As a child I wanted to be a geologist. My father introduced me to materials and science by bringing home as many different elements as he could and I remember shiny metals, black carbon and vivid yellow sulphur. The geology beneath our feet shapes and colours our environment in every way, from the rusty iron of the red Australian outback, to the sunshine on the ground, not least the rain in the verdant Welsh hills where the folded rocks turn everything upside down.It was colour and heat that first pulled me towards the furnace at college. I had gone to work with my hands as a potter, and left obsessed with fire and glass making.

Neil Wilkin