Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Feature: Nicole Portlock

Smoke Fired, Wheel Thrown Porcelain Vessel by NicolePortlock
 This week's Friday Feature comes all the way from Ireland, with Nicole Portlock's beautiful porcelain work. Read on to find out how she makes these beautiful creations...
Hi my name is Nicole and my shop name is
I make handmade vessels using a potter’s wheel, and porcelain clay. I use a process called ‘Smoke Firing’ to decorate the surface of my pieces. This process is one of the most basic and elemental ways to create marks on the ceramic surface. My vessels surface is totally unglazed. 
I feel that smoke firing is a good counterpoint to my control freak tendencies whilst creating on the potter’s wheel. Porcelain is just fabulous to use on the potter’s wheel, but it does take skill and patience. For me there is no other clay like it, because with a blunt tool you can then burnish (polish) the surface much more than any other type of clay. I burnish or polish my porcelain so that the finish surface has a satin feel and shine, which also makes the piece tactile.  
One of a Kind Smoke Fired Porcelain Vessel by NicolePortlock
I absolutely love smoke firing! I think that smoke firing speaks to the kid in me as well as to my pyromaniac needs (most potters are closet fire-nuts we just have a legitimate outlet). Fire is my paint brush and smoke is my ink, but this suggests that I have control over where the marks will be made, and I don’t. I can use recycled metal wires and various combustible materials to try and influence the smoke marks, but ultimately is it up to the weather and atmospheric pressures that day as to how fast my smoke kiln burns, what direction the flame takes and what marks are left. 
My love for clay begins when I went to a pottery evening class at a local school whilst still working and living in England. I was looking for a hobby and something to do with my hands. I had always loved handmade things, but the main drive was because I didn’t have any outlet for my creativity during the day. I was inspired by the teacher on this night class, but also by the clay process. At this stage I had no formal art training, so I was fortunate enough to be able to go part-time as the company I was working for was reducing head count. This allowed me to follow an access to higher education course two days a week at the local college. Although on this course you try every imaginable creative process, my love for clay had not changed. Amazingly just as I was finishing my access course, the company I was working for made me redundant, which was brilliant! I don’t think I would have had the confidence to take on a full time degree and move to another country if the lure of a regular pay slip had been there. 
Unique Smoke Fired Porcelain Vessel by NicolePortlock
I don’t do any other craft, but I do make some of my own decorating tools out of recycled materials. 
My shop name is my maiden name, and I’m often asked why I haven’t changed it to my married name. There isn’t any feminist agenda, only the fact that my partner and I had bought that domain name and set up my website before we decided to get married. 
My favourite pieces out of my shop are the black ball topped vessels, but I have found that the more archaeological looking pieces are selling at the moment. 
I only sell through Etsy currently, as I only have a few pieces left in this range. I am working on a new range and I plan to have a few pieces in some of the local galleries as well. But Etsy will be my main point of sale as I like the customer interaction. 
I don’t blog at all, mainly as I try and spend as much time as I can in the studio, and I prefer to keep interested people updated using Twitter @NicolePortlock and Facebook. Facebook/nicoleportlockceramics
Isn't her work amazing? Please visit her shop for more beautiful ceramic pieces:

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