Recently, my thinking around my OCA studies changed substantially. It dawned on me that I can tailor-make my own learning experience to suit my love for ceramics, which I have not been able to do while studying for a degree at OCA.

I have one of the best ceramic teachers, John Shirley. He is not only a great ceramicist, but also a gifted teacher. His workshops are packed with technical knowledge, valuable practical advise and he has a keen interest in his students to help them on their journey to become ceramicists. It was at one of these workshops that he challenged us to find three qualities that make our work unique to ourselves. I have never really given this much thought, but being able to verbalize these qualities have increased my awareness and simplified my process a great deal, even though many other qualities continuously jostle for a place in the top three.

At the time (July 2015), I felt that the expression of an ethereal quality is what I aspire to in my pots. For me, this translates into ethereal colour, the most difficult part of ceramics. Something that I have not managed to achieve myself, nor seen in the work of other artists, even though I am looking for it all the time. It is like seeking the face of God, you know how it feels but you can’t visualize it. My second quality that I long for, is simplicity of form. In the same sense that Diebenkorn described it as ‘complexity resolved’. For me, it is a metaphor for the complexities of life stripped away and is expressed for the time being in cylindrical shapes. Thirdly, I look for tension. It could be in the slightest curve of an otherwise straight cylinder or it could simply be in the paradoxical narrative that a line conveys.

I am still a long way from reaching these qualities and my thoughts are only just beginning to take shape, but I see many glaze tests and experiments ahead of me, which I would like to write down, here, on these virtual pages.

My thoughts are always a little bit ahead of my most recent pots, but here they are:

I made this hand build pot after a visit to the Kalahari, remembering the colours of sunrise – pink, blue and dry grasslands. The drawing is my interpretation of a Jean Francois Millet’s The Sower.

Porcelain vase 14 x 18cm, June 2015

Porcelain vase 14 x 18cm, June 2015

After  many years of hand build work, I returned to working on the wheel, with John Shirley, and I’m becoming intrigued with the simplicity of cylinders.

Stoneware cylinder, 10 x 12 cm

Stoneware cylinder, 10 x 12 cm, July 2015


About Charleen Brunke

Ceramic Artist
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