A week with clay master - Eric Landon, aka @Tortus
I started the year with an intention: to play and experiment more with clay. I had previously become skilled at slip-casting and although I love this process I was drawn to the more personal and tactile process of making vessels on the wheel. Some time about March I slipped off the bandwagon and just started making things for other people - not that there is anything wrong with this, but it wasn't allowing me to grow as an artist.
Last week I went some way to returning to my original goal of experimenting more this year. Except up until then I didn't have the skills or the knowledge to be able to fulfill my goal.
I had been following Tortus for a couple of years and it had been a dream of mine to go to Copenhagen to do one of his courses. But with two young(ish) children I thought it was just wishful thinking. But, my very supportive partner agreed to take time off from home to be the stay at home afternoon parent.
So this blog post is going to be about my time in Copenhagen, it'll be mainly pottery but I'll do a few highlights about my time as a tourist here too. If you follow me normally you'll know that I normally do a round-up of what's been happening in my #createinsummer (formerly spring) hashtag. Its when I normally share how creatives are influenced by the season, this month the focus will be on just me for a change.
I hadn't intended in advance to write a blog post on my trip, but I know lots of people enjoyed my IG Stories so it seems good to have everything in one place, as well as serving as a record for anyone wanting to follow their pottery dream,
Behind the first floor windows is where the throwing was carried out, and the bottom floor is the Tortus boutique, displaying the beautiful shapes of our master craftsman. This stunning building is in the heart of Copenhagen, and is one of the city's oldest, dating back to the 1700s ( I think, don't quote me on that).
The workshop was divided into demonstrations, where Eric would share a lot of his knowledge of how clay works, how you can get the best out of it, and the extremes to how you can push your clay. We were also given lots of practical time where we were able to try out Eric's techniques.
Eric explained to us that the beginning of a good shape is all about how you treat your clay. Sometimes he wedges his clay up to a 100 times. If you are working with 2kg of clay - its important that all of it is malleable and workable.
He spent a lot of time talking about how to use the body effectively, rather than just muscle to be able to manipulate effectively large amounts of clay. We talked about the importance of 'coning' the clay - to make sure the clay is properly centred on the wheel, as well as being lubricated with water.
There was a lot of information to take on board, and there were times when I felt a little defeated. I'm used to working with very small amounts of clay, and all of a sudden I was being presented with maybe four times what I can normally cope with. Its a steep learning curve. And anyone who has worked with clay will appreciate that it is not an easy task. But I believe with dedication and practise anything is eventually possible. My work didn't increase in size considerably while I was there but I learnt techniques in shaping and have gained lots of inspiration which I'm sure will influence my future makes. And whilst Eric is a serious perfectionist about his clay, he was also a fun and relaxed guy to be around.
In the first two days we covered the basics of cylinders and bowls; and above shows the fruits our labour. On days 3 and 4 we looked at closed vessels and started to experiment with Eric's techniques. We had a fun glazing session on day 5 using the same glazes that Eric uses for his own work.
And on the last day our work from those first two days was unloaded from the kiln.
I was super happy with my little trio of vessels.
Every day we were presented with a fabulous vegetarian lunch, prepared by Eric's wife and business partner. It was nice to get the chance to chat with this very multi-cultural bunch of students - this week they were from America, Canada, Norway, Austria and even Rwanda. The conversations were also enrichened with Eric's apprentices who were always on hand to offer their brilliant technical knowledge on how to get the most out of the clay.
Adjacent to the workshop space is a lovely leafy courtyard, you would never know that you are in the middle of a busy and cosmopolitan city.
My first weekend I stayed near the original port area, Nyhaven and all its beautiful coloured original warehouses.
Bikes are super popular here, and the dedicated cycle lanes feel much safer to ride on than our scarey lanes in the UK.
I spent the weekend before the course exploring much of the city with my partner. And we hired our bikes through Donkey Republic, and you do everything through a neat app - so clever!
Copenhagen is such a spacious city with interesting architecture; it boasts all kinds of art and design museums, it has its own palaces, a Botanical Gardens; as well as a thriving and enviable restaurant scene - there really is something for everyone in this city. Those Danes are on to a good thing.
As a little side note, one of the highlights of the trip was meeting one of my dear instagram friends and fiber artist, Fanny aka @createaholic. She lives in Sweden and, along with her partner, made a special road trip over the bridge to come and hang out with me for the day. Really, its amazing what friends will do for you. She was as funny, and inspiring in real life as she is on screen. She even brought me some little purple plant cuttings which I am cherishing - as we are both plant lovers.
Since returning to the UK, I haven't had a chance to do much throwing as I've been glazing work and doing about a hundred jobs that mothers have to do, but I was pleased to see that I have come back with some of the skills I learnt.
I think the focus for next month will be creating little vessels to display garden blooms and I'll be sharing images from makers and creatives who join in with #createinsummer.
For those interested in my work the shelves of my internet shop are a little bare, but I have recently fulfilled a small collection for @LewesMapStore, a gorgeous on-line store of beautifully curated gifts, homeware aswell as independent magazines and books. They will be available from Monday 2nd July.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my little creative adventure. For anyone who is deliberating investing in themselves, or not having the courage to follow the dreams then I say to you - just do it! Who knows where it will take you.....