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Stone progress

The glazing process is abaout to begin and I spent most of the day yesterday preparing the studio for the next phase. The glaze palette is up for consideration and there will be quite some new testing and progressing the testing already in the pipeline. I have about 20 pieces finsihed construction and wouldl ike to glazr them all and choosefrom that series for the Tweed, Stone Samplers exhibition.

 The Friends of the Gallery have a newsletter they send out periodocally and we have written something for the upcoming edition. I am showing with Karyn Fendley who paints very gorgeous landscapres and whose work is complementary to mine. We both sample the landscape and the exhibition is entitled Stone Samplers. About my own work, I quote:


From the Asian tradition of Scholars' Rocks (gōngshí- China, Suiseki - Japan), sculptor Suvira McDonald’s ceramic forms initially derived from a study of these naturally occurring, characteristically shaped rocks..

Traditionally these samples of various stones are taken from the landscape for their unique visual qualities and represent an intuitive-aesthetic curiosity - in contrast with the more intellectual curiosity of western scientific specimen collecting. The stones,which often resembled mountainous formations or sometimes figures, are displayed and appreciated as stone samples and are mounted on ornately carved rosewood bases. Evidence suggests Gongshi originated in the Yellow Mountains which have deep spiritual significance in China. Chinese scholars often called these rare examples Spirit Stones and placed them in their studies for indoor contemplative viewing. In Japan, Suiseki forms a triad with ikebana and bonsai.

Suvira’s sculptures have developed from this study over the past 6-8 years; it began with vessel forms, with direct relevance to particular landscapes and recently the sculptures have become more representational although with facetted stylisation. It is his chosen construction method that produces this. He has also emphasised the presence of quartz veins in the rocks which manifest as a waterfall-like part of his composition. The relationship of ceramics with landscape is not only pictorial but also one of materiality.

“My pieces have derived from this Gongshi tradition, translated into the ceramic medium and now several steps removed. As an ideally suited medium to represent landscape, ceramics is formed by firing to lavaic temperatures, broadly simulating a process of volcanic activity, producing igneous rock. The name stoneware is no accident!”



Return to the BLOG... preparing to exhibit

Having been distracted from writing here for the last 18 months, I have found my way back. I was this weekend past in a ceramics workshop with the Gold Coast Potters; indications are that a good time was had by all. It is good for me to work with potters who have experience in the field. They were stretched out of comfort and I was stretched taking them there. The was a lot of slab constructions . The most challenging part has emerged from the work I am doing in preparation for my exhibition at the Tweed Regional Gallery coming up at the end of the year, Stone Samplers, facetted landforms resonating with Karyn Fendley's paintings. The early works in this thread are the Emerald Mountain pieces (see Ceramic Sculpture gallery

Years ago I started researching the Asian traditional form of suiseki (Japanese) or gong shi (Chinese); it is a stone collecting tradition which has its kin in bonsai and ikebana. Years later I am constructing these complex facetted forms resembling landscapes.

It's almost February!!

The month of January flew by almost under the radar. Now with holidays over there is a storm upon us with flooding is hard to get really started. However I have managed to squeeze a few things in between Christmas and travel to Sydney (a visit to Anish Kapoor exhibition amongst other things). In the Ceramic sculpture section there are some new works posted; the variations on Emerald Mountain which were shown privately in Sydney and my whimsical Highrise Moonrise which I entered in the Byron Art Classic and scored second prize. So around the beginning of the month I had some much treasured studio time with few other commitments and took the opportunity.

Now as cyclone Oswald passes through there is time to contemplate the new projects coming up. The mission to support a public art program in Mullumbimby is an ongoing thread for this year. The return of biannual Sculpture by the Tree, in Federal, is too. Both of those projects require a constant administrative attention before any materialisation. As for studio time, new table ware is never far away, a range of new landscapes for wall as well as a continuation of the small freestanding pieces characterised by the Emerald Mountain series which I have named WU WEI.

My glaze research will continue in the Copper red direction and I have my eyes on developing a crystal snowflake glaze and other areas/colour as required. Then there is the wood kiln; the bricks are awairing to be stacked on site. Plenty to think about, even more to do.

Copper red tests

An unusual reduction sequence

IMG 0624

Large Chun dish


I have always had the impression that if I missed the early reduction stages I would miss the opportunity to transform the glaze quality in a firing. I thought only by vigilance could I get my reduction in at the right time and that after that a fusion took place that prevented any oxygen being drawn from the glaze matrix. Recently due to some unforeseen chaos in the studio I missed the cone 08 and the pyrometer showed 1162°C before I realised...

The thought of honey coloured Chun and brown Celadon plus the ruination of a kiln full of work did not entice me so I shut down and let temperature drop to 1000°C before continuing with normal reduction settings of the damper and primary air. Surprise surprise the glazes were as good as ever. The firing took an extra 2 hours and I used gas I had not planned on but the results were normal and I avoided the dreaded oxidised glazes which characterise badly managed firings. Whew! learning new things, continuously.

A new beginning...

Its with a feeling of great relief to be finally launching this website that Ulrich and I have been working on for the past many many months and a very welcome welcome thing that I am posting the first blog.

The website is going up in the time that of the year when everything else is coming to a close so it's good to have some studio time without teaching and without commissions taking centre stage. I have a few interesting sculpture ideas to start work on, so I'm feeling happy that that's right in front of me. There will be more of that to come. I will also be showing up at the Byron Beachfront Fair (with tablewares mostly) and the Byron Art Classic (with a quirky sculpture) in early January, two very special local events which enable us locals to get our work out there in public.

As for the year ahead, I have quite some projects already underway and I will talk about them more in future postings.There is tableware exhibition in October and a public art project being formed. Also Sculpture by the Tree returns in November at the Park in Federal bringing together sculpture from the region, and just in case I feel idle I have recently prepared the kiln site for my long awaited wood fire kiln; a project my friend and potter extraordinaire, Malcolm Greenwood, is joining me in.


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