped stitches.  With laundering and wear, it will generally appear smoother and more evenly worked than when new. In contrast, crochet stitches are twisted and locked in place and relaxation of tension does not occur as it does with knitting.  This variation of tension has been the cause of untold frustration.  I could successfully fire a delicate complex knitting pattern, but not its crochet equivalent.

It took years of testing yarn, patterns and firing schedules before I hit the jackpot and accidently stumbled on the secret.  I had been firing extremely slowly in the early stages, but slowed it down even more the day I fired some damp pots with the knitting and crochet.  Eureka!!!  Not a crochet stitch broken. Here’s what’s happened since….

a brief history

It’s a cold wintery day and the studio is a mess after weeks of never quite finishing what I start……… any minute now I will go out there and turn the heater on and the music up loud.  Well, maybe I’ll work in the house just this once.  But before I start that big job, I’m starting this one……

I started making ceramics in the mid-nineties and soon became seriously hooked.  Four years out of art school nothing has changed.  I’ve knitted since I was a small child. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember learning to knit.  It was just what the women in my family did when they sat down.  Somewhere along the way I found clay and felt like I’d come home. It was just so right for me. But never did I imagine that I’d be able to combine my two passions.  I guess stranger things have happened.  I dreamed I was soaking baby clothes in glaze and hanging them out to dry before firing them. On waking I dismissed the notion as impossible, but it wouldn’t go away. It was only when I did some serious investigation into Shino glazes that I reconsidered the dream and came to believe it possible. Shinos are so stable that they stay where you put them and I found in my recipe collection that I had a few glazes that not only retained the pattern of the knitting, they also retained the detail of the wool fibre as well. Years of technical challenges later I find myself making knitted and crocheted bowl and plate forms made of solid glaze.

And clay?? Any day now ………

shino inspiration – snow platter detail

glazed knitting

memory bowls*

singing bowl*

After making good progress with glazed knitting I thought I’d give crochet a go so that I could make circular pieces.  But I had to learn to crochet, baby steps at first.  With perseverance I have mastered some reasonably complex patterns.  This, however, was the easy bit.  The firing process was fraught with frustration and shattered stitches and it has taken me close on six years to achieve a success rate that I’m happy with.  These images are of some of the survivors of those early firings.

crocheted bowl

cup & saucer

d’oyleys

* Photography by Stuart Hay, ANU Photography