Johnathan came to sit for me before Christmas. I had such a clear idea of how I wanted this sculpture to be that I completed it in the record time of only two sittings.
I had my eye on the weather as clay will not hold its structure if exposed to frost. The water expands and forces the structure to shell. Occasionally this won't happen until the clay is fired and in the case of thrown pots, they will spiral crack in line with the twist and lift of the clay.
After I had hollowed this sculpture out and laid it flat in the pottery, I covered the windows with cardboard, checked for a potential night frost every day.
During the cold snap in late December, I woke on a night predicted to be 2 degrees below, (no problem for my studio), to discover that it had actually fallen to minus 5. I dashed out in pyjamas, coat and boots to find that the perfect face was now covered in a thin mesh of cracks, so fine they would have been impossible for me to create. I think that my heart may have actually stopped. I felt a sword of tension between awe at the beauty of nature and a shock at what I had lost.
I feel so connected to this work. The fine edges either side of each crack had begun to peel back so delicately but when I returned later to photograph it, the portable heater, (that I had turned on), had thawed the clay and these edges had fallen back down. In places one could no longer even see the lines.
Clay has a memory, in that its structure is made of flat platelets that slide over one another, holding a shape. If manually flattened they will merely bend back to this position during the drying and firing process.
The reason I'm telling you all of this is that I intent to fire the the sculpture which may fall into pieces or lose whole sections of the surface as they shell off. There is, however, the tiniest chance that I intervened before the frost penetrated deep enough to shatter it. If these edges peel back again and all of these fine cracks reappear, it will be witness to the power of what I saw at 4.30 am. Forever the optimist, Fingers crossed.