Jeremy James Ceramics Latest News

Printmaking with Mr Shearer

The tables were refreshingly turned recently, as I became student for a few days under the expert teaching of printmaker Charles Shearer. Over three days I made stencil and collograph prints.
Charles is a very fine printmaker and a calm, dedicated teacher.
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Charles Shearer with one of his 'demonstration' prints.
And below, some of the prints I made.

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Tracing the dead!

I found this today at the base of Derby cathedral. The cathedral has nesting peregrines and there are the remains of quite a lot of birds that were supper for these birds of prey. This leg was still 'ringed', I brought it home and after a little research had to phone a racing pigeon man in Stoke-on-Trent, to tell him that one of his birds would not be coming home...he took it well.

foot

The making of a print

I've just completed a new print entitled 'Windy Day', quite large by my standards, the image is around A3 in size. Too big to go through my press it had to be hand burnished. I thought it may be interesting to document its whole process, from design to finish.



The idea actually started from a previous work I had just finished, this is often the way, one piece leading to the next. In this case it was something quite different, a poster advertising a local orchestra's winter concert. For this I had put together a design of swirling leaves and musical notes, striving for a sense of movement and energy, but at the same time a 'wintery' feel. Keen to continue this idea of movement I made a rough drawing involving a cockerel and swirling leaves.



This was eventually worked up into a full scale drawing with the cockerel centre stage, more blowing leaves, a farmhouse in the distance and a poor woman desperately trying to hang (or retrieve?), her washing on the line.




The drawing was transferred to the lino block using carbon paper, and after a lot of cutting and proofing (see the trio of images above), the block was ready to print.




The block would just fit through my roller press, so I could take rough proofs satisfactorily, but it would leave very little white paper around the image. So the only option was to hand print the image- new territory for me. I taped some registration marks on the table to ensure the image was centrally placed on the paper. After some tests, I decided to print on quite heavy (300gsm), Somerset paper.



I ended up using two burnishing tools to make the print, the first a homemade baren (twine, card and teflon sheet!), and then to get a harder pressure a carved wooden egg. This sits nicely in the hand and worked very well.




Placing the paper on top of the block and burnishing the back resulted in rather 'under printed' images. Dampening the paper a very little helped enormously however. I had expected hours and hours of burnishing these prints, but each print could be made in around 10 minutes.



After some trial and error I eventually started getting some satisfactory prints.





The intention from the start was to hand colour the print. I paint with quite a lot of water and the hazard with this is that the paper 'cockles' or buckles as it dries. The way to prevent this is to dampen the back of the paper and tape it to a board to stretch the paper. As it dries, the paper shrinks and the tape holds it tight meaning the paper flattens. The surface can then be painted without it cockling.



The wonderful thing about painting onto a print is that you can have as many goes at it as you like, if one doesn't work, just print some more! So the first few tend to be feeling your way to work out what will work best, these tend to be scrapped. With this print is was important to tease out the cockerel from the quite busy background, but to still ensure the picture worked as a whole. Using gouache paints I work in the dark areas first to give depth and then start to build up the coloured elements. It is very easy to overwork this stage, and leaving enough white paper is always a challenge.



After several versions I managed to get one that I'm fairly pleased with. The resulting image hopefully captures a blustery day, when washing dries on the line but can blow away, when leaves are swept up and tossed into the autumnal sky and where animals and birds go slightly crazy with the wind.


'Windy Day', 44cm x 32cm


Lino printed boxes

For those who were interested in how I made these printed boxes, here is a very brief 'step by step'. I first found a template for a simple box. The site www.templatemaker.nl , is excellent. It allows you to choose a box design, enter the dimensions that you want your box to be and it will generate a printable template for you- very simple and it works.



This then gave me the pattern I had to work to. My design had a range of hawks and falcons, with a sleeping fox on the lid. This was drawn up and then transferred to the lino block ready for cutting. Once cut and proofed I printed my final design on some coloured, medium weight card. Paper would have been too lightweight as I wanted my boxes to hold a small ceramic sculpture, so it needed to be fairly robust. Once the ink had dried the card and design was then cut out with a scalpel.

Folds were lightly scored with the scalpel and then the 'flaps' were glued to form the box, with a bone used to press down the newly glued areas.
The completed box.

Sleeping Fox

The last few months have been involved with some planning new future projects and print making. Today however saw the creation of a sleeping fox in clay. The break from ceramics, albeit brief has been helpful. This was an enjoyable piece to make.

My first film!

This is something I have been meaning to make for a long time - a short film of me making something. With a lot of help from my son, here it is, now available on "youtube", click on the picture below to view it.

Camera Bird Box

This time of year is good for placing new bird boxes. This one I fitted today has a camera mounted inside, linked to my television and computer. The camera is hidden and will not disturb the birds at all. Of course there is always the chance that no birds will choose to nest! The box has had a promising start though - less than 12 hours after putting it up, a blue tit was inside the box checking it out!

Gathering materials

I have been out at Ilam Hall in Derbyshire today. I am working on a project in conjunction with Fine Art students from the University of Derby and The National Trust. Later in April the students will be spending a week making site specific sculptures in the landscape around the hall.

Today was spent coppicing hazel that some of the students may use in their sculptures.

Cormorant

Attenborough nature reserve, near Nottingham is a short drive from my studio. Just before Christmas I spent a couple of very cold days there drawing from the hides. Many birds were using the reserve to feed and rest in the harsh conditions, in particular cormorants. This is the first made from those drawings, it has been fired once ( a biscuit firing), and here it is coloured with oxides and a little glaze, ready for a second firing.

Silver swan completed

You may remember me writing about a year ago of my collaboration with silversmith Anthony Elson to model a swan for The Bishop of Lincoln, (you can read the full story here). My task was to model the swan in clay, after which it would be cast by Anthony in silver before being mounted on the end of a silver staff. This will be used by The Bishop during ceremonies at the cathedral. So it is now finished, and turned out rather well!

Polar Bears

This is one of a series of polar bears that I have just started - several are sleeping, others are on icebergs!

The Isle of Islay

“You must come back when the geese are here!”

Immediately obvious is just how many barnacle geese there is on the Isle of Islay, they are everywhere, on the sea lochs, the flooded pastureland and the fields, these are birds seeking the relatively mild weather of Islay to spend their winter, before returning north to breed in April. The sound that these vast flocks make is extraordinary, each keeping in touch with their family groups within the flock, and it surrounds you from ground and sky level. Stopping at the head of the sea loch Indaal, there were several thousand, along with widgeon, curlew, dunlin and greylag geese. Squalls were increasing from the southwest and after a brief stop at RSPB Gruinart, we parked up at Ardnave close to the most northerly point on Islay. Almost immediately upon leaving the car a flock of around 20 chough got up with their distinctive ‘peeow’, like a child’s pretend gunshot. They circled us before flying directly overhead, silhouetted dramatically against the grey sky. It was like looking up at a completely finished lino print, stark and bold. I make a hasty note that this should be a new large print, too large for my small press back in the studio, and so probably making it necessary to be printed by hand. The chough on Islay number around 60 pairs, there only being less than 300 breeding pairs in the whole of the UK, this represent a sizeable proportion of the entire countries population. The farmer at Ardnave overwinters his cattle outside specifically so that there are cowpats all year round! These are essential to the choughs food supply as they feed on larvae laid within the pats. The weather drives us back to the car, heavy rain and wind is now coming in, the weather changes very rapidly on the island.

After desperate weather forcast from the previous days, it was a surprise to wake to windy but dry conditions. Heading back towards Bruichladdich we spot two otters just off shore moving along the coast. Hurriedly unloading cameras and telescopes we watched them from the shore, an adult and youngster, the latter almost riding on its parent in the water. They briefly come out of the water to cross some rocks, we can see that one is much larger than the other, almost certainly a mother and it’s pup. I shoot off some rapid photographs, hoping some may be ok and record something of this excitement. A good start to the day

Driving north we past some large white birds grazing in a field, we cautiously stop and check them – whoopers ! A small family group, the adults with their distinctive yellow bill, the younger birds still a grubby brown, yet to get their brilliant white feathering of their parents. Some are asleep creating flowing, curving forms, the lookouts watch as steadily with their necks straight and erect.

The weather had been steadily closing in and it really was becoming too wet to continue outside, the only option was the hide at RSPB Gruinart. Teal, widgeon, little grebe, lapwing, godwit and European White-fronted geese were a few of the thousands of birds spread out in front of us on the flooded fields. Then a shape rose up that we had been searching for since arriving on Islay, the unmistakable silhouette of a hen harrier, a female juvenile with the distinctive white ‘ring-tail’ marking. Only visible for a short time, she sent panic amongst the smaller more vulnerable birds.

There had been regular reports over the last few days of snow bunting at a small bay on the coast, so as the light dropped we made this the last search of the day. The small burn where they had been seen proved fruitless, so we moved to the less likely wind hammered beach. Sand hurtled past us at ankle height creating complex ribbon patterns as it disappeared down the open expanse of beach. The light was going, the wind rising and we were getting damper by the minute, either the bunting had moved on or they were staying very well hidden – the day was done and it was time to get shelter.

Our last full day on Islay , our dilemma, the rugby world cup final was being televised; the weather was fine however and if Islay had taught us one thing it was to make the most of any dry weather – we went out. Parking on the shore of Loch Indaal we walked towards Bridgend. Large flocks of barnacle geese were in the bay, the still conditions allowed their calls to carry well. Amongst them was Brent geese, Pink footed geese, golden plover, dunlin, curlew and redshank. Closer to the shore rock pipits sparred with linnets over terrain. Skeins of even more barnacles were constantly arriving from the south to join the huge mass on the loch. New Zealand won the rugby by a single point, but we saw some great birds in a fabulous location.

The ferry trip back was stormy, a few hardy souls ventured on deck and those that did were rewarded with the sight of Northern Divers floating, unperturbed by the stormy seas.

At this time of year some birders have reported seeing over 100 species of bird on Islay in one day! We had only managed 68 in 4 days; it mattered little, I had been back when the geese were there and there were 38,000 of them. Back in my studio in Derbyshire, still excited by this wildlife rich, dramatic island I am about to make a start on the new large ‘chough linocut’.
PS. You may also be interested in my Islay Distillery series of prints

Max and Poppies

Another new lino print nearly completed. Direct from our garden here in Derbyshire, with thanks to a fantastic poppy display this year and our neighbours cat - Max!

Blue tits

Not a photograph that would appear on a David Attenborough programme I know, but it was taken through a narrow crevice of a stone wall with a mobile phone! Whilst walking last week in my nearby country park I saw a flash of yellow and blue feathers disappear into an apparently solid wall. The parent bird came out, hesitated and flew off for more food for her new brood - that was when when I stole a quick photograph of this new family. A few days later I went up again to see how they were progressing -- all had gone. I hope they fledged and are flying over Derbyshire somewhere.


Gannets, fulmars and puffins

Just back from RSPB Bempton Cliffs up on the Yorkshire coast. fantastic views of gannets, fulmars, guillemots and a few elusive puffins. Bempton puffins it seems do not use rabbit holes to nest in, as is normal, but rather nest in the cracks and fissures of the cliff slopes.

So now considering embarking on a puffin lino cut, though as usual I am finding it difficult to decide on compostion and colour printing sequence.

Easter at Home

Blown and decorated eggs, tulips, simmnel cake and a Richard Bawden cormorant - the traditions of Easter in my house anyway.

Eric Gill

I recently had cause to stay in Ditchling in East Sussex. Eric Gill, stone carver headed a small community of artist / craftspeople and families here in the early part of the 20th Century. I knew a little about Gill before my visit but it led me to read his biography by Fiona MacCarthy, ('Eric Gill', pub 1989 by faber & faber).
Gill was certainly a controversial figure and many only know him for his somewhat extreme sexual drive and inclinations. Reading more of his life beyond this however does reveal a fascinating artist who has left an extraordinary legacy, from his 'Gill sans' font, still used throughout the world, not least of all by London Underground to many large public sculptures. Gill was a strange and complex man. He was certainly guilty of many sexual improprieties and held some extreme and unorthadox views; he was also a person capable of profound ideas and startlingly beautiful sculpture, wood engravings and typography.

Head Modelling Class



I ran a modelling class this week at The University of Derby with some of the BA(Hons) Fine Art students. Working from a model each student sculpted a life size head in red clay. No one had worked directly from a live model in this way before and I think most were surprised at how much visual information is encapsulated in a real head, this then having to be translated into clay. Working the soft clay onto wooden armatures, everyone worked for 2 days producing lively, strong, if not always anatomically correct sculptures. The plan at a later date is to make a flexible mould from this clay original which in turn can be used to produce a wax, plaster or bronze version.
I will be running another class of this sort privately in the near future, if you are interested in knowing more about this this just drop me an email with 'subscribe' as the subject and I will send out details to you once they are finalised.


A birthday gift

Having just marked another year and turned....something or other, amongst the gifts and cards I received this little beauty from very good friends Tim and Jane in Norfolk. It is an earthenware hip flask thrown and constructed by Tim and decorated with inlaid white clay by Jane. A really lovely gift. If you would like one or something similar, (or even if you don't..) have a look at Tim's website at www.timwilley.com. Always a good read and an excellent blog (see "Tales from the Wood") where their latest projects are always engagingly described and illustrated.

A long overdue return and ...swans!

After a too long a break from this news page I have at last got around to updating! I will really try to keep these pages a little more frequent.

One of the most recent commissions has been unusual and rather interesting. Silversmith Anthony Elson asked me to model a swan for the top of the stave carried by the current Bishop of Lincoln. The swan will eventually be cast in silver and mounted on a silver staff which will be around a metre long. The swan is about 14cm high and I have modelled it in an oil based clay onto a small armature (a wire support embedded in the clay to support it.

The intention was to give the swan the appearance that it had either just landed from flight or had just got up.

So why a swan? Bishop Hugh of Lincoln (1186), apparently had a swan that was very attached to him, following him everywhere and even standing guard over him as he slept. So the staff and swan is a nod to this past Bishop , now a patron saint of the sick, shoemakers and of course swans. When cast in silver and finished I shall of course post more pictures.

Farnham, Art in Clay

20th - 21st November, 2010. 'Art in Clay- Farnham' Farnham Maltings, Surrey
This one will be a first for me, but the event itself is long established as one of the most important events in the ceramics calendar, the Art in Clay Pottery & Ceramics Festival returns to the Farnham Maltings, George Square, Farnham, Surrey this November. There will be new work there, as well as long established favourites.

A Day with the Falcons


Just returned from a ‘falconry experience’ at The Falconry Centre, near Stourbridge. This was a gift from my daughter and rather a good one at that! In spite of a bitterly cold day the birds flew from my fist for a wide range of incentives. The little owl fed on tiny morsels of chicken, whilst the vulture gulped down (dead),day old chicks in one swallow. Having one of these birds delicately alight on your fist was remarkable; feeling the creatures weight and its’ movement as it re-balanced itself brought home yet again to me that these birds in particular are really not of this world but something very strange and special. As I held them it dawned upon me that they had no interest in me whatsoever, I was merely a convenient perch from which to spy out the next piece of food. I was reminded of the late poet laureate, Ted Hughes writing of a hovering bird of prey in his poem ’The Hawk in the Rain’,

“Effortlessly at height hangs his still eye.
His wings hold all creation in a weightless quiet,
Steady as a hallucination in the streaming ai
r.”


Easter Lambs

Yesterday the Bradley's opened their farm to the public at Sutton Bonnington, Leicestershire. The first lambs of the year had just been born, as had some calves. Pregnant ewes awaiting their time lay around in comfortable stalls, whilst those who had given birth continually 'lost' and then re-found their newborns, creating a constant noise of bleeting.
Children were allowed to handle the lambs much to the concern of the ewes, the newly borns seeming completely unconcerned at being stroked and petted.

All the animals appreared extremely well looked after, and the farm had a very calm air about it.

Pizzas were available, (you had to prepare them yourself), which were then were baked in a wood fired oven right there in the farmyard. The day was a rare treat, thank-you to the Bradleys and their team for a very generous day.

How to build a large cockerel!

This was on the website a little while ago, I removed it but have since had questions about how the cockerels in particular are actually made - so here it is reinstated, a step by step explanation of how I build the large cockerels.

Lino prints

I have been making some lino prints of late. This simple process, known to many from their school days is very simple but capable of some very strong images. At it's most basic it involves cutting away areas of a sheet of lino, what is removed will print as white, what is left as black. The lino is then inked up and sent through a press to print the image onto paper. Some of the prints I will leave as black and white, others I am hand colouring with watercolours. I have twelve nearly finished which go onto the site in the near future.

Back from the East

I have just returned from a weekend in Suffolk, largely spent in and around RSPB Minsmere. This is one of the RSPB's finest reserves set on the Suffolk coast close to Aldeburgh. It was a cold but intensely bright weather with this beautiful area looking stunning in the sunlight.

I was fortunate enough to witness a normally extremely elusive bittern who decided to show itself for a short time. Emerging from the 6' high reeds it started to feed delicately, before a pair of geese took exception to this shy bird and it slunk back to it's watery home. A real treat and one that more than made up for a relatively 'quiet' weekend of birding.

Lecture and Demonstration on 21st March at The University of Derby

The lecture and demonstration on 21st March at The University of Derby that I am doing has booked up at quite a pace. If you are planning to come along to this I would book as soon as you can. Places are limited and there are only a few left. FULLY BOOKED

Back again..

For the last week these two have made almost daily visits to my garden bird table. In spite of very watchful local cats and aggressive robins they appear to get a good share of bird seed. Though very nervous compared to other garden birds they did allow me to stand in my kiln room doorway and get some reasonable photographs.

Winter visitors

We so rarely get these in our garden, I am always envious of those people that say they find them to be regular visitors. This pair of bullfinches turned up today, possibly driven to feed at the bird table by a very hard frost last night. Rather appropriate as it happened as I have been working on a sculpture today involving a bullfinch for the forthcoming 'Fauna' show at Gallerytop.

Lectures and demonstrations announcement

University of Derby. Sunday 21st March 2010.
FULLY BOOKED
The day will be an opportunity to hear me talking about my work and watch practical demonstrations of how the work is made. Starting with an illustrated talk, I will cover topics such as drawing and photographing wildlife on remote islands, snow and ice sculpting in Russia, and of course a career in sculpture.
Lunch will be provided, after which there will be an afternoon of practical demonstrations and the chance to gain an insight into the making of such things as a large strutting cockerel, or perhaps an alert brown hare. I will explain the complete journey of one of his sculptures from conception through to design and ultimately it’s making and firing.
I will also be bringing along a selection of my sculptures and prints which will be for sale on the day.To book a place just complete the booking form below and send to the address on it.
Booking form for Lecture and demonstration (172kb)

Plaster classes

'Plaster Classes'
Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th December 2009.
Sorry fully booked
These two days are centred around how plaster can be used with clay in the form of moulds, stamps, sprigs etc. The Saturday is a full day of demonstrations by myself including mould making, slip casting, press moulding and much more. the Sunday is a chance for you to learn and actually make a 2 piece mould suitable for slip casting and press moulding. It is possible to attend both or one of these days. To book a place print out this booking form available below and return to the address on the form.

Bronze Hare Sundial at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The sundial made it to Jekka's garden at Chelsea..and more importantly the garden won a gold medal! So a huge congratulations to Jekka McVicar for a wonderful display. The hare nestled amongst her vibrant herbs and looked perfectly at home.

Havergate Island

I have just returned from a week on a island off the Suffolk coast. Owned by the RSPB, Havergate Island is a short boat ride from Orford. Access is normally quite limited (details here) , but through an arrangement with the RSPB I was able to spend two weeks resident on the island, the first week was at the start of April. The 4 mile long reserve is home to a wide variety of birds such as godwit, gulls, oystercatcher, plovers and avocets- as well as a relatively tame population of hares. I spent my days drawing and painting and enjoying the solitude (yes, I was all alone on the island!) Many of the images made during the two weeks will become prints which of course will be available through this site. The work will also be shown at RSPB Minsmere, date to be announced. My grateful thanks to all at the RSPB who made this project possible.

Bronze hare update

He is now finished! Joanna had finished the engraving on the dial as well as the fitting to the hare sculpture. The dial itself is very beautiful, simply cut Roman Numerals but elegantly and cleanly executed. Given that the two elements were made by different people and apart from each other they work extremely well together. Joanna Migdal and myself were at Castle Fine Arts Foundry last week for the colour patination process. Once more the craftsmen there did a fine job colouring the sculpture in a wonderful warm range of ochres, tans and whites. The sculptures first public appearence will now be at RHS Chelsea Flower Show on the 20th May. If you don't manage to make it there it can be seen at Art in Action, 17th - 20th July, where I will also be showing other work as well as demonstrating some of my making processes.

Bronze hare update

The hare has now been cast by the foundry Castle Fine Arts; and a beautiful job they have made of it! There is still much work to be done of course including chasing (working the metal itself with tools to regain any detail lost in the casting process) and patination. The sundial element is now being made, and this will be held in the hare's front paws. I'll post pictures of this as it is made.

Bronze Hare Sundial

For the past few months I have been working with sundial and clock maker Joanna Migdal to make a bronze hare holding a sundial. The sculpture will eventually be 1 metre in height. At present it is with a foundry being cast up. It's first outing will be at Chelsea flower show in May 2008 in the show garden of herb grower and past gold medallist at the show, Jekka McVicar . I'll post further updates as the piece develops.

New Zealand

A trip to New Zealand over Christmas and New Year gave me the chance to see some incredible new wildlife. I'm still sorting through the 3000 odd photographs I took, but I was fortunate enough to see albatross, shearwater, variable oystercatchers (all black, like the rugby team!), sperm whale, fur seals and many, many more. I'm sure they will gradually filter into the work very soon.

Tiree

Tiree is a small island off the west coast of Scotland. Our family holiday was spent here. An extraordinarily beautiful island it plays host to a wealth of wildlife, including seals, brown hare, numerous meadow and rock pipit, wheaters, hen harrier, peregrines and many, many, more. The island has a very vibrant light that intensifies colour, I would like to bring some of this into new sculptures, quite how, remains to be seen!
So its back to work - Tiree inspired sculptures for the show at The Bircham Gallery in North Norfolk, this November.

Art in Action 2007

It was very good to meet old friends and make new ones at this annual arts festival. So much good work was on display, and I am sure I didn't get to see it all. The level of organisation as always was excellent, with the people of Waterperry Gardens looking after exhibitors and demonstrators so very well.
This was particularly remarkable because of the weather. On the Friday of the event Oxfordshire had it's heaviest rainfall in 40 years; it began raining at 5.00am and didn't let up until 1.00pm, and this was very heavy rain. We later learnt of serious flooding in the county and beyond. The site very quickly became extremely muddy, with several areas flooding. 'Art in Action' staff sprang to action with straw for muddy areas and in severe cases even helping to relocate some exhibitors to less wet areas.
Ultimately we all survived, with a tale to tell - that we were at 'Art in Action in 2007' - in that rain!
Thank you to everyone who bought work, I hope you enjoy it. Anyone who ordered work at the show should receive it early next week (30th July onwards), it will all be posted 1st class on Monday 30th July.