Make @ GoMA – Recycled pottery

This month we look more closely at the ceramics in the Domestic Bliss exhibition, more specifically, Emmanuel Cooper (1938-2012).
The pot by Emmanuel Cooper sits on the gallery plinth in-between two other pots (one by Grayson Perry and the other by Chris Bramble). It stands out for its sheer simplicity and neatness of form. Cooper is known for his elegant pots and his expert use of glazes in a multitude of colours and textures. He was originally quite a traditional potter, but he progressively
moved to more and more abstraction in his art and began to see his pots as ‘forms’ rather than functional objects. He often played with multiple forms of the same shape, arranging them in bright clashing colour formations. Since 1976, he ran his pottery in Primrose Hill in London, with his working studio in the back, and the shop in the front displaying his wares to the public.

Cooper wrote several books, among which the biographies of the potters Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie (2003); technical books on pottery (history, glazes, etc.); and studies on gay art, such as The Sexual Pespective (1986), on homosexuality and art, and Fully Exposed: The Male Nude in Photography (1990).

A contemporary of Emmanuel Cooper is the ceramicist Edmund de Waal (b. 1964); they were firm friends. Whilst their approach to making pots could be seen as quite different, they shared a keen interest in writing. Edmund de Wall is known more for his fictional books The Hare with the Amber Eyes and The White Road.

Something else that these two ceramicists have in common, besides their interest in book writing, is the venture towards pottery as ‘fine’ or ‘abstract’ art. It is in the way that they produce multiple forms and the final curation and display of the ceramics. Edmund de Waal is known for working solely in porcelain and producing ceramic installations of fine porcelain cylinders
thrown on the potter’s wheel and displayed in multiples of varying shades of grey and white.

In this activity we are going to get inspiration from Cooper and de Waal’s pottery to make our own works using household materials.

You will need:

  • recycled toilet and kitchen roll tubes
  • Paper – A4 white paper will work best, but you can use any paper you have
  • Water
  • Various materials to stain the paper, like flowers or tea bags
  • Tape or glue

Begin with collecting and storing the toilet/kitchen roll tubes. You will be surprised how many you gather over the course of a few weeks!

Then start to experiment with different ways to colour/stain the paper. Be creative and experiment. You can try things like collecting fallen petals from flowers and leaves from your walks in the park. Soak your colouring materials in water. Remove the excess water and arrange them on top of your paper, letting their coloured pigment stain your paper. You can also arrange them in layers and leave them for a few days/weeks to see what results you get. Some of the most interesting and textured results came from leaves that had sat between sheets of paper for over 2 weeks – very reminiscent of a highly textured glaze.

You can try out the same process with with tea bags. You can also use the tea bags to directly draw on paper. Be creative and have fun!

Once the papers are dry enough you can then start to wrap the cardboard tubes, securing it with some glue or tape. Try to stick some tubes together with tape or cut them so that you get different heights.

You can make as many of these as you want and then have fun arranging them in different formations to make your own art installation.

We would love to see some of your completed works – please share them with us on social media #make@GoMA:




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