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Me and Francis Boateng
Francis & I
Assembling my terracotta and copper wire bird sculptures for our exhibition
Assembling birds
packing my work in Francis' potters kiln
Loading the kiln
Invitation to our exhibition at the Alliance Fran├žaise in Accra
Invitation card
to our exhibition
opening of our exhibition in Accra

Opening of
the exhibition
Aba House
Francis' Bronzes

In France I buy my clay neatly wrapped in plastic bags and ready to use.A truck tips a pile of dried out clay, just as it came out of the ground, by Francis' workshop gate. It needs to be washed to remove the stones, bits of vegetation, and other debris, then dried to a useable state. Then it has to be "wedged" - a process to make it of uniform consistency. It is difficult to find large plastic bags because there is no refuse collection system in Ghana, and therefore no bin bags. Consequently they tend to only prepare the clay that they wish to use immediately. The clay I was to use had to be put in thin plastic bags of the type that they put your shopping in. I had to be careful not to put holes in the thin plastic as in the heat the clay dries out very quickly.

Ah yes - the heat. I was working on the coast near Accra, the capital of Ghana, which is almost on the Equator. It is not only hot, but for most of the time very humid too. The only respite from this is when the wind turns to the north and the dry Harmattan wind blows straight down from the Sahara desert. It is then just as hot, but feels much more pleasant as you are not constantly bathed in sweat. However, it makes working in clay almost impossible. The dry wind sucks the moisture out of the clay that you are using so fast that it forms a crust that cracks constantly as you try to work the clay. It also dried some of the pieces I'd already made far too fast, and they cracked*. I protected some pieces with the few available plastic sheets, and the small pieces dried fast but survived the process, but there wasn't enough plastic for everything. At the exhibition that Francis and I held I talked to a potter from the north of Ghana, where it is very dry for most of the time. The only way he can work when it is so dry is to close all the doors and windows, put buckets of water on the floor, and suspend sheets, that have their bottom end in the water, from the ceiling,. This puts a bit of temporary humidity into the air making work possible. He also uses a heavily grogged* clay that resists fast drying.

The opening of the exhibition came. and Francis and I made our speeches about cultural cooperation for a better understanding of the world. We were filmed and interviewed by the television company - to be diffused on breakfast TV. But we're talking about the difficulties of life in Ghana here. Francis had done his best to make everything run smoothly, but not everyone cooperated. The printers had put the wrong dates for the exhibition on the publicity and on the banner outside the Alliance Française, where the exhibition was held. The TV broadcast of the opening was screened the morning I left Ghana - after the exhibition had closed. I was doing modelling demonstrations at the exhibition some days, but my work mysteriously broke in the night despite the security man...

All part of the rich experience of how another culture operates!

It was all fascinating, and despite being frustrating at times, it was overall a wonderful experience.

workers wedging the clay I will be using
Wedging clay
making my ceramic eaf stool
Modelling on
Aba's rooftop
my ceramic leaf stool with a lizard crawling up the stem
Leaf stool
the kiln is stuffed full
Every bit of space is used
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testing glazes for my sculptures
Glaze tests
My ceramic hippo stool after firing
Hippo stool
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