Helen Baron

Pottery, Tiles and Mosaic

Introducing

A love of clay is at the heart of everything I make - pit-fired pots, domestic earthenware, tiles and mosaics.  I enjoy the connection one feels with potters, tilemakers and mosaicists of the past and of other cultures, through shared processes and experiences. It seems to me that working in pottery one is bringing together the four elements of earth, water, fire and air and adding to them humanity. Whether by luck or skill, if these five elements are all balanced in a pot it can have an indefinable rightness - soul. Occasionally one comes across a pot which looks absolutely right, in its proportions, decoration, honesty, usefulness. 


Craft Spotlight

Domestic Pottery

Domestic pots are at the heart of things.  It's good to make pots that become part of everyday life. I want to make pots which  • look as if they're made of clay • are in the English tradition • are functional • are thrown • are straightforward and a pleasure to use • are timeless and quiet • tell their own story • retain the life and energy they have when first thrown • have decoration that seems like part of the pot

Pit-fired pots

These pots are thrown, turned and burnished with the pit-firing in mind, where they will be transformed by smoke. I like them to have a narrow base to give them lift, but strong rims, which I think help to give them poise and power and the visual anchor necessary for the atmospheric, often planetary effects that will come later. The lines on the pots, the flashes of colour, the curls of grey and dense black areas come from an alchemical mix of carefully placed metals, oxides, salts, sawdust and other organic material which suffuse their colours into the pot’s surface in the pit firing. I can influence the effects of the firing, but never control them. The position of every pot and piece of wood, the intensity of the fire and even the wind will all affect the movement of the smoke across the surface of the pots, and while this process is unpredictable, it is also very liberating and tremendously exciting. NB As these pots are not glazed, they will not hold water.

Low Relief Tiles

I make a range of low relief earthenware tiles depicting animals, birds and heraldic images. They are made by cutting detailed lino blocks and pressing them into red earthenware clay. The blocks are quite a challenge to make. It is necessary to think in reverse relief and cut the block very carefully. Where the block is carved more deeply, the pressed clay will be left standing more prominently, with tiny variations in the depth of the incisions and fine carved lines showing clearly.

Mosaics

My mosaics are made from my own tesserae, which are made from clay which I have mixed with various colouring oxides, rolled out, burnished, cut and then fired. This process produces a vast range of quite muted colours. I draw the designs on stretched brown paper trying to make an image with strength and movement. The mosaic is started with a strong black line drawing and then slowly filled in with other colours, with attention given to the lines of tesserae which should always show the form of the subject. The finished mosaics are very sturdy. They can be set in the floor or used as table tops or wall panels, but like their Roman antecedents, they are not frostproof if left flat - if they are to remain outside they should either be dry and covered in winter, or moved to a vertical position.


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