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4 - 27 April 2024: Of earth by Ingot Objects

4 - 27 April 2024: Of earth by Ingot Objects

Our first exhibition of 2024 welcomes Glasgow based artist, Jonathan Wade, who works in ceramics as Ingot Objects

Private view Wednesday 3rd April 6-8pm

What is the name of your exhibition and how would you sum it up in a couple lines?

‘Of earth’

It references the transformation of clay, a soil or rock, and an apparently base material, into new objects. That material being part of the geology of the Earth. It also marks the connection I feel to the land, through the process of gathering materials.

You went at RCA, what did you study there and does it still influence you and your work today?

I studied an MA in Ceramics and Glass and largely made sculptural ceramics. I am still very much influenced by the time I spent studying there and I still make sculptural/decorative ceramics.

At RCA I also began to develop some products in glass and ceramics that I thought I would either make myself or design for manufacture, that I imagined might sit alongside and support my sculptural practice. Having made sculptural ceramic work for some years before returning to college, I knew of the unpredictability of selling large, expensive pieces.

I was thinking ahead to a time when I didn’t need to support my art practice with unrelated work, something I’d had to do at different times up until then and particularly while living in London. So, although it was a slightly different idea back in 2012, the plans for Ingot Objects began then.

You're a sculptor and gallery consultant first and foremost? How long have you been working in clay and how did you find your way to making pottery?

I wouldn’t really call myself a gallery consultant but have made ceramics for and helped lots of artists realise ceramic projects or elements for public and private artworks. Some projects have been coordinated and commissioned through galleries, art institutions and other companies working with artists.

I started working in clay professionally in 2003 while living in Brighton. I’ve made pottery or some type of utilitarian objects throughout that time, selling them mostly through open studio events or for family and friends.

There were a few coinciding factors that led me to want to make pottery as a commercial thing again. Since moving to Scotland in 2016 I’d been doing more reduction firing, making use of the facilities at Glasgow Ceramics Studio where I’m a partner.

Since the RCA I had been very interested in investigating unusual material textures of ceramic, and this eventually led to me making some bowls and cups, just for myself to begin with, in some very groggy clays. I enjoyed making these pieces a lot. I was also inspired by a particular group of pots by Janet Leach from the early 80s using very heavily grogged porcelain, one piece of which I’d seen at the V&A many years ago.

I’d also always loved the rustic style of pottery from East Asia – Korea and Japan in particular – and the strong regional identities they possess. Starting Ingot meant I could commit more time to pottery again and I saw the opportunity to do so during the pandemic. During that time there was also an increase in public confidence in buying art and craft objects online, combined with the already quite unbelievable increase in the popularity of ceramics in general.

Why Ingot Objects?


The Ingot part doesn’t have any specific significance. At the RCA I’d been reading lots about minimalist sculpture and modernist architecture, and was thinking about monolithic forms and lumpy objects, including metal ingots. I find it to be a satisfying word, in sound and how it looks.

‘Objects’ because initially I’d imagined making some non-ceramic pieces too, maybe in wood or glass or recycled plastic. I’m still open to this idea for the future.

What drew you to digging your own clay? And how do you go about finding it?


Through my interest in Japanese pottery I’d appreciated the regional styles such as Bizen and Shigaraki and the importance of the local clays in the pottery’s qualities and identity. I also learned more about wild clays from watching makers like Mitch Iburg in the US on Instagram.

I’ve always had an interest in geology and transformative processes and wanted to explore more of Scotland to gain better knowledge of the landscape. I wanted my work to express something of the geology, land and place. Through research and speaking with local makers I learned of the importance of clay in Glasgow’s and Scotland’s industrial past, and the rich deposits in the Central Belt.

During the first lockdown I found some clay with my wife Viv Lee in our nearby park. We took a small sample and ran some tests. I was hooked straight away. Further research and investigative trips increased our knowledge and gained feelings of further connection to the landscape. Anywhere that earth is exposed it’s worth a look. It could be under fallen-down trees, riverbanks, cliffs, building sites or if gardens are being dug up. There are a few identifying factors but once your eye is in, the spotting is quite easy. There will definitely be areas where there is more clay than others, but it is very common.

It is important not to damage the landscape or increase erosion when collecting, and of course, to obey local laws. I feel happy to gather small samples from most places (not from protected areas) and have sought and received permission where I’ve been able to take larger quantities.

For those who might not know, in a nutshell, what are the steps in processing wild clay? And the biggest challenges?


It depends entirely on the clay and what you want to use it for. Some clays will require more thorough processing if they are very stoney for example, but even then it is just a case of soaking in water, mixing to form a slip, and then sieving and drying. There might often be a lot of sand or grit and its just up to you to decide how much of that you want to keep in, and still preserve the original character.

I never want to refine a wild clay too much and wouldn’t use anything smaller than a 2mm mesh sieve. I know I can throw the clay like that and accept (hope) that there might be inclusions that melt out in firing. I might need to blend the clay with a commercial clay body or ball clay to increase workability – some clays are very sandy and ‘short’, not suitable for some forming methods – and this again is down to personal judgement and experimentation.

Some clays contain lime particles which will pop out of the surface of your finished pots and ruin them. You will probably want to avoid this as a making clay body, but it could always be turned into a decorating slip or glaze. 

Clays can also be useable straight from the ground. Viv and myself recently collaborated on some press-moulded boxes where we did nothing at all to the clays we used, not even wedging. The moulding process enabled this.

Another clay from a building site about a mile from our house is probably the best throwing clay I have ever used, including when compared to commercial clay bodies. It is a mottled grey and ochre colour and just needs wedging before throwing. It has some slate particles in but I’m fine with picking out the big ones as I go and leaving the small ones in.

Temperature tests are essential. Many clays around me in Scotland are natural stoneware bodies, but this is not always the case. Samples can melt and damage your kiln, so take precautions. Good ventilation is also necessary when firing wild clays.

What other 'found' materials do you incorporate in your work?


I use a lot of ashes of different types in glazes. I will save grits and sand from processing of some materials, and then add them to commercial clay for a bit of extra life. I am developing some glazes made from wild clays, and plan to learn more about including rocks and minerals in glaze formulation.

Who is a maker whose work you love and admire that we should know about but might not?


There is a maker called Scott Brough working in New Zealand who’s work I like very much. It is expressive, individual and playful, incorporating lots of self-gathered materials. I would love to own some of his pots.

What is your favourite part of your making process and why?

I love being in the landscape, walking, observing nature and the land, looking for mushrooms! Adding the search for clay to this is even better. I love seeing new tests – a clay or type of ash, or a new glaze recipe. Subtleties and nuances are very important in this. 

I love throwing new shapes and getting to know a new form – there’s always so much more to try.

Favourite ceramics shops or galleries in Glasgow that we should know about and visit next time we're there?

Wild Gorse Pottery on the Southside, Welcome Home at CCA in the centre of town, Estd.Barras in the Barras market is a fantastic occasional store showcasing ceramics and other artist objects.

Where does your inspiration for your work usually come from? What sights, sounds,
stories affect or influence you?


Ingot pieces are influenced largely by the breadth of historic pottery forms from East Asia and Europe – not by the finest examples of imperial wares but the every-day rice bowls, tea cups, serving dishes, platters, etc. From historic examples and regional individualities, through developments as styles migrate to new regions, and into current maker’s interpretations of these forms and techniques.

Pottery shapes generally follow a use but forms will also develop ‘in the hand’. Through repetition, on the wheel or other parts of the making process – seeing a completed object, making another batch, then another. Discovering how a clay acts in the making and the firing, and devising how it’s qualities can best be expressed. Seeing how a glaze works on a form then altering the form the next time, towards a greater harmony.

What is the most recent ceramic vessel or piece of pottery you bought for yourself, from where and by whom?

Viv and myself went to Japan recently as a belated honeymoon and had the most wonderful time. We bought a few pieces (a medium serving dish and two mugs) by two different makers from a store called Sei in Kyoto, and wish we could have carried more home.

Do you think studio pottery is on an exciting trajectory or what are your thoughts on how the tradition and craft is making itself comfortable in today's society?

The current popularity of studio pottery is quite amazing, particularly compared to the position it had when I was studying in the 90s and afterwards, and really up until about ten years ago. It was a niche thing but now seems to have thoroughly entered the public consciousness.

There are so many more makers now and people feel able to consider it a career choice. I think this is partly because many people have changed how they think about their work life – that it can and should be something fulfilling.

Viv and myself joke sometimes that in the future they’ll look back in the archaeological layers to a profusion of wonky pots and wonder what we were up all up to.

As technology continues to encroach on our lives and more of time is based around interactions with what often feels to be an artificial or contrived experience, crafts function as a counterpoint to this. Direct contact with and manipulation of raw materials, or objects produced from these materials connects us to a distant past.

It feels to many like the true authentic human experience. There could certainly be fluctuations in popularity in the future but I think the revival will last.

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