Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bark: A significant week

This week has been pretty special. I got promoted at work, from Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4 Coordinator in the Science Faculty, which probably doesn't mean that much to anyone not in the profession of teaching, but it's a pretty big deal. Not only does it mean more money, but it's a position of genuinely significant responsibility, not only in terms of line management, but also making sure that people get their examination entries sorted out properly, coursework sent off on time, etc. So, fundamentally, it's a massive step up from my current role in the right direction towards the future possibility of being a future Head of Science. A year ago I probably never would have put myself in the position of even applying for the job, but this year I've really rediscovered my ambition and could really see myself going for Head of Faculty roles, or maybe even higher, in the next few years.

I also finally got around to watching Gravity on Tuesday, and promptly used scenes from the DVD in two of my lessons on Friday, to help teach my year 9's about orbits and give my year 12's more of an insight into the application of Newton's First and Third Laws of Motion. I'd had the DVD knocking around my office at home for a couple of months, but never quite gotten around to watching it before this week. It would be easy to be overly critical and point out the flaws with how some of the physics shown in the film is blatantly inaccurate, but it's important to recall that "science fiction" does require some suspension of disbelief, just on general principle. Artistically and technically, Gravity is a phenomenal film, easily one of the best I've seen in the last couple of years. The plot may be rather thin, but as a character study on loss, grief, resilience and the human will to fight and survive against insurmountable odds, Gravity is a masterpiece, and visually, it's one of the prettiest films ever made. It utterly captures the desolate beauty of space. I absolutely love the film, and the soundtrack is amazing - I can't get it out of my head, and I've been listening to it all weekend as I've been putting the finishing touches on my second draft of my sci-fi space opera novel, which I finished the first draft of over the Christmas holiday, last year.

This weekend has been a bit of an odd one, as it's been mixed, in terms of creative success and failure. My exploits on the pottery throwing wheel were a bit hit and miss, as I ruined one pot before I even got it off the wheel, wrecked another by being careless and letting it fall on its side (knocking it off centre) when I was wire-pulling it off the wheel onto a batt, though I did at least make one nice, big ovoid that I can bisque fire during half-term. The real excitement of the weekend, however, was doing my first glaze firing, using the pots and mini X-Wing test pieces (made using a silicone ice cube tray, bought for me by my good friend Alex) I'd had air-drying since Easter. Obviously, I wasn't expecting anything commercial quality, since I was just mucking around, layering different glazes over one another to see if they worked, but the results aren't bad at all, considering that I was using bog standard off-the-shelf, paint-on glazes. Once I really get into making my own dipping glazes, I will expect much better finishes on my pots, in terms of consistency and the evenness of the glaze.

I'm hoping that tomorrow I'm not going to regret opening the kiln a good hour or so too early (it was still 100 degrees inside when I took my first peek inside to see what had happened overnight between Saturday and Sunday), but one of the glazes I'd used (on the three pieces in the foreground of the first photo) was a crackle glaze, and it was amazing to hear the glaze pinging and ringing, almost musically, as the glaze shivered and contracted over the pieces once I'd taken them out of the kiln, contracting faster than the clay bodies of the pieces, forming new cracks while I watched - you can see the cracks forming in the glaze of the egg-like pot in the foreground of the last picture. The mirror black ovoid (penultimate photo) is now sitting proudly on my desk, next to my lava lamp, by my monitor, looking all shiny and gorgeous. It's incredible to look at it and think "I made that!"

Pottery is such a universal, cross-cultural endeavour: in a couple of thousand years, some future archaeologist might dig up fragments from one of my pots - though goodness knows what they might learn from it. When I first entered the ceramics tent at Art In Action, all those years ago, I never envisaged myself actually making decorative pots myself, but now, I have real, solid evidence of what I can make - and the possibilities are beautiful and endless.