Iain Shield

Studio Shield Pottery

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I find it inspiring and equally fascinating how you transit between your full time day role. Employed in the world of IT software design & development to crafting beautiful pieces of pottery by hand in your spare time. Was this an intentional or accidental journey? What or when was the turning point for you when you thought working with clay is what I love?

There is certainly a contrast between fast paced tech and clay! I love tech but I also have a deep respect for craft and those practical skills that take dedication to learn, plus I love making things, I always have. I enjoy the contrast between computers and pottery, my wheel is one you have to kick (rather than electric) and I glaze fire in a hand built gas kiln which also adds a raw sense of connection to the finished pieces, so I guess you can say it is intentional to de-tech and release a bit of traditional creativity. I have always been interested in ceramics but the turning point was day 1 on a wheel (a day course with an amazing potter which was a Christmas gift from my wife), it was just something I knew I wanted to do, 3 wks later I had my own second hand wheel and started my journey with clay.

You enjoy using natural products within your work such as Oak Ash, which gives a beautiful speckle effect. How did this come about?

Ash glaze is an ancient form of glazing pots, in fact unglazed pots had a liberal application of 'fly ash' from the fires that fired the pots for days on end. I love that. I also love Nuka glazes which is a Japanese style using rice husks, look at one of my 'speckled' glazes Google 'Nuka' and you will see what direction I want the glaze to go in. The ash is just a great way of going about glazes: it's hard to get hold of, I don't have the ability to burn wood so I need to network to get it (I like a challenge), it builds its own story into the pots and whilst not everybody knows where the ash is from or that the pots have an ash component to the glaze - I do - and that's important to me somehow; I like that the pots have a story of a tree living on. Speckling is all about the clay and the firing atmosphere and the variegation in the glaze is all about the oxide I add to the glaze but I don't want to get too technical! 

What part of the process gives you the greatest satisfaction when producing your work? Is it the physicality of working with your hands and the clay or experimenting with a new method of firing.

I certainly like the physicality of it! It can be extremely rewarding to look down a line of freshly thrown pots and think - wow I did that (selfish aren't I !?!). I like the process end-to-end, wedging clay, throwing it the bisque and the cherry on top has to be the gas firing. The gas firings are quick, I can get cone 10 down in 3 to 4 hrs which pleasantly raises eyebrows of fellow potters, "don't they break?" - no they don't! The kiln is small, the clay is good and the technique works and allows me to experiment with firings such as introducing wood in the final stages to get a heavy reduction.

Your pieces are beautiful in their simplicity and form. Would you say you prefer to produce functional everyday items rather than artistic sculptures?

Totally - for some reason that I can't explain I would like people to enjoy my pots by using them somehow. I am interested in sculpture but not interested in making sculpture myself. I am less interested in decoration - just simple lines or minimal patterns - that's just me and what I want to make.

What tool or piece of equipment could you not live without?

That wheel - everything else is a bonus, it was made in the 1960's and has a lovely cast iron flywheel, take that off me and I will cry!

Has there been a particular piece that you really enjoyed making?

I love "making" so hard to answer this one, but every now and again the proportions of a certain piece are "just right" those ones are super satisfying and hard to part with.

What inspired the name Shield Pottery and the symbol you mark all your pieces with?

Easy - my family name is Shield, so Shield Studio Pottery it is! The Shield motif on the pots has an 'S' embossed inside which was made from a piece of clay and bisque fired so I can reuse it for every pot as my seal - I dread the day I drop and chip it so I look after it carefully! 


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