AberForward: Charlotte’s 2nd Week

charlotte-photo-aberforward-jan2017Part 1

Hey everyone,

I cannot believe it’s week two of my placement. It’s going very fast, but I’m enjoying every minute of it. So the main duties I’ve had for this week were:

  • Filling out COSHH forms ready for the health and safety audit. (COSHH: Control of Substances Hazardous to Health)
  • Assisting curator Neil Holland in receiving and setting up Earth, Salt and Fire: Pots by Micki Schloessingk.
  • Photographing some of the works in the School of Art collection.
  • Continuing the digitization of Erich Retzlaff’s negatives.

First I want to get the not so exciting part out of the way…the COSHH forms. Even though they are an absolute necessity when working with hazardous chemicals, lets be truthful: filling them in is quite a tedious task. Even as former photography students, we were still surprised at some of the potentially harmful effects from some of these chemicals. Even though it wasn’t a particularly fun assignment to tackle, it did heighten my perspective on the health and safety risks that everyone should take into consideration.

Moving on to a far more exciting subject: Artist Micki Schloessingk and her touring exhibition that has been curated by Ceri Jones. Micki Schloessingk, Anna Noël and Anne Gibbs are part of The Language of Clay: Part One -exhibition series, initiated by the Mission Gallery National Touring Exhibitions. So just after Pete Goodridge had sent Noël’s Telling Tales on its way, Earth, Salt and Fire: Pots by Micki Schloessingk arrived at the Ceramic Gallery.

Even though I was sad to see Noël’s fairy tale ceramics leave the Aberystwyth Art Centre, I was excited to see what Schloessingk was going to offer, and she didn’t disappoint: Her work is just as the title suggests ‘earthy’ in it’s colourings, ranging from sun burnt oranges, splashes of golden yellow, deep chocolate browns to pale magnolia creams. It is evident that a lot of care has been taken in the making these beautiful functional ceramics. A vast amount of Micki’s work is thrown on the wheel whilst she also enjoys hand-building some of her pieces. All of the pieces are wood-fired and salt-glazed.

But before I’m getting completely carried away, have a look for yourself:

These are just some of the images I took of Schloessingk ’s work. I found them such interesting pieces to photograph; when the pots are created as pairs each is slightly different from the other – they belong together yet retain their individuality.

I was surprised to learn that Schloessingk had intended her art works to be used as everyday utensils around the house! “Something this delicate could in no way be used”, I thought. However, the pieces are heavy and solid; there is none of the delicateness or daintiness of Anna Noël’s work, instead they are sturdy items that could very well fit into any home.

As a member of the public you don’t realise how much work and effort go into organising an exhibition. You might acknowledge the fact that some one has printed out the labels and put up the pieces of work, but we (and I’m including myself up until now) fail to realise that every piece of art has been carefully placed to show off its best side. They are also often placed to hide the worst parts of others. The point I’m trying to make here is that it is a fine balancing act in getting it right, something I believe Neil has perfected over his years as curator at the School of Art. As Professor Moira Vincentelli, Curator of Ceramics, said so beautifully the other day: “Arranging an exhibition is like arranging poetry.”

I have to stop for now, but will complete this post another time, as I don’t want to leave out any important information. But I think before I go I should definitely say: “Bye Anna Noël! Thanks for visiting us at the Ceramic Gallery.charlotte-coffee

So until next time, bye for now!





Part 2

Good Morning, Everyone!

So, in case you didn’t read the last blog entry, in this post I will be discussing photographing some objects of the School of Art collections with Emily Harrison, then moving on to discussing the continuing journey of digitizing Erich Retzlaff’s negatives. In the last post I discussed the importance of health and safety issues, for example, the chemicals we use in the darkroom and why it is essential to be properly dressed for the processes involved. I then discussed Earth, Salt and Fire: Pots by Micki Schloessingk and the effort it takes to organise an exhibition.

In our spare time Emily and I where given the task of photographing some of pieces from the collection. This was a completely different task to photographing Schloessingk’s work, and even though this was set in a studio, which I am very familiar with, it was the polar opposite to taking someone’s portrait!


We decided that a black backdrop would emphasise the black/ grey chalk in the piece and give the white border a stronger presence. We positioned the drawing on a white painted box with clear Perspex behind so that it would balance the drawing and keep it still. My first reaction was to light one lighting studio lamp and create deep shadows, but then I remembered this was a drawing not a person! So Emily turned the other lamp on to create an equal balance of light on the piece. I found this task actually quite difficult; it was different to photographing pots and vases, and it was miles apart from photographing a person. I couldn’t add my own take on the photograph; I couldn’t change or insinuate that it was anything more than what it was. Regardless of the difficulties I found whilst doing it, I really enjoyed experimenting with the pieces, trying to capture a true and unaltered photo of the drawings.

charlotte-week-2-part-2-object-portraiture-1The rest of the week was spent continuing the digitization of Erich Retzlaffs negatives. It’s week 2 and we are just starting the second folder. He took hundreds of images; some documented the buildings and their structures, others were, as I said in a previous post, typical tourist photographs. Emily informed me (as it’s taken two of us at different intervals to document them all) that her favourites are the ones where he didn’t even mean to take a photo, resulting in a picture of someone’s blurry feet! But those are the best kind really aren’t they? They are the ones that humanize a public figure who is so well appreciated; remind us aspiring photographers that even Erich Retzlaff sometimes took pictures of his own thumbs.


This photograph is what I have affectionately named ‘The Hansel and Gretel House’. It reminds me of an old fairy tale with its piercing blue sky and ‘odd’ structure to the house, it is truly fascinating. The first folder contained various images from his trip around Rome and, we think, Venice, whilst his second folder was centred on Germany, I’m looking forward to working on his last folder… if we ever get there!


Anyway, I had better get back to work – these negatives aren’t going to scan themselves.

Bye for now!


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