Tuesday 8 December 2009

Some November pots

Here are some of the pots which were finished over the last few weeks. This was one of the first which I bent from side to side as it was being extruded. The trouble is that my pugmill is mounted against a wall, so it was easier to pull one way than the other, but I can hardly see myself moving it now. I enjoyed the movement the method created so I shall be having another go at this.The most recent die I made had hollow runners incorporated. I tried cutting away so that the runners are showing at either end and I attached the handle to them. Don't ask why a hammer head shark, the shape just seemed to ask for it. I have a feeling that somehow it may not be as popular an image as gentle looking penguins.

From the same die and bowed slightly is this chunky looking dish. Both it and the penguin dish are on show at the McGill Duncan Gallery Christmas show, 'Glimpses of Galloway', although to be honest I am not sure that you would get a glimpse of a penguin in Galloway. I also took along my Swimmer and Dog dish - that one really was a glimpse of Galloway, I saw her with her dog swimming out through the waves as I was having a summer swim at Rockcliffe.

Without my home grown captive photographer Rodger I had to employ the services of a professional photographer last week. With really very little trouble he managed to turn the showroom into a temporary photographic studio. I think I shall have to look into the aquisition of a big roll of paper and some device to hang it from. It is having a clean ready space to take the photos in that is always the problem. For some reason I had never thought of using the showroom, but it was far easier to clear than the conservatory, (full of plants), the workshop, (dirty and full of half made pots), a bedroom, (full of boy), or outside, (full of rain, wind and cold).

He took some shots of my dog seat and I have got them sent off to Lark books so I shall see what happens with that one. he also took the top three shots. I am not at all sure about their 'floating' in white space quality, it feels a bit weird.

It is good to be half back to thinking about pots and the pottery, though it is still on a rather half time basis. I brought Rodger back from hospital on Friday. Already three days at home are helping to improve his well being, but it will be a long slow recovery with trips to Glasgow and Dumfries twice a week for the next few months.

Friday 13 November 2009

Full kilns

Two good days in the workshop. On Tuesday I had been struggling a bit with slip decorating the work which had been waiting for over three weeks in the damp cupboards, and which I had been struggling to build up a head of enthusiastic steam for. Then I remembered that actually there was a lot of matt glazing to be done. I realised that I was needing a rather more 'mindless job' at the time. The designs had already been lined out, so initially it was just a matter of outlining in black wax. Once I had made a start it then became much easier think about the colours, (mainly trailed between the black outlines).

It was very good for me to have Allie coming in to help out today, she helped me to focus on the jobs in hand and together we did loads of clear glazing and got the kiln packed.

There is now enough glazed work for about two and a half kilns, so I feel thoroughly cheered up as far as work and stock is concerned. I had forgotton how much I had got started before the break. The trouble with breaks is that it is too easy to forget rather a lot. For example I seem to have TWO large buckets marked 'Matt Clear'. Was there something wrong with one of them... or did I mix up two by mistake... I have had to run a test of both of the said buckets in this kiln and delay the final dip of my matt glazed pieces until I can confirm.

What a treat - I had missed the opening of the exhibition at McGill Duncan and so had missed most of Ron Philbeck's work there. Quite an unexpected delight therefore to receive this surprise present from Hannah yesterday. Clean washing line tea for me today!

Monday 9 November 2009


It’s good to be home, and a couple of characters were just delighted to have me back!

I don't think that I have been away from the pottery for so long in years - a whole 17 days. It has been an anxious and strange time, living in a hospital room and being companion, moral support, clothes washer, errand fetcher and telephone reporter. I have never felt so tired doing what felt like nothing really! I got back last week, (leaving Rodger frail but progressing in the right direction), and spent Friday catching up - mail, getting a swine flu jab, having a temporary filling put in my broken tooth and replying to a host of telephone answer messages.

I have become the owner of a very handsome apple laptop computer - a present from my exceedingly kind sister and brother who wanted to DO something to help! I have never had my OWN computer before, the home one is a 'family' computer and somehow very much Rodger's. I actually think that I may even become a little more literate and less afraid of them as this is just MINE to play with or break, or whatever. As a result of my new toy I did do a bit of photo sorting while I was away and I got some new images onto the web site - long overdue.

It is disappointing that though I made a lot of new work this year, I don't appear to have a particularly good record of much of it. My photographer in chief has been ill, and our lad's bedroom turned 'photographic studio’ is back in use as his bedroom/office again.

This is one of the 'studio' shots which Rodger did manage to take of the bird seat. Lark Books have just written and invited me to send some images for a new publication ‘animal inspired pottery’. I’ll have to work out what to do for that one as it would be nice to send something.

I’ll be up and down to Glasgow every two or three days over the next few weeks but I did try and get into the workshop today. It was SO COLD from lack of heating, the old granite walls take a lot to warm up again. I got a biscuit kiln packed and it's on tonight so tomorrow should be cheerier and more tempting. There are still some unfinished pots lurking in the damp cupboard, I’ll get them out tomorrow and try to remember where I was going.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Distracted decorating

I eventually managed to get the last of the salad bowls decorated on Wednesday. It was difficult to focus, as my mind was rather more in Glasgow with Rodger. I had hoped to do some new designs but I wasn't feeling in a creative enough space so in the end I did some variations on old themes. My Father had come over the afternoon before and was a there with supper ready when I got home from Glasgow. He spent Wednesday morning sitting in the workshop with me doing his tapestry to keep me company. His presence was very calming and stopped me jumping up and down checking my mobile phone for possible messages from the hospital!
Fox and foxgloves in a different layout and one with the chasing cats.
Today it was mugs and jugs, which needed handles on and then slip decorating. Thank goodness for my tried and tested 'Sheep on Criffel' design - easy to do as I have made so many of them, and they need no extra concentration.
I should get them finished off tomorrow and then I will go back up to Glasgow. Inigo is going to keep the showroom open for limited hours. He had a trial run on Tuesday and although he had a few people through he didn't sell anything. I think he was quite disappointed not to get a go at wrapping up a giant seat or some such exotic object!

At the weekend Oskar came up and we had the the most delightful walk out to Rough Island over the causeway. What a great day for Rodger's last bit of 'freedom'!

Wednesday 7 October 2009

The Hard Rock & a rocky time ahead.

The Hard Rock prizes went down really well. We watched the event at the weekend and here is my stalwart helper Allie on the ride and the run, coming in as first local woman! I cycled in this event last year but I did start to get a bit worried about injuries - and the more I worried the more I fell off. I now wear a ridiculous amount of body armour and don't look anything like as cool as Allie, but as a self emplyed potter with no personal insurance I reckon I just have to put up with looking like a medieval knight. As a child I always wanted to be one anyway so nothing has changed there.

I had a large throwing session, I didn't mean to make quite so much but the clay was JUST right and I got rather carried away. I have been meaning to throw some salad bowls for ages as I've had none in the showroom all summer.
I'd also run out of tri-vases, (great for people who can't arrange flowers very well, like me). Sometimes they are horrendous to throw but the clay being just perfect makes so much difference.At the same time I'm half way through a group of extruded dishes. I had a go at bending a dish sideways as it was being extruded. It was a bit tricky because the pugmill is so close to the wall, one side was easier than the other. But I do like the effect and I think it has potential.
In between all this making Allie unpacked the big kiln of bisc, but now there is no room anywhere for anything. I will have to finish off the decorating before we can glaze anyway so maybe we should have just left it all in the kiln... but then we have traffic jam problems, (and I have a pretty big workshop)! All the shelves and all the tables are covered and the day seems to have been spent moving things around.

I usually try to keep this blog pretty much to pottery related topics, but the truth is I am in a bit of a panic, trying to get so much made before Rodger's bone marrow transplant. He is going in to hosptial next Tuesday and will be there for a month or longer depending on how it goes. I will be taking the next few weeks off and staying in Glasgow where possible. I do anticipate a pretty difficult few months ahead, with juggling care and keeping home and work ticking over so I probably won't be posting too much, though Rodger has plans to write a transplant blog. ..if he is up to it. Watch this space!

Thursday 1 October 2009

Cat's in the dog house (and dog's away)

Some of the results from the last kiln. Of course I always see where things could have been better, but I was pleased with the life in these ducks.

The lines of the underwater swimmer and dog worked pretty well, though I could have done with maybe a little contrast in the slip colour where the underwater shapes are- lighter or darker perhaps.

I finished a few commissions - two pasta dishes featuring a particular pair of cats.....Not exactly Mungojerry and Rumpleteaser but I must have had T S Eliot in the back of my mind.

Also out of the kiln were the prizes for the 'Hard Rock Challenge' this weekend. (Cycling, and running duathlon). When I went through them to check that all was present and correct, to my horror I noticed that in the Junior category, one was inscribed '4th'.
ER, I wasn't asked to make any 4th prizes, was I? Aaargh, somehow as I was counting, 'four 1sts', (done,tick), four 2nds', (done,tick), all fine - but when it came to the fourth 3rd, I must have written FOURTH on it!
What to do? Well, low temperature enamel has saved the day, enough at least in the short term for some poor child not to be very offended on Saturday!
A difficult birth plate - Ruby, Lilies and Poppies round the edge. How to be inspired by the motif of a ruby? I struggled with this one, but at least the ruby has achieved a sort of glow.
Meet 'Extra', who is now in the dog house. Some poor customers spent nearly 40 minutes choosing a wedding present last Saturday. I wrapped it up and we were just chatting as they were about to leave, when who should come jumping up onto the counter to say hello.
Crash! I was mortified and most embarrassed and they were bitterly disappointed. Did I have another one just the same....? No such luck. She loves to say hello to customers, and has never broken anything before. I will certainly never balance pots on the counter again when she is around!

Tuesday 22 September 2009

More dishes and a treat for the kiln

It's been a while since I wrote a post. Lots has been going on, but I have been pushed for time and in particular computer time. We have been sharing internet time with our son who moved back home this summer, and suddenly getting on line has been rather more complicated. A wireless router is on its way so that should help matters.
I had a go with the new dish die. It worked a treat, no tearing, but perfect edges. Whether it was the nice new slicing blades in the pugmill, that the clay was just a perfect contstituency, or that the die was designed with skillful perfection, I don't know. I am inclined to believe it was the latter!

I needed to make another hollow handle extrusion with a narrower bore. I was still using my first hollow die, which was pretty clumsily made.

Rodger has been mending the roof of the kiln. It has always been cooler at the top, but lately it has been getting ridiculous, anything higher than half way up was invariably underfired. I had made a whole load of ceramic buttons with the idea that he would line the underside of the roof with ceramic fibre. After cutting away the rusty metal sheeting and shovelling out the pathetic amount of insulation chips there was plenty of room to fill in the space above the arch with fibre - a much easier solution.

It was a typical Rodger solution to use the old toaster to hold the bung bricks together. (It goes with the hotpoint spray booth)! A new lease of life to our 30 year old kiln. The next glaze which will be the test but it certainly looks happier.

Thursday 27 August 2009

More long dishes underway

This week I've been working on some more long dishes. I have an 'important' commission for one which I really want to make a good job of. I was too greedy in my first attempt and REALLY DID make it too long, so that even on a slanted kiln shelf it spilled over the end and warped rather horribly. With the second take I changed the design a little but then I wasn't altogether happy with the finished colours. I know that I am being very self critical and I can still sell it, but I want it to be perfect! Surely one of these might be the perfect wiggly.

Now when people view the finished pot I know it is easy to think, 'Nice pot', end of thought. It has just arrived in front of their eyes as if it always has been. Nothing about it, if it is a good one, betrays the struggles which may have happened during its creation. Allie commented, when she saw the finished seat which she had helped me extrude and lift and turn with all the accompanying sweat and tears, how it was hard to even remember the effort involved in all the processes which brought it to life.

So today, when I spent the whole morning struggling to get a design to sit comfortably on a long wiggly dish, I took a shot of all the rubbings out on the way!
I'll finish the slip colours off on this one tommorrow. I am wanting the bottom half of the dog and the swimmer to look as though they are under the water. I have in mind an early manuscript painting of Noah's flood where the drowned people under the waves are just an outline. I'll try for this with some inlaid lines of slip.
.....and meanwhile I am getting through those awkward commssions. The famous 'thistle clock' now drying out.
....and a simple wedding plate. I got a fright with this one. I was on the phone to say it was ready, convinced that it was needed for Wednesday 26th. I had read the date upside down. When I was told that the wedding wasn't until the 29th I felt sick. However that is exactly what I HAD inscibed. Phew!