I work within the classic tradition of wheel-thrown ceramics. My medium is porcelain and I use a blend of Limoges, mixed with other porcelain bodies to achieve a high level of translucency. I seek painterly effects in my glazes and prefer the natural characteristics of reduction firing to augment the decorative process. Whilst I aim for control in my forms I attempt to induce elemental or spontaneous qualities in my glazes.
My work is an ongoing process of study and experimentation. This results in a high level of kiln failures, however I feel that this is an inevitable, but acceptable outcome, that has ultimately enabled me to express my ideas in many different ways.
I have always loved colour. In painting my inspiration comes primarily from the Impressionists. Other painters such as Rembrandt and Rothko used layers of transparency and colour in their painting technique to create luminosity. I approach glazes like copper red and celadon in much the same way.
My recent work demonstrates my current preoccupation with mark-making and splash effects. The randomness and apparent spontaneity of this particular glaze game comes from a practised technique of application that has evolved through a number of mutations over the past three years.
Its appearance is entirely contemporary, however its origin lies in the study of the brushwork of Song Dynasty pot decorators, the wild application of paint by artists like Jackson Pollock, and my visualisation of the exuberant randomness of an herbaceous border in full flower.
Short interview with Ivar Mackay (Nov 05)
1. How would you describe yourself as a potter?
Independent, curious, investigative, dogged.
2. What drives you to make pots?
Don't really know any more It has been my life and is the only thing I know how to do and make a living at. As a young man I didn't want to be a chartered accountant. When I started making pots I found I could throw straight away. My art teacher encouraged me.
3. Where does your inspiration come from?
Everywhere. I absorb ideas from a myriad of sources and adapt them to form or glaze or both in combination.
4. What do you think about when you are making pots?
I start thinking about the pot from the moment that I begin to wedge up the clay. I see the finished piece in my minds eye and have already worked out what glaze will fit the particular form I intend to throw. The night before I will have thought about what I wanted to make the next day, drawn diagrams and made notes about the intended glaze for later on.
When I come to throw the piece I am focused and enter into a state of deep concentration visualising the finished piece as I throw it this is why interruption is so off-putting as my flow is broken. I concentrate on the pots innards its interior contour, which defines the final shape after the piece has been turned.
Perhaps a month later when I finally come to glaze the pot I can refer back to my notes to remind myself what particular glaze effect I had planned for the piece.
5. When you are working out your glaze recipes, how do you arrive at a combination of ingredients?
Until recently semi-educated trial and error. I now have a dictionary of materials and techniques which tells me the characteristics of particular ingredients. I create a basic glaze, into which I can add or subtract quantities of oxide it is a kind of balancing act. One gets clues from published glaze recipes or captions of images, however these are merely starting points, and it is important to use a combination of lateral thinking and patience if one wants to invent new glaze variants.
6. What do you think about when you are firing the kiln?
Because this is reduction firing, primarily the kiln atmosphere and the rate of climb (temperature). I refer to my kiln book at regular intervals to record temperature and other developments, and make comparisons with previous firings that have contained similar packs (glaze/shape) i.e. what was the position of the damper at a particular time, what was the rate of climb, colour of the flame (indicates how carbon monoxide-rich the kiln atmosphere is). The most attention-demanding glaze is copper red.
7. How do you feel when you get a really good pot?
As if I have proved an equation. All my calculations, guesswork, and the processes have come together. Initially I am really pleased, but then later I want to improve on the result.
8. Why are you so keen on classic forms and glaze types?
What's time got to do with it?
9. What is it about throwing (and not hand building, or coiling)?
Once you have put the effort in to learn to throw properly there is an immediacy and connection. When you throw on the wheel you can make things flow.
CV & Education
2010 - In View of the Pyrenees, The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
2006 - Ivar Mackay Porcelain, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh
2005 - Exhibition of Porcelain by Ivar Mackay, The Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
2005 - Solo exhibition of studio porcelain (with painter), Leith Gallery, Edinburgh
2004 - Ivar Mackay Porcelain, Arts Council England North East, Newcastle upon Tyne
2004 - Ivar Mackay Porcelain, The Gallery, Central Library (Caedamon), Gateshead
2004 - Ivar Mackay Porcelain, The Roger Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow
2003 - Sky After Rain, The Oriental Museum, Durham
2010 - The Adolf Egner Collection, Inaugural Exhibition, Museo Nacional de Cerámica "Gonzalez Marti", Valencia, Spain
2007 - Art at Mellerstain , Mellerstain Art Gallery, Mellerstain House, Gordon, Berwickshire
2007 - CPA at 50, The Gallery at Bevere, Bevere, Worcester
2007 - Vessels for Spring, The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
2006 - Christmas Exhibition, Castlegate House Gallery, Cockermouth
2006 - Evolve, Designed & Made, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
2006 - Interior Spaces, Thomas Goode & Co (with the Scottish Gallery), London
2005 - International Ceramics Fair & Seminar, Represented by Adrian Sassoon, Park Lane Hotel, London
2004 - Christmas Present, The Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead
2003 - Baker's Dozen, The Roundhouse Gallery, Foston, Derbyshire
2005 - Fusion - An Illustrated talk on the Ceramics of Ivar Mackay, The Oriental Museum, Durham
2004 - Ivar Mackay - Made of Clay, The Oriental Museum, Durham
2007 - Ivar Mackay Porcelain moves to France, Construction of new Studio Workshop, Seignalens, Aude
1999 - Development of studio pottery & contemporary art gallery, Shire Pottery Gallery & Studios, Alnwick
Competitions, prizes and awards
2005 - Elected Professional Member, Craft Potters Association, London
2005 - Selected for Crafts Council Photostore Selected Makers, Crafts Council, London
2005 - Travel award to attend opening of my solo show at the Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo, Arts Council England North East, Newcastle upon Tyne
2008 - The Ceramics Book 2nd Edition, Edited by Emmanuel Cooper
2007 - CPA at 50 Collectors Commemorative Catalogue
2005 - British Studio Potters Marks, 2nd Edition
2011 - Louis Levi Bequest (donation 8 pieces), St Catharine’s College, Cambridge
2011 - New Work, The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
2010 - The Adolf Egner Collection (donation 5 pieces), Museo Nacional de Cerámica "Gonzalez Marti", , Valencia, Spain
2009 - William Burke Bequest (donation 2 pieces), American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, California