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Inside the studio of ceramic artist Nicholas Lees

We may be in lockdown again but we won’t let that stop us.  We will continue to share our features and studio insights, updating you on the wonderful work being made by our artists and, while we are unable to exhibit the art work in the flesh, we hope these will inspire and inform and help in some way to get you through these strange times.

This week we thought we’d share this beautiful video of ceramic artist Nicholas Lees at work.  Hunkered down in his idyllically located studio, a stone’s throw from his family home in leafy Hampshire, Nicholas has been continuing his exploration into the addition of colour into his work.  This time last year we exhibited a trio of Nicholas’ first successfully coloured cobalt floating bowls at Fitzrovia Chapel.  These were quickly snapped up by Sir Nicholas and Judith Goodison for the permanent collection at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.  Since then, Nicholas has moved on to use Gold, Copper and Iron, expanding the range of colours he is able to create for his fine parian porcelain sculptures.

The latest addition to Nicholas’ Floating Bowl Series, fresh from the kiln yesterday, is this rather beautiful Autumnal orange sculpture.

Nicholas Lees Rust Orange Floating Bowl 20.26
‘Rust Orange Floating Bowl (20.26)’, Parian and soluble iron. H13cm Ø15cm 2020

We talked technical with Nicholas, asking him about the new colours.  He explained,

“The introduction of colour to my sculptures was inspired by my works on paper with ink. I started experimenting with soluble metal salts to colour the ceramic as opposed to working with glazes and oxides, for example.  This is an unusual technique, and I was trying to mimic the way that ink soaks into the paper. I found that if I worked with a solution of Cobalt Sulphate applied to the interior of the biscuit fired sculpture and then saturated it with water, as the sculpture dried the colour moved through the sculpture and concentrated onto the edges of the ‘fins’ I’d created using the lathe. The Cobalt moved to edges of the sculpture because there was a suction caused by faster evaporation from those edges. It was really quite beautiful and everything I was trying to achieve.

“Recently I’ve added soluble gold, copper and iron to my investigations, which has been another exciting development for me. The colour is all dependent on the chemical interaction between the metal and the porcelain clay. I hope to move on to new metals as well as exploring the possibilities of combining the metals and using them with different clay bodies to achieve different colour results.  The process is slow as tests have to be done on finished works which, in themselves take time to make as you can see in the video, but it is a necessary part of the making in order to understand how the effects work.”

Blue Floating Bowl
H 13 x ø12.5
Parian and soluble cobalt
2020
Red Floating Bowl 20.21,
H 14 x ø13,
Parian and soluble gold,
2020

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