Moving from Belfast to rural Ulster, I got to explore the countryside. We were always finding flints and pottery shards in newly ploughed fields. This fired my imagination on the past peoples who left traces in the landscape.
This has deeply influenced how I make my Bogland ware.
I like to choose a site that has ancient stories of past people. Collecting clay, gravel and organics connect my work to those stories. These are worked into stoneware clay. I tend to favour jars and bowls, hints of a domestic life once lived but absorbed and preserved in the landscape.
My love of Seamus Heaney's poetry referencing the bog has also defined my Bogland work-
...each open pool, the unstopped mouth of an urn, a moon-drinker
Kinship by Seamus Heaney
Pieces are subjected to several firings in an electric or wood fired kiln. These multiple firings push the materials to their limits, achieving wonderful organic effects echoing the textural surfaces of turf, moss, lichen and geological formations.
Pit Fired ware
I have an innate interest in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. When I started throwing pots, my natural form emerged, referencing the ancient vessel of the past. When it came to glazing, it just didn't fit these archaic forms so I turned to pit firing.
This is an ancient process of firing clay. Typically done in an earthen pit, temperatures can reach 1120 celsius. Fuel such as seaweed or native wood is collected from a special place. Plants naturally absorb minerals from the soil or water. Through a 3-day pit firing, a carefully controlled reducing atmosphere releases these minerals, leaving the landscape's unique colour signature on the pot.
Inspired by geological formations along the coast, these vessels are made with local clays and gravels collected from cliff and eroded shoreline and finished with ash glaze.
Ice age clays and basalt cliffs are a visual records of geological epochs making the viewer question our own traces on the landscape's future.
Wood fired ware
Referencing domestic ware of the past, bowls, jars and cups are wood fired in an anagama kiln for 3 days. A combination of fly ash, flame and sometimes soda catch on the neolithic rock art designs. This creates unique surfaces of colour and texture. Awarded a grant from The Art's Council of Northern Ireland, my new kiln will be built this Summer.
A big part of my work is working on site specific projects. Designs can be made from materials gathered from or fired with fuel collected from a special place that reflects the ethos or nature of a particular institution.
Do get in touch if you are looking for a one off piece for your company or corporate items to reflect your ethos or home place. Here are some examples of collaborations I have completed:-
Celebrating Seamus Heaney
In September 2017, HomePlace opened.
A new interactive exhibition space and theatre to celebrate the life and works of the Nobel Prize Winner Seamus Heaney.
My work has taken inspiration and materials from the irish bog land to create my Bogland Ware.
Seamus Heaney's poetry dealing with this environment, its history and human connections have influenced my making.
I was asked to create a lectern for the Helicon Theatre.
It is made with oak, echoing the great ancient oak forests which emerge from the bog, preserved as "bog oak". The lectern's form is reminiscent of the portal graves that are dotted around the landscape.
Each ceramic panel is made with local clay, combined with grass and rushes collected from the bog. Carved and finished with willow ash glaze, the panels represent the turf face pattern created through turf cutting.
Since 2018, I have made work for Mount Stewart on Strangford Lough.
This beautiful estate has evidence of human activity dating back to the Bronze Age.
Using organics from the many gardens, I pit fired bowls for their gift shop. These bowls are marked with the colours unique to Mount Stewart and are a special piece to remember your visit.