Write-up by curator Marion Stuart
There were 16 people at this talk by Rob Dunster on Thursday morning and curator Marion Stuart has written up the talk for us from her notes taken during the talk. Keron Beattie completes the impression with a very appropriate haiku.
Subtle colours caused by the glazing technique using local reeds to create the surface. Texture references the local landscape and the environment of the marsh. All vessels are made to be used as functional drinking vessels and this is a Japanese principle. Materials are referenced as a point of connection, handling of the pots is essential to his work to connect with the makers work.
There is a clear connection with Japan with the pottery and the architecture of the NWT centre, the balance of the place - references to tea ceremony to the garden tea room at Katsura with post and beam architecture. And the pots of the inside and outside. His work reflects this in bringing the outside in.
Wabi sabi - the appreciation of natural things and been looked after, a shibboleth a piece of architecture of that holds the details of environment in it, plenty of reference books were there to consider the aspects of the Japanese aesthetic in his works. Robert told us plenty of stories which explained and illuminated his pottery and his interest in architecture and the culture of Japan.
The joy of using the object everyday. The pleasure of an object picked up and used each day.
Raku museum in Kyoto let's you handle the tea bowls under appointment, the precious works are expected to be handled to understand the beauty of them. Great explanation of the raku process, with reference materials to see the rare tea bowls of subtle hue.
Kinsugi the value of the object grows following breaking, mending with gold, adding to the overall beauty and desirability of the work.
Fascinating explanation of the apprenticeship system of Japan where head apprentice can be adopted by the family should the first son not be interested in following in the footsteps of the father.
Robert explains his making process on the wheel using faceting, applied textures with combing, his engineering precision comes into play between twisting and stretching. There is a to and fro between control and loss of control, there is a necessary quality of throwing required.
He also showed a spiral kneading technique and demonstrated the technique for doing this.
Robert uses a hand building clay and manipulates the process, creating deliberate weakness/joint in the clay which causes breaks and splits.
Great video made to show the process of making, using a stick to open out the - a Japanese technique, taught to him in Japan. The clay has to be very soft so it will twist. The surface is textured and he sometimes heats with a blowtorch, to make the surface crack, corners are taken off the block with a turning tool then the pot is manipulated from the inside to open out the form. A turning tool is used to lift out the interior excess clay.
The glazing is created with thatching reeds arranged with a reed manufacturer, pots are bisque to 900 degrees c, ash is packed around the pots in a sagger burn reeds very quickly to black ash not white, the reeds are 60 percent silica, what is happening is that there is a lot of sodium and potassium - so it is creating a vapour glaze much like a salt glaze. Ash glaze from wood ash is creating the interior glaze.
He discovered this by throwing in Japan, the reed effect may well be new. He found it when in Japan he was trying to find rice husk for use in glaze and he got a bag of black ash, all ash based glazed uses black ash in Japan not, the grey ash. He discovered this technique seeing halo flash on test tiles from rice husks - high in silica, developed this using reed as it was more locally sourced.