Meri Wells - Ceramic Symposium - 2014

Wells, Meri 28/01/2014

Meri Wells received funding to enable her to attend an artist in residency programme at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak in March 2014.

Following the residency, Meri stated:

"The project was based in the visual and creative arts faculty of the university. We attended almost every week day from nine 'til five. The whole event was very well organised by Prof. Lale Dilbas and despite the heat and humidity we quickly developed our own rhythm of working. Six of us from four countries worked alongside the students who were encouraged to visit our studio and observe and ask questions. Despite our experience and expertise in our own field of work there were inevitably challenges in terms of materials and process and firing techniques that had to be addressed. This, working outside our comfort zone, is what is so valuable and unavailable at home in our own studios where we know what we are doing with familiar materials. Wendy Lawrence, who is also a hand builder, and I realised that the clay was not strong enough for our process. The students had many disasters with cracking and warping. So, the first thing we did was teach them how to grind and add grog, from bisque fired ware and a quantity of flint sand to the clay and how to wedge it and prepare it for use. They were amazed when our large pieces came out of the kiln intact. I learned a lot in this process and also in the experimental glazes I produced for electric firing, substituting one material for another and so on. All this pushed the boundaries of my work and knowledge. On the more inspirational side, it is too early to process all that we experienced, from seeing a traditional Iban potter forming his pots ,to the jungle environment and, yes, I saw the orangutans. Together with a rich variety of cultural and natural stimuli. Without the financial assistance of Wales Arts International I would never have been able to afford to visit Sarawak and take advantage of the creative environment supplied by Lale and her department.

In return for all the help that we were afforded both in the faculty and outside, we had a driver to ferry us to and from our accommodation and on a five hour journey to the river where we were to stay in a longhouse of the Iban tribe, deep in the jungle, we each delivered a lecture to the faculty and students on our own work and shared aspects of our country and its culture. Together with a forthcoming exhibition of all our works produced during our stay a film was made documenting our various working methods including an interview with each on our aesthetic decisions and priorities. Hopefully a copy will be available in due course. The pieces from the exhibition will form the foundation of a permanent collection at the university."

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