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From her studio in Chagford, Dartmoor, Devon UK, Alison West produces porcelain and stoneware tableware and vessels created by saggar firing to achieve a natural surface pattern. Saggar firing is a process in which carefully prepared pots are placed in a container (a saggar) together with locally sourced combustible materials ranging from pine cones, beech nuts, grasses, fungi, ferns, seaweed from the Devon coast, wood shavings and naturally occurring minerals. The saggar is fired in a gas kiln to create natural surface pattern as the materials burn away leaving each piece uniquely marked.
Unlike raku or glazing, the colouring of a saggar fired pot occurs from the moment the kiln is lit until the pot has completely cooled.
Tableware is high-fired porcelain or Cornish Stoneware. It is durable, functional and sealed for stain resistance, food safety and is dishwasher proof. Vases and vessels are decorative, fired with plants that leave impressions on the pots.
My curiosity in ceramics was aroused whilst living in a traditional pottery area in Japan and encouraged me to explore the medium at greater depth. I trained with Bruce Chivers on my return to the UK.
I am drawn towards the challenges of the wheel, the physicality of throwing and the capricious qualities of porcelain, a material I find demanding and absorbing.
My pots reflect the experience of living in Japan - I do not consciously aim to create Japanese style pots, but there is an influence of traditional form.
I am inspired by work decorated by flame and fire that reflects the process of making and firing. I fire in a sagger (a container) packed with organic combustible material in which pots are buried.
The sagger is sealed and placed in a gas kiln and fired slowly. The natural materials collected from Dartmoor and the Devon coast turn from solid to gas and transfer colour, pattern and texture to the pot. The combination of the elements permeate the clay and create unique, unrepeatable surfaces.