Making is the heart of what we do at Arran Street East. With our hands, clay and our wheels, we craft each object from start to finish in our central Dublin studio. Join us every Monday for Studio Stories, where our creative director Laura and our potters Patrick, Gayle, and Sheenagh share their insights, their wisdom, and (just occasionally) their frustrations with working with the remarkable material that is clay.
First up is Patrick, talking about the challenges of changing seasons.
This week the making in the studio is getting back into full swing after two quieter weeks. I took a short holiday and last week was spent planning and doing other jobs around the studio. Arran Street East had a busy summer culminating in London Design Fair and everyone needed a non-making week to catch up. We planned Christmas production, built Gayle a new work space, recycled clay from our Saturday classes, cleaned and generally got organised. There was still lots going on in the studio though, with our AW16 press morning on Tuesday, a photoshoot on Wednesday and preparation for Open House Dublin, where we opened the studio to architecture lovers over the weekend, as well as hosting a full day throwing workshop on Saturday!
My main focus this week was adjusting to the change in temperature brought about by the changing seasons. The pots are drying a lot slower. This isn’t a bad thing as slower drying puts less stress on the clay, but it does change how I make. As a general rule for drying pots, slower is better, and some potters dry their work over months. When producing pottery at scale, as we do, this isn’t practical or necessary. The trick is to find the right way to dry each piece. The variables are size and shape: water jugs are dried slowly over a week while espresso mugs can take as little as 12 hours. We learned how to dry our pots the hard way, one week we lost 60% to cracking, the main problem was the pots dried too quickly in the studio. We solved this by slow drying all bowls and jugs in the basement.
We are extremely lucky to have a basement in our studio. It was a fridge when the building was a fruit and veg wholesaler. It still has the original fridge door so the room is almost air tight when closed. This means it is a controlled environment and we use it to slow down drying. The studio temperature can vary with the seasons and kiln firing (we have two big kilns in the room next to the studio). During the summer we had days where the studio got extremely warm. With the drop in temperature this week I started working on two types of pots at the same time. Yesterday when the water jugs were still too soft to attach handles I decided to throw bowls which I normally do on Friday and let the jugs harden for another night. We will adjust the studio heating and try out different production patterns for the next couple of weeks until we find the perfect cycle.
Sheenagh will be writing next week about her area of expertise, glaze.
Thanks for reading!
First image by Nathalie Marquez Courtney.