I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Chris Jordan’s albatross photographs. I sent an email off to him asking for permission to reproduce one of his images here but I haven’t received a reply so if you click on his name you will go straight to the images of the dead albatross chicks.
I planned to take photos of all the steps involved in making the bowl. Once I started to work I got so caught up with the making that I kept on forgetting to take the shots. I would glance up in the middle of adding something to the bowl and see the camera and think,”shit I forgot the photos” and quickly snap away.
I rolled out some clay. It is exactly the same as rolling out pastry except if you nibble bits of the edges it tastes like mud.
I rolled out another thin sheet of clay and then cut out an albatross shaped piece of clay.
I then started to paint the albatross with black and white slip. Slip is liquid clay. You can buy slip from the clay shop. I make my own slip from white clay and add body stains to make all the colours except black. To make black slip I make up a black oxide mix which is 3% black iron oxide, 2% manganese,2% cobalt oxide and 2% nickel oxide. I then add a couple of teaspoons of this mix to half a cup or so of slip. It should fire to a lovely dark charcoal colour (fingers crossed).
I then pressed shapes into the belly of the albatross for texture and to highlight the foreign nature of the plastic.
I decorated the shapes with commercial underglaze colour as well as coloured slip.
I now carefully picked it up and plonked it on top of a hump mould and hoped like hell that it wouldn’t rip too much, as the clay was really thin.
Now I needed to add another layer of clay to make the pot a bit thicker. So I rolled out some more clay, painted it with some slip so that it would stick and then added it to the bowl. I squashed the new layer of clay down with a rolling pin and then smacked it with a piece of driftwood planking until I was happy with the shape and the texture.
I then painted this layer with black slip.
I still had the pieces of clay leftover from when I had cut out the albatross shape. So I painted them with a slip I had made from local clay gathered from the side of the road, it fires to orange. So I stuck them onto the bowl as well.
I covered them with clingwrap so that they wouldn’t dry out any more and then I squished it all together with the rolling pin.
Once I was happy that everything was all squished together. I took off the clingwrap and gave it a bit of a bash with the driftwood paddle.
I left it on the mould until it had dried out to not quite leather hard. I am an impatient potter and all the time I had been making the bowl, I didn’t have a clue how the albatross inside the bowl had fared.I didn’t know if it had ripped or distorted and I was itching to find out. So as soon as the bowl could be flipped off the mould and still retain a bowl like shape, I turned it over.
And here is the dead albatross.
It took me all morning to make one bowl and the whole process from start to finish was very satisfying. I don’t feel quite so helpless in the face of the enormity of the tragedy of the albatrosses. I have since made another albatoss bowl and I am hoping like mad that I will be happy enough with them to put them in the exhibition.