Ceramics: Seeking inspiration from nature and the garden

Over the last few years we have been having great fun exploring a new pastime, ceramics. Having spent a couple of years understanding and practicing the basics of building and glazing we are now beginning to have enough confidence to try out something more experimental. As with all experimentation this is sometimes successful but often not. However that is half the fun.

I think what I like most is the mix of art, engineering and science that goes into each piece you make. In addition to making something aesthetically pleasing you have to understand the mechanics of making it stand upright both during the build and firing. Finally the science around the glazes and the mix of oxides they contain is fascinating and often the outcome is unexpected.

Last autumn I came across this delightful group of mushrooms on a decaying piece of wood. These delicate groups are so transient and only last a few days so I felt there was an opportunity to capture this moment in time before they faded.

The resulting ceramic ‘mushroom-scape’ worked out rather well I think. The piece was hand crafted in crank stoneware clay to make it more robust for an outdoor piece. It was glazed in an Oatmeal glaze using different thicknesses of glaze to highlight the texture of the mushrooms and the ‘trunk’ base. I was particularly pleased how well the Oatmeal glaze reflected the colour of the real mushrooms.

The second set of pieces draw on seed heads from the garden. Nearest to the camera is a large nigella seed head and next to it an opium poppy seed head. Each stands about 5-7 inches high.

Something I learnt quite quickly is that to create both the look and a strong structure you have to mimic the way the plant itself constructs the seed head. This kind of work makes you look very closely into the detail of the form you are trying to build and this I find fascinating.

Both of these pieces are made using stoneware clay with the pieces shaped using various slump molds. The poppy seed head starts from two half spheres which are then joined and shaped. The nigella seed head is created from eight hollow teardrop shaped pieces that are joined at the edges to form the basic shape which is then refined.

Each of these pieces has been glazed with a Green Hue stoneware glaze with the addition of Tenmoku glaze. Tenmoku over Green Hue creates the lovely chestnut brown highlights.

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Art in an English Garden – Petra Rich-Alexandre

This month’s guest artist is Petra Rich-Alexandre.  Born in Niteroi across the bay from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Petra now lives in England having qualified from Birmingham University with a first class honours degree in Anthropology and Classics.

Petra has kindly allowed us to reproduce a number of sketches she has made of the garden here at Waverley.

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Sparking that artistic flame – drawing inspiration from the flower garden

The flowers that we grow in our gardens and love for their natural beauty have been an inspiration for artists for hundreds of years and across many cultures.

For some the challenge has been to create detailed botanical drawings and paintings whilst others like Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe have focused on the abstract.  Impressionists such as  Monet and Manet sought to capture the feeling and experience of flowers and gardens in their paintings rather than the detail.

The drawing of flowers has not purely been an artistic pursuit.  Pictures by Judith Leyster in the sixteen hundreds were painted to promote, through catalogues, the highly prized and enormously expensive varieties of tulips and were also thought to provide a cheaper substitute for those who could not afford the real thing.

Up to the beginning of the 20th century the portrayal of flowers in pictures has often carried deep symbolic meaning.  This symbolism dates back to a period when ordinary folk were not able to read or write.  This is a fascinating study in its own right and a simple search on the symbolism of plants in Google will start you on a fascinating journey.

Despite this wealth of artist material and heritage there is just a simple pleasure in drawing the beautiful flowers that grow in our gardens and in the countryside.  Drawing and painting these flowers makes you look so much more deeply at the exquisite form, detail and colours in the individual flowers.

Following along in this great tradition we have included here three pen and watercolour paintings designed and drawn by our daughter, Jenny Lucey.  They depict three typical English country garden flowers that we grow and use in our arrangements here at Honey Pot Flowers ; foxgloves, aquilegia and rudbeckia.

As well as enjoying the original pictures in their own right they now underpin the branding for the business and are incorporated into all our business cards, printed bouquet messages cards and other stationary – the honey bee in each is not an accident!  Most importantly for a flower farmer growing seasonal flowers, these designs also enable us to explore the possibility of new markets.  The vast array of new printing services allow us to produce fabrics, aprons and greetings cards to order and generate a range of new income streams.

"Rudbeckia" by Jennifer Lucey
“Rudbeckia” by Jennifer Lucey. Copyright 2015

About the artist:

Dr Jennifer Lucey is a Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the University of Oxford specialising in biodiversity, ecology and sustainability issues within the oil palm industry.  She has worked for a number of years across Borneo and Indonesia and has developed a portfolio of artwork and fabric designs based on her love of the natural world.   She is happy to undertake commissions for specific projects and can be contacted by email at: Jenniferlucey@hotmail.co.uk

"Foxglove" by Jennifer Lucey
“Foxglove” by Jennifer Lucey. Copyright 2015