Binns Demonstration Day
by David Tyson
Dave has a major exhibition
of his latest work on at the moment in the main gallery at Ruthin Craft Centre
and graciously took a day out from a busy schedule to explain to us his history,
thoughts and technique.
Through the use of slides
Dave talked us through his working life starting at Manchester Poly in 1978
where he had aspirations towards architecture. He made Japanese inspired furniture.
He actually hated clay initially but after spending a term working with it
his interest grew and he was soon repetition throwing, producing minimalist
designs in the style of Lucie Rey and Hans Coper. The theme running through
the whole of Dave's work is to let the property of the material speak for
knowing Dave and seeing his latest work you might think he couldn't throw
well but he had produced some large vases and bowls with elegant lines and
Raku fired. He soon grew tired of crackle glazes and looked for other surface
textures including Mediterranean influences and salt firing. His final disitiation
was on Raku and for this he spoke to Dave Roberts who asked him to return
to work for him, surprising Dave with his lo-tec weights and measures system
- yoghurt pots. Dave now had his most successful series. Using a china clay
and alumina slip over biscuit and raku firing. The slip cracks off leaving
a ghostly crackle effect.
Dave next moved to Wrexham
Art School to teach HND Design and was asked by Ruabon Brick to help with
glaze and staff development. This saw him move away from throwing towards
basic function and back toward Japan, producing flat platters, carved, slipped
and draped over formers using terracotta. From there to Italy and more precise
turned and joined pieces fired to 1160-1170 degrees celcius to give strength
From 90-92 he produced
dish-like forms with an architectural influence again, giving Dave a soul-destroying
experience when having hand-bored 480 very precise holes he saw an industrially
produced kiln batt looking remarkably similar. A new dimension now emerged
by adding grog of different types but then revealing its texture perhaps by
scoring and breaking. Joining two pieces back to back now gave him three dimensions
and he also experimented with different shaped perforations, mathematical
repetition and the concept of randomness superimposed over order. All this
meant a natural draw toward computers and easier manipulation of the 3Dmodel,
giving rise to new cog-like industrial pieces.
now applied for and got a grant for a research sabbatical and went to an ornamental
brick company in Accrington where he learned large scale mould making for
press moulds, invaluable skills for his latest projects.
All Dave's influences,
architecture, engineering, geology seem now to have come together in his new
pieces which combine grogs of various kinds with paper clay, fired and ground
back to reveal the grog. He uses commercial colours and oxides to colour his
grog but he also uses pebbles, granite chippings and molochite and substances
which burn away leaving spaces such as perlite and leaves which give a fossil-like
Dave talked us through
his exhibition, accompanied by lots of constructive criticism(it might help
him!) before heading off in convoy to Denbigh and a pleasant hour in Dave's
garden eating Wendy's excellent soup.
We passed through into
Dave's "front room" where he showed us some of the materials he
uses;granite prefired to 1100degrees celcius, porcelain and copper prefired
to 900 degrees celcius and fused mullite. These are bashed in a pestle and
mortar and graded before being wedged together with a very soft,wet mix of
clay and organic matter such as paper pulp. After making a former from plywood
he threw the clay into it handful by handful, the force removing any air(another
industrial technique), then tamping and smoothing with a batten.(This is the
same technique used to produce his own plaster moulds, using the plaster at
the cottage cheese stage) After four or five days of drying it is turned out,
any holes filled with the same clay mix, smoothed and a "penny"
used to smooth the corners.
Dave uses a two piece
plaster mould for his 3D forms, throwing the clay in in the same manner, giving
walls of approx one and half inches, but bridging the gap with a fillett of
clay to help prevent warpage.
Dave uses Valentines
terracotta and porcelain both fired between 1160-1200 degrees celcius. With
some of his 3D work, once turned out, he carefully marks and carves out an
'Brew up' Everyone raved over Jenny's mother's wedding cake before Dave and
his neighbours went into a noise war, they shouting, Dave with his power grinder.
A very wet and noisy operation which should be confined to warm sunny days.
The day was finished
with a slide show of Dave and Wendy's round- the- world trip. Nice work if
you can get it! All in all a very enlightening day which will give everyone
a new perspective on clay.