Tribute to Diana Devonshire by Lesley Andrews at St John The Baptist, Mildenhall
I have here a small piece of clay and a jar of glaze. The clay is not like the stuff we dig up in the garden. It's slightly wet. I can squeeze it, and it feels and looks more like mud. It is a special potters clay: white St Thomas. The glaze has a name too, Mallard Green. These very simple materials are the starting point for a quite amazing transformation undertaken by Di.
The process is also deceptively simple. Working at a concrete bench at the back of Cock a Troop Di would take clay like this and pummel away to remove all the air. She would then select a mould from the bench and tools from a tiny wooden chest, each drawer carefully labelled: stones, sponges, scrapers and knives. Then the work could begin. Clay used in this way has to be carefully shaped against the mould by hand. Di loved to get a finish that contrasted smoothness and rough textures, so a stone like this and small metal scrapers were put to good use.
Work then moved to the kilns in the garage. Each piece was fired at least twice. The first to harden off the clay. At that stage Di created a painting on clay using her characteristic colours. The second and sometimes third firing take place at a higher temperature to fix the colour and make a stoneware finish suitable for outside or indoors.
Very few potters going through this process achieve the magical results that we see around us. Behind me is a large bowl of exquisite beauty, evocative of the local landscape, a complete masterpiece, yet produced while Di was still at College.
Constrained by kiln size and a reluctance to promote her talent, after graduation, Di made many lovely but simpler forms often as planters for the garden. In the last five years she returned to the earlier bowl shaped forms, to what she saw as a more serious expression of her art. It gave her great pleasure to exhibit and sell these at sculpture exhibitions here in Wiltshire. She leaves us all with a shared appreciation of her creative talent, and her family with a rich legacy of her work.
- Diana Devonshire, exhibitor with MOS since 2004, died on 30 November2017. Read obiturary here.