Jitka Palmer on Dylan Thomas at the International Ceramics Festival in Aberystwyth

By Ben Miller | 27 June 2013

International Ceramics Festival 2013: Czech artist Jitka Palmer on poetry in motion...

A photo of a female artist painting a pot
© Hugo Palmer
“I love giving myself a specific theme. It fires my imagination and gives meaning to the finished piece of work.

I draw my inspiration from life around me, from people and their stories.

As the festival is in Wales, I have decided to focus my attention on the much-loved Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Next year is going to be the 100th anniversary of his birth.

I love poetry and one of my favourite pieces by Dylan Thomas is the radio play Under Milk Wood.

Thomas briefly lived in New Quay, not far from Aberystwyth. At that time he made a first draft of the play.
The people of the small Welsh town in the play are very charismatic and colourful – perfect for bringing to life, painted on both the inside and outside surfaces of a large vessel.

I use coloured slips for painting on hard clay, applying them liberally and building up the layers.

Each painting is finished with a graffiti effect, which can be exercised so liberally in ceramics and which gives me immense, almost physical pleasure. It serves as a visual storage of energy.

I love watching people, their body language and facial expressions and features. I am on the lookout for interesting forms and shapes of human face, which I gather in my sketchbook as valuable collection of raw material.

I love the challenge of quick, intuitive drawing without unnecessary detail.

In the last few years I have been experimenting with portrait in clay. I started to model members of my family and friends.

I later expanded into making portraits of people I admire, including JS Bach, Marc Chagall and Michelangelo, using several photographs and drawings to assemble their features in my head in order to create a fresh likeness.

I will be portraying Dylan Thomas in a presentation at this festival. The aim will be to make a bust of the poet using sketches and various photographs as a starting point. I will slip paint and finish the head with beeswax and polish.

His face was striking and reflected the drama and intensity of his life.

I have always been drawn to strong faces, and it will be a challenge for me to try to bring him to life in his native land in front of the festival audience.

I will set up an armature and demonstrate, step-by-step, the creation of a clay portrait, using both hand-building and modelling techniques – and a few shortcuts.

I will try to explain my affinity for painting on clay surface, my love of colour and the path which led to my slip painted vessels and heads."

More pictures:

A photo of a woman moulding a sculpture inside a studio
© Hugo Palmer

A photo of a woman moulding a sculpture inside a studio
© Hugo Palmer
A photo of an abstract artwork in thick black and blue oils
A photo of a sculpted pot with a painting of a goddess-like woman on its side
A photo of a brown and white sculpture of a man looking towards the camera

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When I see your work my heart misses a beat. Thank you.
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