Jack and Joan on the project that needed all their skills
I met husband and wife Jack (72) and Joan (“a mere 69”) at the Art in Clay show at Hatfield House. Their remarkable pieces were quite unlike anything else on display at the event. And when I started talking to them it became clear why. (You’ll see what I mean when you read what they said)
Married for 48 years, their warm, amusing but never saccharine interaction meant I wasn’t at all surprised when Jack said they never argued. I’ve reproduced their conversation as faithfully as possible so you get a flavour of their marvellous relationship and personalities.
Joan: We’ve both done pottery for getting on for 50 years, but I was a professional potter before we started doing this and Jack wasn’t.
Jack: What I did before this was quite a lot of a bit of this a bit of that. A bit of science, a bit engineering, a bit of management, a bit of academia, a bit of software design and a bit of art.
[I asked them to explain how their amazing pots had been produced]
Joan: This pottery is all made on a 3D printer that prints porcelain.
We wondered if we could make it work
Jack: You hear a lot about 3D printing but we never saw it working with clay. But being long-time potters we wondered we could make that work. And that's really dangerous for me, well, both of us really. Because six months later, you find that you're doing it!
It required an absolutely heroic amount of googling
First of all I needed to design and build the printer itself, which required an absolutely heroic amount of googling. After a few months with your feet sticking out of google and the rest of you being sucked into the matrix, you've learned quite a bit. Everything is there in the web, it's just that it's not all in one place. Oh, and not all of it is true! During the time the machine was being constructed, which was about six months or so, Joan….
Joan ….worked out what consistency of clay and what type of clay would get extruded through a very fine nozzle and stand up. It took me the full six months to get that right. We’re both physicists by training, and I basically did experiments to find the sort of clay that worked best and then the consistency that worked best. And so when Jack I got the printer built, I had the clay that would work.
The hard part isn’t the printing, it’s the clay
Jack: I would still say the hard part in all this is not so much the 3D printing it’s the clay…
Joan: …yes, and getting the two to work together
Jack: The difference between a finely produced porcelain pot and a blob is the clay. It’s not so much the printing. The printing you can pick up fairly quickly. the clay takes a bit longer.
This is the first time we’ve done a project like this before, but we’ve sailed a racing dinghy together for about 50 years. Joan’s the captain and I'm the engine room.
Joan: I want to win more than he does!
Jack: It does mean that I’m used to taking instructions! If you're heading towards disaster at 8 knots, you don’t have a debate about what to do, you just get on and do it.
Jack is a bugger for changing things. I try and keep them under control
Joan: Working together on this project has been good. It's been good to work out the problems together. There have been some quite difficult problems, and two brains are definitely better than one. Jack is a bugger for changing two variables at the same time, and I try and stop him and keep things under control.
Jack: …story of my life…
Joan: It’s just been fun, really.
Jack: It really has.
See what I mean about their marvellous relationship? I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of their conversation with pics, so here they are
And here are a few examples of their fabulous pieces
Joan and Jack don’t sell their pots on-line (it’s too risky putting them in the post) but you can find out more about their designs and where to buy them from their website and you can see more of their work and watch some fascinating videos of the printing process in action on their Facebook page
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