Woodland Colours

20 May, 2015

The muted colours of Sussex in Winter and Spring must have been seeping into my thoughts and into my work over the past few months. Some new ideas and pieces have been emerging as a result.

Colour palette

I’ve spent some time looking at the colour palette I use and working on a range of colours, textures and tones that work well together as a group. The colours that I’ve been drawn to the most are frosty whites, mossy greens, dark browns and light fawn.

Elaine Bolt - Sussex dew pond

Sussex dew pond

I took this photo on a walk I take regularly near where I live. The colours of the dew pond change so much with the weather I end up taking a photo of it almost every time I stop there. On this day, it was so misty in places I could hardly see a few feet in front of me.

Elaine Bolt Ceramics, willow colours

Willow colours

One very wet and cold winter’s day I spent a few hours helping willow artist Annemarie O’Sullivan with some of her harvest and was lucky enough to take some bundles home with me. I also spent an amazing day with her and a small group in the Sussex countryside having a go at making a basket. The result was rather wonky, but I’m very fond of it!

Over the same period, I’ve been experimenting with clays, which has involved mixing clay bodies to create colour variations in the clay itself as well as with glazes. I’ve mixed various clays with porcelain in different quantities to obtain finishes ranging from light speckled grey to dark chocolate.

Elaine Bolt - clay test pieces

Elaine Bolt – clay test pieces

Elaine Bolt Ceramics Colour samples

Clay and glaze colour tests

I’m not sure how conscious a thought it was to focus on these organic, earthy types of colours, some of the connections are only now becoming clear as I review what I’ve been doing. Lining up some of the test pieces showed that a graduation in tone between the individual pieces worked really well.

Beyond the test pieces, a range of vessels and semi-functional ceramics are also emerging from this new palette.

Elaine Bolt Ceramics - 'Little Brown Jugs'

Elaine Bolt Ceramics – ‘Little Brown Jugs’

I’ve still got lots of work to do in creating a new collection, but I see my work as a pretty much constant state of experimentation, and trying new things with the materials. So though I’ll create lots of finished work over the coming months, I doubt if I’ll actually ever be ‘finished’.


As an early indication of where this is going, I’ve found that my ceramic spoons work particularly well in this colour palette, especially when combined with organic materials such as twigs and lichen. So here’s a selection of spoons that have been on show recently, using the new clay mixes.

And some new framed groups of utensils pieces on a ‘woodland’ theme, both recently sold.

'Sussex Woodland Utensils' by Elaine Bolt

‘Sussex Woodland Utensils’ by Elaine Bolt

'Woodland Utensils' by Elaine Bolt

‘Woodland Utensils’ by Elaine Bolt

Fence posts and bottle tops

24 January, 2015

I’m endlessly inspired by the sea and my visits to the beach, even if I don’t actually fancy a swim right now! But recently I’ve been enjoying the local hills and woods, whilst the trees are damp and the skies are gloomy.

wooden fence post - Elaine Bolt

On some walks through the Sussex downs I’ve been finding a lot of joy in the details of things and in the natural colours that pop out when you look closely. On a rainy day I discovered some beautiful subtle lichen that followed the contours of sawn wood on the top of a fence post. I probably looked like a crazy person, taking photos of a fence post. But what can you do.

I’ve also been exploring a very dark and damp woodland nearby and have been wandering through trees coated in lichen, finding derelict structures shrouded in moss and stumbling across branches with some pretty colourful fungi. I think I’m drawn to the idea of the tiny worlds within worlds that these natural forms offer. The closer you look, the more they appear like forests and landscapes in their own right.

Capturing and reflecting those natural tones in my own work is a bit of a challenge. Imitating nature is a tricky path to follow. But I love subtle blues, greens and browns, with the occasional pop of orange or yellow. So hopefully my work will continue to edge down this path. I’m also interested in how man-made things sit in the landscape and the way nature takes over, giving it a soft patina over time. I’m working towards a potential collaborative project with another maker that may explore some of these themes. It’s too early days to share details at the moment, but these inland explorations are (hopefully) heading somewhere too.

I haven’t forgotten the sea though. I’m still running around the trashy foreshore finding things that have fetched up on the pebbles.

East Wittering

It’s often the thing that looks like it’s not supposed to be there that catches my eye – bright colours are the biggest giveaway, though they’re usually just bottle tops. At the Witterings a large orange piece of plastic sat on the beach looking dramatic. At Newhaven a bicycle reflector shone out from a pile of seaweed. Sometimes I find plastic things that have mutated through their time in the sea and have come to mirror natural forms. My workshop is full of such objects and I have no idea what I will do with most of them.

On being a Womble – I do attempt to take away and safely dispose of some of the rubbish I find, what little I can, just to keep it out of the sea and away from the wildlife. But I can’t clean the whole beach, it’s just too messy there. And it’s a rather futile task as it keeps coming with every tide. And perhaps it’s really just moving it from one part of the world to another, from beach to landfill. But I do it to make myself feel better, if nothing else.

On camera – I snap away with my iPhone and post lots of images like this on Instagram, so if you just can’t get enough of photos of things found on the beach or close-up lichen shots, then head over there for more of that kind of thing. I’m also back in the studio and making things. So hopefully some images of work in a few weeks, with a bit of luck.