Gill Pittman

Image for Gill Pittman

My interest in ceramics and painting goes back to school days, and later I spent a year at the Slade doing life drawing before going to medical school. I also went to ceramics classes in London and spent some months at the Chelsea Pottery. When I moved to Gower in 1971 I went to more classes at the University, got my own kiln and set up a studio. I was able to spend some time on ceramics as well as working as a GP until the family came along. I then had a 28 year holiday from ceramics until I retired from General Practice in 2007.

I now concentrate mainly on making wall plaques. The plaques are modelled in low relief - some hang directly on the wall and some are mounted on boards and framed. Stoneware pieces are moisture and frost proof and may also be built into walls, indoors or out. Designs are representational, with subjects including animals, birds, trees, bible stories, figures and landscapes. I have also recently worked on mosaics, creating the Diamond Jubilee commemoration table on the Upper Green at Reynoldston, Gower, with local school children.

 I make the original of a plaque from clay by modelling and carving, and make a mould by pouring plaster of Paris over it. I then use slip casting – pouring a liquid clay into the mould – to reproduce the original.  After the piece has dried comes the biscuit firing, which converts the clay to porous ceramic. Glazes are next hand painted on, either earthenware, which are then fired to 1040°C, or stoneware, fired to 1240°C, which produces a strong non-porous ceramic. Porcelain is also high fired, and instead of glazing I sometimes combine it with fusing glass. Glass chips (frit) are placed in recessed areas and the piece fired again to 830°C to melt the glass. Because of the different shrinkage of the glass and porcelain during cooling the glass crazes and you get an attractive sparkling effect.

I usually make about five casts of each design before the urge to make something new overtakes me. The finished pieces always turn out very differently, depending on the materials and glazes used. Each piece is therefore unique.