Neil MacDonell | Finding a stark beauty in decaying industrial landscapes...
Neil MacDonell writes about how the transformation of materials continues to enthral him; a process that is at the heart of working with clay as materials alters from one state to the next... raw materials to working clay, wet to dry, dry to fired... It can be argued that this transformation continues even when works are fully fired, as they move and respond to environmental changes.
Transformation is also found within his subject matter, seen in the decaying industrial landscapes. In this weeks post, Neil talks about the themes within his ceramic practise and his journey with clay.
Finding a stark beauty in decaying industrial landscapes I am drawn to places of solitude and desolation. As nature reclaims these places I imagine the past lives and passions crystallised as crumbling wood and rusting steel.
The textures that appear in my work are derived from the fragments of detritus that I have found in such places and the forms are vehicles for these
Over the 45 years or so that I have been working with clay I have built up a collection of hundreds of ‘bits’, mostly made of wood, steel or plastic but now existing in the form of flat clay moulds. Many are little larger than postcards but there are also plaster moulds of larger objects such as the surface of a car radiator and decomposing cardboard box. A particular favourite is a piece of architectural moulding made of zinc picked out of a dumpster on Broadway, NY. There is also a can with a battered surface devastated by time spent rolling with the tide along the shingle of the south coast.
Some recent work features underglaze colours, reflecting the tones of residual paint found on some of the source material. Most pieces, however, are washed with suspensions of copper, iron or cobalt oxide before dipping in a dry ivory glaze and firing to 1280’.
Following a successful degree show, I had profit enough to buy my first kiln and continued making. Full-time secondary school teaching remained a
vocation. As my career progressed promotion served to increase my workload but I continued to produce and exhibit my own ceramics.
market in France that introduced us to European ceramics and artists. We had also discovered ‘Potfest’; the northern ceramics market founded and run by visionary potters Geoff and Chris Cox. Meeting Dutch potters at this event led to invitations to attend markets in the Netherlands and Germany.