Research: Gail Nichols

Gail Nichols’ work has such individuality to it the she has managed to maintain and develop her techniques over the past few years. Nichols’ work is best know for her development and strong use of soda firing when glazing her ceramic pieces. The research was undertaken in order to satisfy a curiosity that was largely aesthetic; a desire to work directly with clay and fire, and to achieve close integration of form and surface. The subtle interplay of technique, materials and aesthetics is an essential part of Nichols’ practice. Arriving at an acceptable balance between knowledge, intuition and uncertainty is a continuing, yet exciting challenge. Nichols creates elegantly thrown vessels with slight manipulation afterwards, combing with the dimpled effect of the soda firing process. All of these techniques put together create an extremely organic effect. The colours used in her works are natural, soft and welcoming, which give her ceramics and all round calming and intriguing feel.Use of high alumina bodies has led her away from the thin glaze effects commonly found in soda glaze work, towards another aesthetic in which a rich flowing glaze interacts with and softens the form. The opaque crystalline whiteness creates a visual impression of snow and ice moving glacially over the surface. A wide palette of colours including red, yellow, blue-green, mauve, grey and black are achieved through control of atmosphere during firing and cooling, responding to form and flame movements. Much like the work of Hessler’s, there is a strong sense of spontaneity and ‘fear of the unknown’ when using these risky methods. They are extremely individual and unique and the outcome of the pieces can never be determined due to the unforeseen circumstances that may occur during the firing process. The results are successful and have a lasting impression on the viewers.

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