Bill Cotching - Soil Scientist & Ceramic Artist

Soil management and research, ceramics, Tasmania, Australia

Ceramic Artist, Potter, Soil Scientist

 Fire and Earth Art

The natural landscape inherently shapes my art. I like it when a place has been around for eons of time but there is a tension between geologic time and the way it looks now.

I am drawn to rough textures, minimal processing, natural materials, and subtle colours in developing my work.

When I walk in the landscape I experience the feel of the earth under my feet, I see and feel natural textures, both visual and tactile. I like being in wide open spaces, to see the dawn breaking, often with such vivid colours that I try to capture on the surfaces of my pots. I seek imagination. I am inspired by the limitless textures, shapes and colours in the natural landscape, whether it be at the beach, in the forests and mountains, or in the rangeland outback. My Fire and Earth Art is nurtured here.

My Imperfect Art has its roots in my profession as a soil scientist for over forty years where I have built my understanding of natural processes from careful observation, detailed description and experience. I became a part of the earth and the earth became a part of me. I tap into these deep sources of experience to inform the forms I make.

My relationship to the land is deep seated, you could say guttural. The rocks that soils are formed from form a strong part of my geologic understanding and they are often in my mind. Rocks fascinate me and provide endless inspiration of form and texture for my art.

I want to capture the gravelly pathways, the sandy beach and calm waters that nourish and enrich my soul every morning as I see the colourful dawn break and the energy giving sun rise. The surface of my pots is a great place to incorporate these textures and colours.

The pinch pot is the simplest of pot forms to make, to transform earth into art. My smaller pots are pinch pots that have been finely crafted, burnished with a smooth beach stone when leather hard and polished after firing with bees wax to produce a smooth glossy finish. Larger pots are formed with coils built on a pinch pot base. Rough surfaces can be achieved by incorporating gravel or scouring with sand paper to produce a tactile wonderland.

Rocks in the landscape are formed by powerful processes of uplift, deformation and volcanism. These forces result in natural fractures, fissures as well as geometric and angular shapes in the rocks that I try to incorporate into my ceramic sculptural forms.

 All my pots contain imperfections as a result of being hand formed using pinching and coil work. There is beauty in this imperfection, an idea that is incorporated in the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi.

I use seaweed from the beach and local firewood in pit-firing these pots with the highly variable colours and patterns being the result of the uncontrolled nature of the process. My interest in pit fired pottery comes from my desire to strip back the complexities of life and to demonstrate the essential processes involved in the production of pottery as pit firing is the simplest way to fire ceramics.

My hand crafted pottery that undergoes metamorphosis from earth with my hands and the use of fire in a pit, involves a lot of luck and plenty of uncertainty as there is a lack of control. My pot making requires me to be aware of myself, of the clay and of the process. It is a way of spending time, much like going fishing or walking. I love working with a natural material, clay, and each time I make a pinch pot the experience changes. No two pots are ever the same. A pinch pot is a primitive vessel and therein lies much of its appeal to many people. Just the hand and the clay and no technology in the process. My pinch pots need to be formed slowly, quietly, and with deep attention. This all takes practice. This is my form of mindfulness. This is me. This is my art. It is imperfect and the processes involve much uncertainty My emphasis on using natural materials and processes derives from my focus on natural textures and fundamental materials that are part of the natural roots of human origins.

You may choose to experience my textured pots visually, but a deeper experience is enhanced by exploring them with your hands. Imagine how it would inherently add soul and dimension to any space in which it is displayed. You don?t have to understand why you?re drawn to it, but you do have to accept it as it is.

Watch my pit firing video

The Pit Firing Process (view

Winner TASART Fine Craft Award 2018

Winner TASART Lucia Leon , Carmen Reuter Award 2019 


Pots (view)

Sculptures (view)

Ochre painting (view)

The Perfect Pinch Pot (view)