The latest creation to grace the walls of Morris & James is this trio of feather panels, made by head potter Ian Foote. They are quite a departure from MJs brightly coloured signature pieces, the idea springing from an old black-and-white photograph bought in by a customer.
Ian says bringing the panels to life was a lengthy process, beginning with the creation of three prototypes: panels of wet clay each overlaid with an enlarged feather image to trace over, then carving out the grooved feather strokes with a clay tool.
Once dried and fired, these ‘negatives’ act like giant stamps - a fresh panel of wet clay is laid over the top of each one and rolled with a rolling pin to imprint the pattern. “That’s why it’s a bit fainter in some areas and more pronounced in others, because you can’t really see what you’re doing until you peel it off,” says Ian. “It’s a bit of a learning curve but it gives a nice ethereal look, with the feather almost fading into the background.”
After the first firing, the panels are brushed with white clay to bring out the texture of both the feather pattern and the clay surface. They’re then fired again - at a blistering 1000 degrees! - so that the white clay can melt and set. After this, Ian applies the final coat, a dark satin-matte glaze which is painted on and then rubbed off again, allowing the glaze to catch on all the textured parts of the panel. He says he’s still experimenting with how much of the glaze he rubs off, but likes the subtle, pared-back look that it creates.
Ian’s office/workspace is a veritable Aladdins Cave (if Aladdin was really into ceramics!), tucked away in a corner of the busy factory floor. It is full of various experimental pieces, pots of paint, glaze samples and arty inspirational objects. He is already working on his next project, a new tile design painted with matte glaze colours, and says he enjoys the freedom that comes with having the showroom onsite to try out his new designs and creations. “I just do what I want and hope everyone likes it,” Ian grins. “Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t!”
The Feather Panel sets retail for $595, and can be ordered by calling the showroom on (09) 422 7116 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org