Annie McAlister-Dilks
Artist statement

Annie bought her first pot in Cornwall, a matt cobalt glazed jug, aged twelve which she still has in her studio.  At twenty she started attending adult education classes in Bromley, and progressed through the basic techniques using glazes and oxides to colour her thrown and hand built pots but found the experience limiting and vaguely unsatisfying.  Over the course of several years gradually Annie found herself teaching fellow students, took a teaching qualification and has been a tutor for Bromley Adult Education College for the past twenty-five years.  The challenge of teaching and making courses interesting to adult students involved her investigating a wide range of ceramic techniques, using coloured slips and glazes but increasingly becoming involved in raku, naked raku and smoke firing, including the use of saggars.  Although she has no formal art school training, she has read extensively and experimented freely, while inspirational potters and ceramicists who have influenced her (directly and indirectly) include Jane Perryman, Tim Andrews and Ashraf Hanna.  She is also a fan of the reduction fired work produced at Made in Cley and Stephen Parry’s ash fired ceramics, all based in north Norfolk.  

A love for and fascination with the wide open skies, marshes and coastal landscape of North Norfolk and a general love of nature led Annie to find a different way of decorating her pots - freer and less predictable - which resulted in experimenting increasingly with naked raku and smoke firings.  

Watching sunsets in the vast skies over North Norfolk is the feel and palette Annie is trying to capture with her smoked pots, so she favours the blue, grey and green colours the sky reflects in the North Sea, with varying shades of pink and red colouration to spark thoughts of the brilliant sunsets.

The method can be intricate and time consuming.  For both smoke and Raku firings, the clay surface is prepared by using three coats of home prepared slip (dry clay mixed with water to make a ‘single cream’ solution) which is then burnished with a polished pebble and bisque fired to temperatures of around 920-960° to leave the clay surface absorbent.  A salt or copper sulphate solution is brushed onto the pots intended for smoke firing.  The next step is to secure seaweed and sea lavender gathered from the Norfolk beaches onto the pots with copper wire.  Strips of silk, soaked in salt or copper sulphate solution, are also used in this way to ensure the organic material stays close to the surface of the pots during firing.  The pots are then wrapped in sheets of dampened newspaper and sprinkled lightly with salt and copper before being taped into a parcel.  The seaweed and sea lavender will either impart colour or shape onto a pot’s surface.  The copper wire will leave a broken line of black, sometimes tinged with copper green and other times fire red, and the salt and copper sulphate will impart the blue/grey/turquoise/pink and red colours depending on the temperature achieved during the smoke firing.

Annie uses throwing, slabbing and pinching to make her pots from mixed porcelain and grogged molochite body, which is very white and strong enough to resist thermal shock.  Vases of varying heights have been inspired by the shape of razor clam shells, gently curved whilst maintaining stability.  She makes her candlesticks in pairs, which lean gently towards each other, again in a slight curve.

Razor Clam Shell Vases - Pink
Raku-fired Ceramics
Large apx H26cm | Small apx H15cm
Large £85 | Small £55
Bottle | Vase
Smoke-fired Ceramics
Bottle H12cm | Vase H15cm
Bottle £75 | Vase £85
Large Vases
Smoke-fired Ceramics
H13cm x D11cm
£85 each
Razor Clam Shell Vases
Smoke-fired Ceramics
Large apx H25cm | Small apx H20cm
Large £85 | Small £65
To see Annie’s ceramics, pop into the gallery. If you would like to purchase any of Annie’s work, we are happy to offer a mail order service and can accept payment by most major debit and credit cards over the telephone, or via Paypal.

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Smoke-fired Ceramics
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 Gallery Plus, Warham Road, Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk, NR23 1QA.
On the A149 Coast Road at the junction to Warham, Wighton and Walsingham .
01328 711609 / 07795 680674
All content © 2018 Gallery Plus. All artwork © to the originating artist.
Trevor Woods and Joanna Woods Trading as Gallery Plus
Gallery Plus VAT Registration Number 985 9222 70
Major Exhibition
by Trevor Woods
26 May - 9 June