Empty Vessels



You are the Potter and I am the clay.
Mold me and make me, have Thine own way
— Norman Hutchins

With more patience than I could only dream of, Loraine Robson rubs the clay with fine sandpaper. I feel a little guilt as it starts to look as though she has ruined an already finished piece to help me get the pictures I need. But Loraine knows something I don’t, and slowly a single thin line of brass starts to appear, which then takes a sharp 90o turn. This transforms into a pattern that to someone like me that loves to program synthesizers, looks an awful lot like a square wave. 

It’s a dark Scottish winter and I’m inside Ceramic artist Lorraine Robson’s studio at the bottom of her garden. We arranged this shoot a few weeks before, but now that I’m here, the light is poor. Not only that but we’ve been talking for a while and the already dim light is fading and it will be dark soon. I do a custom colour balance on my camera but the ISO is pushed so high that the colours are poor. I wish I could come back another day when the light is better, but I’ve already taken up Lorraine’s time and I’d rather work with what I have than risk no shoot at all. 

Lorraine has a series called Empty Vessels. Some of these pieces consist of two parts connected by a chain. The larger one is the empty vessel, a hollowed out container. The smaller is a spoon. Lorraine went on to tell me that the series was inspired when a close relative developed dementia (the empty vessel). The spoon represents her role as the carer.

Derek Clark

Documentary photographer based in Scotland, UK. Winner of UK professional Photographer of the Year 2012 in the News category and member of The Kage Collective.