Today we talk about the work of Jack Doherty, who finished his pieces with soda friring tecnhique, and it makes a very attractive result on them
Jack, Do you give more importance to the final surface colour and texture with your soda-firing technique or are the shapes equally important?
The shapes and forms are really the most important part. I want to use the soda firing to ‘grow’ the surface texture and colour from within the material in a natural way like the surface of a tree or the weathering of bricks.
You made a note to yourself; just make the pots that you want to make, did you achieve this?
It has taken a long time to be able to forget things I have been told and to learn from my experience to ignore other influences. I have to trust in myself and concentrate on what I believe.
Have you found what you are looking for in your life through your ceramic work?
Working with ceramics has given me a way to shape my life and brought me the opportunities to travel, meet people and learn. But my work is never completed. I am always looking, always evolving, shifting and exploring new possibilities
What are your basics in life and work? Do you even divide them into two areas?
I cannot divide life and work. I live and work in the same place and share the time between making, cooking, reading, gardening etc A fusion between creativity and everydayness.
How did you learn the process you use in your work ? One clay body, one coloured slip, one single firing? Did you make lots of prototypes ?
I learned to stop doing unnecessary things. Ceramics is an enormous area with many possibilities. In the beginning I tried many different things and experimented with techniques but when I discovered what I really loved I stripped my work down to a simple philosophy I have concentrated only on that.
Do you investigate and fabricate by yourself all your production?
I make the pieces by myself but I also work with Sarah, my partner, who is a curator and we plan projects together.
In your work you make a lot of research, how would you define your work?
I make vessels which have their origin in archetypal forms from history. Once we needed ceramic pots out of necessity to store or preserve food and carry water: the basic essentials of life. We no longer need ceramic forms in this way; their reason to exist has changed now and evolved. Pots have the ability to sustain us visually and emotionally – they have a rich presence when we see them in changing light and shadow. Sometimes, when we are not looking..
Each piece you fabricate can have a different shape and because of the soda-firing process the finished surface is never the same. Do you mark each piece in some way ?
The final gesture which I make on each piece is a mark which impresses and changes the form in a subtle way, giving it a sense of direction completing the form in an individual way. I also impress each piece with a small mark using my initial J but hope I hope people will recognize my work without this.
For whom do you fabricate these pieces? Do you ever imagine the final client?
I make my pieces for people who will love the work. On many occasion the pots find people. Sometimes the pieces go to exhibition but work is also commissioned by people that I meet.
Can you describe the process for production of a ceramic design?
I make my work in series or groups so I will plan a number of pieces based on a form idea. I work within the shape and proportion and will make and maybe around ten of each form. They are made on the potter’s wheel with soft porcelain clay. They will then dry a little – just enough to allow me handle them to turn and finish the very important underneath of each piece. They are left to dry, a careful process which can take several weeks for some of the larger vessels. I then apply the slip containing copper which will produce all the colours in the firing process. The kiln is loaded and a firing takes up to fourteen hours at a temperature of 1280 c. A mixture of soda bicarbonate and water are sprayed into the kiln. This is quite dangerous! The sodium vapour reacts with the silica in the clay and develops the colour and texture in the atmosphere of the kiln.
What would be your ideal project?
I think that potters and architects understand and visualize space. I would like to work on a project which gave me the opportunity to make and create work for site specific spaces.
…and your perfect day?
The day after a firing when I open the kiln – it is full of surprises like Christmas!
What is the most difficult thing in your work?
Remembering all of the details and concentrating over a period of time – it is sometimes the tiny techniques and processes which I have learned over time which make the difference between ordinary and special.
What more would you like to achieve from your work?
There are still many things I would like to explore and achieve. My work is an on going process. Larger forms made for special places.
Tell us about your normal day.
Everyday is different. I spend time each day on a number of different projects. I am the guest editor of the Ceramic Review magazine and I am the chair of the group, organizing Ceramic Art London.This the annual international ceramic fair held at the The Royal College of Art, London. So some time is spent on planning and talking to people but I try to clear time for making. The best moment in the day is in the evening often spent relaxing in the kitchen with my partner, Sarah – cooking, talking and drinking beer.
What is your biggest dream for the future?
My biggest dream would be to design and build a place to live and work, the perfect place to show people what we do.
What is beauty for you?
Beauty is the cause of an indescribable emotional reaction – a shock which takes my breath away.