Sunday, 20 July 2014

Out of this World at 'Potfest in the Park'

Where has time gone since I last wrote my pottery blog? It has been a glorious summer pandemonium mix of manic making, whilst also trying to fit in shopkeeping, sort out commissions, family matters, garden and house maintenance, make music occasionally, whilst all the time keeping one eye on Potfest  in the Park which was looming. Oh, and the small matter of making that Potfest Competition piece. 

This year the theme of the show is ‘Out of this World.' So come along next weekend (Friday, Sat or Sunday) to enjoy a feast of international ceramices in relaxed surroundings, and see what the potters have brought to this hugely open ended brief. 

The last few weeks have been pretty mad really, I've been in the workshop seven days a week and working late into the evenings! With no workshop assistance this year I have been finding it hard to juggle time to follow my creative impulses AND keep up with the practical and, lets face it easier to sell, more functional pots. Well, if I run out of mugs, I run out of mugs. My hands are happy to be throwing less often anyway.

But, I have been having a great, if indulgent time. Last month I used the new beast of an extruder again for a big piece I am working on. I have been dying to make another seat and Potfest is always an excuse.

Putting together such a large object takes a few cups of tea and consideration time.

I used the pulley system to lower the seat into position, which worked remarkably well. With the seat firm enough to hoist up, supported by two strips of wood, it gave me plenty of time to get it into the right position, before letting it squidge onto the slip

I got the work glazed and the kiln on eventually at half eleven last night. Will it or won’t it come out in one piece, look good, disappoint, delight? I shall find out on Monday. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Delighted that Octopuss is going to a good home though it's sometimes sad to say goodbye to a friend, especially as she somehow embodied our dear old, now departed, cat Extra.

All wrapped and ready to go tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Spring Fling 2014

This years Spring Fling saw what was a record number of visitors to our studio over the three days.

It started early this year with a Friday evening opening which was a lovely low key affair with mainly friends, wine and good chat. What it did mean was that we were very much more relaxed on the Saturday morning having already got the place ready and having had a 'dry run'.

Visitors arrived pretty well straight away on Saturday morning and kept coming, and coming. Some old faces, some new faces and all lovely interested and interesting people.

It was a pleasure to have Wendy Kershaw come down and share the studio again this year. It added a visual feast for the visitors plus it was so much fun for us to have her. Mind you, even with three of us manning the pumps it was hard to find time to grab a snack. I wish I had found time to take more photos, I just kept forgetting where the camera was. 

On Sunday we were joined by the Dumfries African drumming group Africadabra who played outside in the sunshine and enjoyed themselves so much they stayed all afternoon, all adding to the general feeling of quite a 'Happening on the Corner'.

This year we added some extra display boards in the back shed for my long dishes. It worked well with yet more for folk to discover.

I had fun filling the garden with my ceramic pieces such as 'Toys for Boys' who looked happy following Terracotta Tours along the bus route.

It took most of Tuesday to put the workshop back to rights but this afternoon I got back to some mugs which I threw last week. Quiet and calm slowly descends once again on Barnbarroch.

Thank you to all those who called in, it was lovely seeing you and we really appreciate your interest and encouragement.

Monday, 19 May 2014

A long day's glazing

Its been a long day but that's it - the kiln is on at last. Actually it's been a long few days. As always I underestimated the time it takes to glaze. I think I've done all the work making and drawing but then I still have glazes to mix, apply, wax and dip. 

It's my own fault that I left this all to finish off today. It was a lovely weekend and too good to miss the chance to scrub and tidy up the outside of the pottery. I thought 'I can easily finish the glazing on Monday'. 

Well that was quite a Monday, I have hardly had time to look up! Every time I did look up I saw something else which needed to be finished. It all got a bit late and several rather large spillages of glaze over my feet towards the end didn't help. My pots tend to have too many ends to pour glaze out of, and even with a wide container I need eyes which swivel every-which-way. Then there was a thunder storm so it all got very dark and light-flickery. Thankfully it looks like the storm has now passed, so maybe it's actually a good thing that it was eleven by the time I started the firing. (Don't want any power cuts mid fire cycle)!

So hopefully all will be finished for 'Spring Fling' this coming weekend. This year we have elected to do the Friday night opening. Do come if you are able, the more the merrier! 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Pots in May

There are two weeks to go now until Dumfries and Galloway's Open Studios event 'Spring Fling'. This year Wendy Kershaw is once again coming down to share my studio space. It was really great having her last year. Having two people to welcome and chat to visitors made it a lot more fun.


I have already put aside some of my new work for this, though there is more to finish and there is always more that I would have liked to have made. Being on show at home means it is time again for the annual Spring Fling Spring CLEAN. This afternoon I took the showroom apart and got the windows washed inside and out. Plenty more to do but at least I've made a start.

I took the best of my new wave vases down to the Red Barn Gallery, but I wanted to build on the theme while it was still working for me and make some more for Spring Fling. Series two is underway and now trying to dry out in this damp slack low pressure which is May. 

Here are a couple of tree plaques which came out of the last kiln. I love the way the first extrusions splay before the clay settles into a flow. I only get a couple like this from each set, so they become quite special.

I like the movement in these surf dudes, but they need a little more colour, so I think I'll risk putting them back in the kiln again, maybe.

 These are the new double headed Tall bird vases.

And this is 'Toys for Dogs Too', the partner of 'Toys for Boys' which was exhibited at Gracefield Arts Centre at the Spring Fling exhibition. I'm looking forward to displaying them as a pair. I still have the road from 'Terracotta Tours' to put them on, so they will have quite a race.

If I don't manage another post before then, maybe see you at Spring Fling. Rumour has it there may even be an African drumming group coming along on one of the days to entertain (and hopefully not make any pots go bouncing off shelves). 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Fish and clouds

At last, I have a batch of new pots, all finished over the last few weeks. It has been a great relief to get some pleasing results after the rather uncomfortable run of glaze problems. It is only now that the cloud has lifted that I realise just quite how oppressive and anxious that cloud was.

 So after a long wait I have now some new work which I am happy with.

I started this series of sea and river section vases in February, never exactly sure where they were heading, but always enjoying the journey they were taking me on. The vase is inserted and goes right down through the section so they actually take flowers quite nicely. The vase section of this one could be seen as a kind of ship with flags, a submarine or a flag iris. The tufted ducks don't really care.


I was working on this one during the flooding of the Somerset levels and thinking about the great biblical flood.These swimming animals are inlaid in white slip - I wanted them to look ghostly amongst the fishes, who are enjoying the extra water to swim in.

 This jaunty vase looked happily mad when tested with a bunch of Easter daffodils. 



 On the same theme and from the same die, these are some smaller sailing vessel vases.  I put one out in the showroom the day it came out of the kiln, as much to see how it looked, and someone came in minutes later and bought it. It is both rewarding but also a bit devastating when that happens. I like to get to know my pieces of work a little better and for a little longer before saying goodbye.

Fishy Clouds - it must be the wet season we have had, for fish and water seem to have been very much the theme so far this year.


I will be selecting a group of these for my show opening May1st at the Red Barn Gallery  Melkinthorpe, near Penrith. There is just one last kiln firing this evening with potential work for it. The Red Barn is not just a lovely gallery, it shares premises with the amazing Larch Cottage nurseries (the largest variety of plants I have ever seen, most of which are propogated on site),  and the Greenhouse Restaurant which is a very nice place to eat. So a day out there is well worth it if you like plants, food and ceramics!

Monday, 24 March 2014

TFB in the 'Spring Fling At Home' Exhibition

Each Year 'Spring Fling' puts on an exhibition in which everyone who is taking part in the region's 'Spring Fling' open studio event has to put in a piece of their work. It is a difficult exhibition to put on, work ranges from paintings, in hugely different styles and mediums, to furniture, handmade shoes, ceramics, sculpture, textiles - to name just a few. So to pull this huge range of work together into a coherent show is a huge challenge.

This year it was curated in a very different way, showing 'Art and Craft in a domestic setting'. I missed the opening last weekend but called in on Friday. It does really seem to work and is probably the best Spring Fling show ever. Everything had been very carefully thought about with great care taken over each piece.

I eventually found my contribution, 'Toys for Boys' upstairs on a table covered in an old lace table cloth. Velvet curtains by the window matched the yellow body of the vehicle, and there was even a dry spotted leaf taking up the colours.

The car does have a musty yellow feel to it and this has been picked up on. Thanks folks! I tend to be pretty fussy over the way my work is displayed, but I loved this.

I only took a few other photos to give a taste of the show. This year is the first time that Archie McCall is taking part in Spring Fling with his fine stoneware -  and about time I say... 

Hannah McAndrew's lovely warm wood fired pots looked well on the handmade table.

Wendy Kershaw's ceramic picture, well lit where the window light catches it.

Amanda Simmon's enormous glass platter, dancing against the light.

A show well worth getting along to have a look at, it runs until 3rd May.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Frogs in Perthshire

While I was busy with the weekend demo, Rodger was enjoying the frogs. Kindrogan Field Centre was a beautiful setting for the Scottish Potters Association gathering. 

My co- demonstrators were Simon Griffiths who makes animal sculptures and Lisa Hammond who makes shino and soda glazed thrown ware using the wheel. Of course I didn’t get to see the other two which was a shame, but I got reports and pictures from Rodger Above is Lisa blow torching her large pot in an attempt to dry it off a little.

Then using a paddle to knock it into shape.

Simon was a delight and captured everyone's heart with his light humour and Joie de Vivre.

Here he is describing the angle of ears. It's just a pity I never got a photo of the dodo costume which he and his family made for the evolution ceilidh. The dashing White Sergeant with the middle one riding a dodo is quite something.

When one works quietly away on one's own, a room full of watching people is a little daunting at first.

It was hard to fit in so many aspects of the making process into two days. The clay was very soft and there was no drying to be had so it  had to be encouraged to firm up with the aid of a rather vicious gas burner. This was an either all or nothing affair and the audience were in danger of being scorched. My attempts at throwing on a strange wheel, (with a control pedal which worked in the opposite way to my own one), were not impressive. So I can’t say that I made the best job of my demo pieces, but my audience were kind and appreciative. As the weekend progressed I relaxed more and things began to go better! In fact it was most rewarding to be able to pass on tips and inspire others to have a go at new techniques.

I had some wonderful helpers, so thank you to them especially, and to everyone's interest, patience and kind comments.