Learning and working in this space is an absolute pleasure

Join us as we shine a light on the work of long time Ceramics student, Debbie Marock. She has experienced a multitude of classes in our ceramics department at Waterloo and is sharing with us her experience…

What is your process for creating your work, tell us how you go from idea to final piece?

My work starts with a spark of inspiration from observing textures, colours and shapes of natural objects such as rocks, landscapes and water. I am also simply fascinated with the material of clay and how best to show this off in my pieces. I start designing in a sketch book drawing rough shapes and slowly refining them. When I have a design I am happy with I make a model in clay and explore the design in 3D; testing shape and surface texture. Once fired I can move to testing different glazes. This process can have several rounds resulting in lots of test pieces.  Finally, when I am happy with the form and glaze, I make a series of pots of the same design.  I often have a few ideas percolating at the same time at different stages of realisation as I enjoy having variety; it keeps the creativity flowing.

How long have you been a student at Morley?

I came to Morley in January 2015 to join a Thursday morning intermediate ceramics session with Duncan Hoosan. For the first couple of years I attended one morning session only. In 2017 I decided to join Annette’s Welch’s Friday morning session too. This gave me the opportunity to increase my hours of learning and benefit from the expertise of two tutors.  More recently I enrolled on a Porcelain Throwing course with Carina Ciscato, once a week for 4 weeks in November 2020.

What’s your favourite part of studying at Morley?

My favourite part of studying at Morley has been the quality of tuition and the wonderful community of potters I have met and made friends with over the years. Furthermore, the ceramics department is rich with resources (material and experience) and the studio is very well laid out and maintained, which makes learning and working in this space an absolute pleasure.

What have you learnt and taken away from your course?

Speaking specifically about the Porcelain Throwing Course, I learned that working with porcelain isn’t as tricky as its reputation. Once you know and understand the material and its qualities, you can start to utilize its properties to create some interesting forms that seem to play with light on the surface and create a translucent glow. Carina showed us how to work sensitively with porcelain taking us back to basics by making cylinders on the wheel, which we later shaped or altered depending on our individual projects and skill level. We were shown how to manipulate porcelain and how to join it to minimise distortion and cracking. Carina demonstrated how to make handles using different methods, such as pulling or using slab strips and how to join them to the body of our pieces. Once our pots were bisque fired we were shown how to glaze and bring out the unique qualities of porcelain through our choice of glazes.

The course made me aware that from the outset of making a new piece it is important to think right down the line to how you’d like the finished form to look. Little decisions, like mark making or finish of a rim when the clay is soft, can influence your choice of glaze and how light will interact with your piece when it is finished. I chose to work on a series of thrown, altered and assembled forms (composite forms) and explored different handle and spout shapes. Carina worked with each of us on an individual level to help us achieve our vision of our pieces.

What are you currently working on?

I am so fortunate to have a home studio in my garden, which was completed just as the first Lockdown was imposed in March 2020. Recently, I have been working on large vases for a client’s entrance hall table. I have also been designing a series of black clay and porcelain work; making mugs, jugs, vases and other functional homeware pieces. Working on my own in my studio has been exciting, but I miss the community of Morley College and the opportunity it offers for bouncing ideas off other students and having helpful and informative feedback on my work from my tutors. I can’t wait to return when the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

How do you think your course at Morley has supported your development towards your desired career?

All the ceramics courses at Morley have helped me take what was a hobby to the next level.  Over the years at Morley College, I have learned a huge amount about how to design and make pottery pieces with careful consideration for all the important elements that make up a successful ceramic piece. The courses have helped me build confidence in my workmanship and take the step towards having my own studio and sell my work.

Morley has offered excellent tuition and provided opportunities to showcase my work through exhibitions at Southwark Cathedral, Morley Gallery, the display cases around the college and other exhibitions in the Waterloo area. One event in particular, New Designers, gave me a wonderful opportunity to talk about my work with gallery owners, collectors and other potential buyers. This has all lead to me gaining confidence to set up my own small business, build a website and more recently open an on-line shop to sell my work. I could not have achieved this without Morley and its ceramic community.