Originally from London, Karen has lived in North Somerset since 1988. She started making thrown domestic ware at evening classes, then discovered handbuilding as part of a pottery course at Bridgwater College.
Karen now makes most of her work using coiling, slabbing, pinching, modelling and carving techniques. Her long-standing interest in gardening, together with the influence of the Somerset landscape, has a bearing on her work.
I mainly use a gritty clay called Crank (Scarva Earthstone ES50), which gives a warm light brown colour and interesting surface textures when scraped, carved or polished. It can take two to three weeks to build and refine a sculpture, depending on the size and complexity of the piece. Excess clay thickness is removed by carving or scraping. Some pieces are inlaid with porcelain, which gives a pleasing contrast of colour and texture.
The work has to dry slowly and thoroughly, which can take a couple of weeks. It is then fired in an electric kiln to 1000 C, turning it from fragile clay into ceramic, strong enough to withstand the decorative treatment of applying a metal oxide solution then scrubbing it off to emphasise surface textures. Porcelain slip (liquid clay) is then brushed over some areas, and coloured slips or glaze applied.
The piece is then fired again, to 1280 C. The high temperature of the second firing vitrifies the clay, so that sculptures and planters can be safely left outdoors all year if desired.