Constantine Cornwall

‘Fire & Alchemy’

A Love Affair with Clay with Mel Chambers.

Based in Mawnan Smith, Mel has had over 40 years of a meandering journey knowing she “wanted to be an Artist”. Beginning, of course with training to be a Fitness Instructor! She then went through Permaculture, Art courses, animal portraits, working in clay and all the time learning techniques, working ethics bringing value and meaning to her finished articles. This included Raku Firing which is an ancient Japanese technique giving the finished clay glaze a crazed finish and every piece is different. Every piece from clay tiles, figurines, pots etc are worked individually by hand and fingers are crossed at every firing with no expectation of a perfect finish, meaning every piece of work is “unique”. The firing process takes between 18-20 hours and the articles are then left in the kiln for 2 days to cool. Depending on the “weather” during kiln firing and using anything from sawdust, horsehair, feathers and even llama fur – All this makes each piece unique.

Every article made in this way will keep its colour throughout its lifetime and will not wear away. Mel explained the original flooring In Exeter Cathedral still has its vibrant colouring having been made using this technique and because of this process Space Shuttles have been lined with these tiles to deflect the heat! Mel finished by demonstrating carving a beautiful tile ready for slip work and firing, in less than 10 minutes!! Members had many questions, admiring her work and thanks were given by Gill Just for a very entertaining talk.