My educational background lies in engineering, science and research. At the free university of Brussels, I first obtained the degree of Bio-engineer in cell and gene biotechnology. That was followed by a PhD in applied biological sciences during which I focused on sourdough fermentation. Thereafter, I started a career in the pharmaceutical industry, mainly as project manager. During that time, I continued taking several classes that brought me closer to my inner selve and passions.
It is no more than 10 years ago that I first experienced working with clay. The joy of creating, the feeling of clay on my hands and the peace of mind all this brought were truly overwhelming. About 5 years ago I decided to enroll in the ceramics program at the Genk academy of visual arts and media. Till today, the ceramics classes have continued to equipped me with skills and knowledge relating to the materials and processes of the discipline. Very soon it became clear that porcelain would become the ideal medium for my work.
Once a researcher, always a researcher, so I dedicate a lot of time to sample making and the testing of new techniques. For the making of my works, I rely on a mix of techniques: handbuilding, slip casting, dipping and the use of paper molds or other “carriers” to make individual elements which then are assembled into a – partly- intuitive final pattern.
I rarely add color or glazes to my work because I love the whiteness, pureness and translucency of porcelain. I believe that in some cases the combination of shape and a delicate play of texture, results in enough complexity.
In case I do decide to add color, I always keep a certain degree of sobriety in mind not mixing too many color palettes or by using coloring agents that enable me to obtain a subtle natural look and feel. Mostly I rely on the use of either pigments or oxides for the coloring of porcelain clay bodies. When I want to add subtle color to bisque-fired pieces (or even green ware), I prefer the use of water-soluble metal salts. All works are fired at cone 6 under oxidizing conditions.
As a newcomer in the arena of ceramic artists, I want to thank Antoinette and Koos Badenhorst for providing me this platform and for sharing so much valuable information through their e-courses and TeachinArt portal.
John Shirley is a ceramic artist from South Africa, who was selected as a member of the International Academy of Ceramics in 2010. Here is John in his own words.
The body has a high shrinkage and a tendency to warp in the firing and although I have tried several ways to stabilize the body in the firing with various setters, I now accept the gentle warping produced by the firing as a part of the process.
Choosing to work with bone china for my work is I feel something that has worked really well for me and the work I produce with this body is quite different to any work I would have produced using the porcelain body I was using before.
#SouthAfricanartist #bonechina #JohnShirley #translucentporcelain #IAC
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