A month ago I packed my bags and ventured to the highest point of Denmark, it was a Wes Anderson style adventure in terms of transport; 3 buses, 3 Trains, 2 Flights later I arrived a little tired but even more excited at the sleepy woodland village of Tolne. From the platform just a stone throw away sat the grand if not a little shabby Tolne Gjeastgivergaard, I was met by a lovely dog ...an instant best friend Lucy and two smiley volunteers and now very good friends Print Maker Chloe Laurence and graphic illustrator Carla Victoria Lavorgna. Three weeks were spent volunteering helping owners Janne and Gregory with their guest house and pottery studio and exploring the area. The house is a potters paradise, every meal was eaten on one of Gregory or Janne's home made wares. ..don't get me started on the hundreds of Yunomi's (Japanese tea cups) to choose from, every breakfast I would find a new favourite. My vision of making lots of pots and learning all about Japanese ceramics didn't really come to fruition. Due to the timing of my stay both Gregory and Janne were working on planning events for the summer, but I was able to explore their amazing wood fired kilns: The Soda Kiln, Anagama's and the Salt Kilns. Janne was very conscientious about me wanting to learn about the processes and took every opportunity to tell me about her glazes and slip trail techniques, to which I am really grateful. My little note book looks like Walters from Breaking Bad, and i'm pretty excited to be back in the studio mixing and experimenting with her most tried and tested recipes. (I will let you know how I get on)
What I hadn't anticipated was all the creative people I would get to meet, Carla a very talented digital children illustrator come adult cosplay fiction animator, (Thanks to Carla I will never see an animated cat in the same light ever again) Georgia an Art curator & educator, Blythe a fine art student just at the beginning of her creative career but already selling work to royalty, Megumai a Japanese student studying ceramics in Copenhagen, and Jenny who I briefly met from Canada. One of the highlights of my stay, it turns out wasn't directly ceramic related, was the opportunity to collaborate on a film project that would take up most of my time, but also give me a new insight and knowledge of a completely different craft altogether. By week two Chloe and I were working almost non stop at the Print studio in Hjorring and in the woods , filming the very intricate and quite industrial process of etching a large piece of copper, Chloe's process and method is to capture her etches using nature, physically dragging the exposed copper and letting the earth and twigs and environment create the art work - Resulting in a multi piece exhibition; the artefact of the print itself and the film of the printing. I had no idea how involved and hard work the traditional craft of etching is, and really admire Chloe for having such a passion to continue to drive this craft into the public eye. You can watch the making of the big Danish Etch here
This process took us on many adventures into the nearby forest of Tolne, and usually resulted in us getting lost for which we didn't mind one bit, every patch of Denmark is spectacularly beautiful. During breaks in filming Chloe showed me how to mono print, which was a lot of fun and is something I'd love to do more of - ceramics inspired of course.
What did I learn from the experience?
That jumping on that train, plane, bus to another place is always a good idea, and travelling alone is even better! It makes you more adventurous more open to new experiences and more likely to make new friends. In terms of my ceramics, living and working with Janne and Gregory and their work has reminded me that there is even more beauty in functional not always perfect pieces, individuality and letting the glazes and firing process take control is a good thing and should be celebrated! So expect more wonkiness more character and if it works out wth the glazes, more 'Home made' everything!! Scandinavia you are still one of my favourite places and I hope to set foot on you again one day soon, but for now it is good to be home and back in the studio.
More about Gregory Hamilton Miller & Janne Hieck's Ceramics can be found here