Ancient pots are important because of their historical value. From excavated pots and vessels archeologists have been able to deduce lots of details of the every day life and religious rituals of ancient cultures. All these ancient vessels are based on archetypal forms and radiate a universal spirit. It is this kind of spirit I want to express in my work. My pots carry signs and symbols and tell stories about existence, relationships and communication, about origin and evolution.
As I visited ethnographic museums in Belgium as well as in other countries (Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, USA, Europe) I was affected by the same simple vessels that were used in every day life and for religious rituals. Similar shapes can be found all over the world because they have been made for thousands of years. These vessels are more than just pots, they tell stories, they are timeless and universal.
I used to make sculptural ceramics as well as decorative pots and domestic ware. The last decennium I have been concentrating on making unique pieces, murals or thrown vessels in porcelain, sometimes combined with sculptural parts. The basic forms of my vessels are simple and therefore they radiate a certain power.
My work can be seen as just decorative forms but to me it is more than that.
Although my ceramics are recently made, they contain a short history through their creation and production process: the porcelain has been excavated, purified, made plastic and then transported. In my studio it was wedged and shaped in my hands. After many manipulations (see technical description) it was petrified by the fire. Every piece has its own origin and evolution, its own story full of symbols and contrasts: light and dark, thin and thick, polished (burnished) and rough, black or white and colourful, opening and closing forms, curved shapes and straight lines, textured and smooth, in or out of balance.
The finishing and firing techniques are intensifying this symbolic meaning, just as well as the title of each piece. Titles refer to a movement, an action or interaction. I want to draw lines to things that happened between humans or in society. Everything is moving and somehow connected.
Working with clay is almost like meditation. Some actions are automatic and repetitive so that your mind can be completely free. The variety of the ceramic process is a fascinating game.
Working with clay is also very sensual: continuously you are touching, wedging, rubbing, caressing, feeling, … You can discover this sensuality in the finishing of my ceramic objects: the burnishing and the terra sigillata give a silky feeling to my pots, which invite to be touched and caressed.
Through these layers a certain profoundness occurs. You could see it as several panels or transparent curtains of a theatre, or walking through a volcano landscape, the further you go the more you discover.
I have consciously chosen for primitive firing techniques, where the combustibles are directly in touch with the ceramics. It is fascinating to see how every firing is different. Even though I try to control and manipulate the process, the fire brings surprising results. It’s a game of earth, fire and water: I mix the clay (which is a result of thousands of years of erosion) with water in order to shape it; then I sacrifice it to the fire, which gives its finishing touch.
The simple forms, the playful parts, the subtle balance and contrasts in colour and texture are referring to our surrounding, society and my concept of life.
Patty Wouters, ceramist, Belgium
Some parts of my work are thrown in porcelain (Harry Frazer HF 1129 by Potclays, UK), burnished and treated with terra sigillata; then fired in a saggar. Some parts are hand built with coarse grogged Stoneware clay. Other parts are slipcast in bone china or Southern Ice, very thin (sometimes less than 1 mm) and carved to obtain a texture, then fired at 1280°C.