I went out to the Bog Road between Clifden and Moyard last week. It was about 5.30pm and the light was really beautiful, low and clear. The colour of the bog grasses was striking – rich metallic shades of gold, copper and bronze. There was still some warmth left in the sun but the wind had a bite to it which isn’t evident in these pictures – the colours are so deceptively warm, it could be some hot and arid place..


Photograph of bog by Deborah Watkins





I wandered down this road to get a better look – a typical Irish side road with impressive pot holes..


Road with pot holes





Mmmm, need a tractor to get through this next bit, good job I brought my wellies..but just look at the blues reflected in this pool.


Photograph of flooded road by Deborah Watkins





One last picture, I like the way the hill peaks over the top of the road in this one.


Road through bog by Deborah Watkins


Winter Waits

Cashel by Marianne Chayet

The first week of November has come and gone with more dry days than wet. It’s a remarkable thing here in Connemara where the rain is never far away. We feel grateful when we get a whole day of dry weather, even more grateful when we get two in a row. I find an excuse to go outdoors when it’s like this, everything else can wait; housekeeping, book keeping, laundry, shopping, even painting is put on hold. If I’m really organised I’ll put some washing out to dry first thing, so that I can leave guilt free.

I took these photos out on the bog road between Clifden and Roundstone. October’s gold has deepened to these Wintry hues, it’s brown all over and under – russety, chocolatey, chestnut brown. The light is low, shining across rather than above and making the brighter grasses glint like shards of coloured glass or metal.



Brown Bog at Roundstone



The water makes a silvery stripe against the bog and there’s an inky blackness at the edges where the grasses are reflected. It makes me think of a pool of mercury sliding through the landscape.


Photo taken at Roundstone Bog




There’s a stark kind of drama about it all, a bareness from the flat grey light of the sky that seems to muffle colour like sound. I like to track down the words, sometimes a verse to match the way the land looks. That’s how I stumbled across these lines from the poem ‘November‘ by John Payne.  I think they fit the mood well – the setting is an empty stage and there’s more than a hint of darkness in the shadowy figure of Winter, laying in wait.



The tale of wake is told; the stage is bare,

The curtain falls upon the ended play;

November’s fogs arise, to hide away

The withered wrack of that which was so fair. 

Summer is gone to be with things that were.

The sun is fallen from his ancient sway;

The night primaeval trenches on the day:

Without, the Winter waits upon the stair.



taken from ‘November‘ by John Payne ( 1842 – 1916 )

Autumn Gold

I took a trip out to Roundstone village at the week end and took some photos on the way. I travelled on the bog road which is a ribbon of tarmac that twists and bumps across the landscape. It’s spectacular at any time of the year because of the vast expanse of bog and lakes and the backdrop of the Twelve Bens mountains but it is really special in Autumn. The burnt orange colours of the grasses give off a deceptive feeling of heat and all the more striking against the blue of the mountains behind. It’s a combination that makes me think of the outback of Australia, wild and vast and hot.


Photograph of Roundstone bog by Deborah Watkins




There are few trees in this place which is something I miss but this carpet of orange heathers and grasses makes up for it. Shimmering colours against the low sun; yellows, browns, ochres, coppery reds – it’s a fiery mix and a golden time, a pause before the long Winter ahead. When the days are warm like they have been, it’s an extra gift, making long sunbeams indoors and tall shadows outside and unexpected warmth, reminding us to hold on to every balmy moment while we can and to savour it.

These grasses below are on the outskirts of the village.


Golden grasses near Rounstone village by Deborah Watkins




It’s an impressive sight and the land feels alive with movement, like hair or water, the gentle sound of it making a whisper, moving back and forward and around me where I stand. Now I have the notion that I could be in some wild prairie in America, not here in Connemara where it’s green and wet.


More grasses near Roundstone by Deborah Watkins





I liked the contrast between the fence and the grasses in this next photo.


Fence and grasses near Roundstone by Deborah Watkins




It looks bleached by the sun, not weathered by rain and wind as it has been here on the edges of the Atlantic. I want to go home now and find a sunbeam to sit in with a cup of hot tea and read about landscapes far away and bask in the last of the day.


Close up of fence by Deborah Watkins

My Life as a Potter

I have mentioned my work as a potter in this blog and so I’ve attempted to illustrate my potting life more clearly here in order to show how my pots and paintings might relate to each other.

I learnt about Raku while studying ceramics in N.C.A.D.  I also spent a few months in the south of France as a student with a group of artists who specialised in this technique. Raku is an ancient Eastern method of firing clay whereby the glazed bisque pots are heated up very quickly, removed from the kiln while hot with long tongs and reduced in bins of sawdust. The latter half of the process is in fact a Western adaptation which was pioneered by a group of American potters in the 1960’s. This dramatic process is very exciting and produces lustrous metallic glazes with crackled surfaces. I used the technique for my degree show in 1991. Here are some examples of the things I was making then.


Photograph of raku pot by Deborah Watkins





Raku pot by Deborah Watkins




These pots were thrown on the wheel and altered from the inside while still wet. I remember seeing an ancient Roman pot that had been decorated by finger marks made from the inside and this was a revelation to me. I became interested in the notion of clay as a skin with some kind of bone-like structure behind it. I drew lots of animal skeletons in the Natural History Museum and I also looked at plants and seed pods for inspiration.


Photograph of raku pot by Deborah Watkins




These little tea bowls (below) were an homage to the ancient Japenese form of the technique.


Raku tea bowls by Deborah Watkins




The next few images are of me practising raku in Dublin in the 1990’s. The first one shows the kiln loaded with some pots and ready for firing.


Photograph of kiln loaded with pots and ready for firing




This is me taking a pot out of the kiln with a long pole. I also used a tongs but I was able to hook some shapes from the inside with this rod, which avoided marking the outside of the piece.


Photograph of Deborah removing molten pot from the kiln





Close up of pot being removed from the kiln




The next photograph shows the reduction process in action – I always worked with another person for safety. I used dustbins filled with sawdust and wood shavings which ignited when the molten piece came in to contact with them. More sawdust was poured on before the bin was sealed with a lid and some wet paper. The pots were allowed  to smoke for a couple of hours before they were taken out and cleaned. The reduction takes place because the chamber is starved of oxygen and so the oxides are drawn out from the metal oxides present in the glaze. This is what produces the metallic effects – copper oxide produces a copper glaze here where it would produce a green glaze in an atmosphere with oxygen present.


Photograph of the reduction process




I set up my own pottery studio in Clifden in 1997 and made raku pots for just over three years. I learnt how to work on my own and I had a shed and a small outdoor space as well as a workshop where I prepared the clay and made large vessels on the potters wheel.

I made purer shapes – spheres and ovoids with narrow openings. I used copper and cobalt oxides in my glazes to produce the blues, greens and metallics that I liked. Here are some examples below.


Photograph of raku sphere by Deborah Watkins




Photo of eggs shaped raku pots by Deborah Watkins




The next pair (below) are simple figurative pots – parent and child.


Raku pots by Deborah Watkins





Here is a close-up of the glazed surface (below).  I still love these rich lustrous colours as you can see in some of my paintings. I identify them with the precious and the magical which is an association I like to make with nature in my paintings.


Close-up of raku pot by Deborah Watkins