As mentioned previously, I had been playing with the sounds a ceramic form can make for quite some time. I was excited to have the chance to make a number of bells with which I could experiment with sound further and more deeply. I began making bell forms almost immediately in order to have some forms to present at a Kaleider “Lunch Time Talk” a few weeks after being awarded the commission. The purpose of the talk was to explain in more detail to the group involved in the production and commissioning of the work and I wanted to have some examples so the audience could hear what sound the bells would make.
What I had discovered in the years of playing, was that the quality of sound worked well with lower fired pots, in that the lower density of the clay gives a clearer, more sustained set of tones. However the tone and quality of the sounds produced depend also on the shape and thickness of the walls of the bell. I have often reflected that the sound my pots make have influenced the shape as much as the visual qualities of the forms, though most of the time the audience is not aware of this when they buy a pot from us.
The initial bells I made were of a certain size, so that they could easily be held and played by the audience. I also wanted to get a good number of bells through my hands before I became more ambitious with the forms in terms of shapes and sizes. If nothing ambitious worked, at least I would have ones I know would work under my belt. I wanted to play with shapes and also size to see what would happen to the sound in a way I had not been able to experiment with before. So I started making some large combination pieces, where several forms are thrown, and joined to make one piece.
I was well aware that the amount of pots I needed to make and with the time available, I needed to set myself targets and stick to them; especially with big pieces as they take much more time and space to make. As you can see, the workshop at the time was quickly filled with pots and large pieces such as these need to be given time to dry slowly to avoid cracking on drying and firing.
•However in order to experiment further with tone I decided to make a series of porcelain pots for BellHouse. I felt it would help to give a different set of tones, but also visually I wanted to break up the colour that I had applied to the Earthenware forms. I wanted to make sure that the piece when viewed as a whole did not become too confusing, and felt that some white space would help to punctuate the colour.
In the end, though I made roughly 50 bells, it became apparent that there would not be enough room to put them all in the piece, so we settled on 35, which gave the opportunity to be selective.