Thursday 22 December 2011

A toast to you all

To all those who follow this blog - A toast to you this Winter Solstice, and wishing you a Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for 2012. Thank you too to those of you who have left kind and interesting comments over the year. I know that I am very bad at replying but I do appreciate them all.

Oh ..and our heating is working again back on! Yippee. (It's also suddenly got milder , but hey ho from now on we will be toasty warm again, all ready to get cracking after the Christmas break).

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Christmas orders completed

The month is rushing by and it is the winter solstice tomorrow. Hurrah, soon the days will start to grow longer again.

It seems so much harder to keep up the making momentum on these dark and cold days. Hopefully we might get the workshop heating system fixed this week which would certainly help.

The weekend brought a feast for eyes and ears, with the beautiful low winter light on the estuary in the afternoons followed by evenings of song with the Feral Choir's performances of 'Forgotten Carols' and winter readings.

These are some of the dishes I made using the new slab roller. I dug out one or two press moulds that I were old favourites - ones that had survived the Autumn blitz and it was a joy to roll wonderful huge uniform slabs and flop them in.

It was lucky that I had kept a few of these moulds, as I had no sooner finished the GRAND CLEAROUT when was promptly asked to make another version of this oval dish to replace a broken one from several years ago. I used the cat chase design again, as it seemed to fit the shape rather well and they wanted something feline.

Then I had a last minute order for another school teachers retirement presentation gift. Same school as last time in fact and they wanted a similar, but different design. I used a square dish press mould which I had fortunately decided to hold onto.

The moto of the school is 'Reach for the stars' and I was to portray the old building.

Oh my goodness, I shall have to double my prices if anyone asks for a BUILDING again. They are not my forte, and I spent ages on this one. It came out well, I have to admit, but all those windows....

So at last all my Christmas orders are completed and posted off or collected. I can start to think about what is round the corner for next year. One thing I know is that I will be doing the 'Earth and Fire' show in Rufford again. I was selected this time! Amazing, (I had sort of given up on that one as it seems so hard to get in to), exciting and a bit scary too. It's going to be a busy Spring...

Thursday 8 December 2011

December pots

Winter Arrived over the weekend. Not exactly the snow packed drive to Corsock of the year before, but snow fell all the same, in a slushy sort of way. Despite that there was a record attendance at the craft fair, at times hardly room to move.

It was an enjoyable but exhausting day, so many people I know to say hello to as well as selling pots. My boxes were considerably lighter when it came to packing up.

These small oval dishes are quite dinky. I have made them before with the matching spoons, but over the summer I was asked by a customer to make a lid to fit one that she had bought earlier. It was fiddle to make a lid for an existing pot, with all the shrinkage - and an oval one at that. But it made me think that I should try a few with lids.

In fact the last kiln was nearly all small scale slipware - I really needed to stock up the shelves. It has been good to see the showroom full and welcome looking again, for any brave souls who may venture out in these stormy days.

Today has been a day to 'batten down the hatches', with storm force 10 or 11 raging outside. I am amazed that we haven't lost our power...yet.

Our swanky new heating system has broken down, it froze up because it's internal thermometer is mis-reading. So much for my bragging, it's been long- johns and thermals this week, until an engineer can get hold of the new part.

One or two awkward commissions completed. The land rover took an inordinate amount of time to do. Weird subject matter for a mug perhaps, but I am strangely proud of how well those land rover colours turned out.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Penguins, penguins....

Come and join the penguin party at Corsock Craft fair this Sunday.

I spent rather a lot of late nights last week completing these little fellows.
A bit of fun and rather different in scale to the ceramics seats of earlier this year. They are ever in demand but I limit them to Christmas seasonal making, otherwise I would go bonkers.

I think that I had the image of the painting of the skating vicar by Sir Henry Raeburn in mind when I perched this penguin. He should have had his wings folded though.

These are Corsock ceilidh penguins practising for the renowned Corsock ceilidh in December, tickets for which can only be found at the craft fair.

I had a good kiln load of pots out on Friday, a last minute push to get some new work finished for tomorrow. I took quite a lot of photos today, so I'll post a few more next week. We have managed to incorporate a PHOTOGRAPHIC corner into the new workshop layout, albeit on top of the slab roller, but easy to cover with a white board. Hopefully from now on I'll be better at keeping records of my work. It was only in sorting out some applications this month that I realised how bad I had been at recording my work this year - pots have disappeared which are now only a memory in my sketch book. Even today I had a nice group of woman who came down from Glasgow (especially it seems which was rather amazing - they had seen some of my pots in 'No 16' restaurant), who went off with a couple of small but sweet pots before I had finished setting the camera up. Two pots less pots for Corsock.

Friday 18 November 2011

Meet 'The Captain'

It’s been ages since I’ve written anything on this blog. Time has raced by but lots has been happening.

Meet the Captain. Rodger has been working wonders getting the new pugmill all wired up and connected to a starter motor. We held our breaths somewhat, (what if it didn't work)? Since collecting it from Glasgow school of Art it has been stored in the garage patiently waiting. What a happy purr it made when we switched it on - a hungry beast waiting to eat clay. Next step is to get a curved expansion box made up. I have only seen a picture of a vertical pugmill being used as an extruder so there will be lots still to work out.

Alongside the Captain is the newly aquired wide slab roller. It took a wee bit of adjusting. It was made by someone at Glasgow scool of Art and has it’s own peculiarities, but it worked beautifully once we got the hang of the adjustments. I have laid up several press-mould dishes today, one of which was always a beast to get a slab big enough for. This time I had extra to trim off.

You may notice how clean the floor still looks, I expect I will eventually tire of sweeping up but it is so easy I am still a little workshop house proud.

I’ve been having fun making some volcanos with explosion spoons for the Scottish Potters Exhibition, entitled 'Fire and Earth'. Since most of my recent work seems to have been somewhat water based in theme, I decided I had better embark on a group specifically for this title.

They have sprayed slips on the outside and dribbled white over the edge which I coloured with a honey glaze.

The show opens tomorrow At Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries. I may even get along and meet some SPA members. It will certainly be interesting to see the other work.

Saturday 15 October 2011


What an almighty clear out we've been having. Three car loads to the dump today and more to go. But hey, look what we've done. Goodbye lovely wooden floor, so wickedly abused by spillages of clay, slips and glazes. Since we were re-organising the workshop anyway, we have taken the plunge and bought some lino to put down. It always seemed a shame to cover up the knobbly floorboards, which have been worn away by many generations of school children's clogs.

What a job, moving everything into islands, while each roll was laid. There is one last wall still to go, but nearly there.

Oh the joy of this new space. So much of our workshop furniture was built in situ when we first moved here, and is now in the wrong place. Rodger unbolted the long bench from the wall and it is now on castors, flexibility is the new word.
The PLAN is to have the buckets under the benches at the edge, leaving the middle tables moveable. (Well, I said PLAN)!

I was getting a little agitated as to how long this was all taking, but I got back to my pots yesterday afternoon. The main table is in a totally different place, and it really felt like the space was working for me rather than against me. I mean instead of having to walk ROUND things to get to the sink there is now a direct route!

And it has to be said that the boring easy wipe floor is a dream.

Saturday 24 September 2011

The Hare and the tortoise or the Aeronautical engineer and the Craft Potter

Funny thing to have an aeronautical engineer coming to ask a craft potter for her advice as to the suitability of clay to make a 'tool' (mould) over which to form softened titanium. But that is indeed what happened this week. At one point I was envisaging being asked to extrude an aircraft wing, and had wonderful visions of flappy Boeing aeroplanes with ripply-dish type edges. Explanations of shrinkage, warpage etc. put paid to this, as there did have to be an un-Christine like degree of accuracy, well at least to a couple of millimetres...

What an interesting thought though, and I think what with Rodger's knowledge of moulds and casting from his bronze casting days, and a crash course in clay types we MAY have helped a little. He went on his way seemingly happy to have been pointed in the right direction.

I am now in possession of some lovely flat aluminium sheets, offcuts from the aeronautical industry, which will keep me in die making materials for a fair few up-and-coming projects. Thank you.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Flat as a Mermaid

It seems to have taken me ages to have got anywhere this last few weeks. There seems to have been a lot of STUFF to do which isn't directly making, so never feels exactly productive.

Besides which after a non stop year I think I have been feeling as flat and washed out as this mermaid!

Unpacking the kiln, pricing the work, packing up orders, delivering the prizes, re- stocking the showroom (and finding that it was full of spiders and dust), and wasting a morning taking a batch of pretty poor photographs. But today I finally finished off the name plaques, mug and plate orders which I had thrown and put in the damp cupboard just before Rodger and I took off on a short camping break.

The teapots turned out well, and seem to pour fine, apart from the fact that I slightly overdid the angle of the spout. This is to counter the natural twist which 'uncurls' slightly with a thrown spout. I think 25 past was a bit too generous.

Meanwhile the workshop clearance continues. We are trying to fill a dustbin of RUBBISH every week for the next month. After all 33 years is a long time to fill up a studio space. If we can empty enough cupboards to lift some of them out of the way, we are hoping to replace some of the dangerously worn, torn and dangerously trippy-uppity lino.

A very nice book arrived this week. Compiled and edited by Alice Leach it is a catalogue type record of some of the artists who passed through Dartington Hall school.

Here are a few pages:

Bernie, (Bernard Forrester) taught Pottery at the school and made exquisite pots himself. By the time I went there Bernie had semi retired but he continued to teach jewellery at weekends. In the two years I was lucky enough to have been at the school I never missed one of his classes. He was the most gentle, patient and sincere teacher one could have wished for.

Bernard Leach had a lot to do with the school, also teaching there part time at one point when he was working at Shinners Bridge Pottery.

The book is laid out in date order, so jumping on here are my good friends Nicky Scott on one side and Jonny Nance on the other, both in my year and my fellow family in Sicily.

...and here is my page. So very humbling to be in such good company!

Last page to show is Alice Leach, the dynamo behind the idea of the 'Power of Place exhibition', and the editor of the book 'Portfolio'. I am regretting a little that I didn't manage to get down to Devon to the Last-Ever-Re-union, and meet Alice, she is some tenacious dynamo and her paintings and drawings are an inspiration.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Flying Cats and Sunsets

I made a couple of these dishes earlier this summer. Inspired by a Utube video of a leaping cat in slow motion, I decided that my creatures needed a bit more movement. It was a revelation to be able to freeze frame the video to do some drawings. When can you ever get your own cat to hold such a posture.

This teapot seemed to be asking for another 'flying' cat. Of course a few liberties have to be taken with the drawing, but it has helped me to get into a looser way of fitting the creature with the form.

These are slip decorated and waiting for a bisc firing.

I'm quite into tails at the moment.

Lemurs tails can become quite abstract.

Meanwhile The HUGE ruthless clear out has begun. So many plaster moulds from 30 years ago, high on a top I really going to go BACKwards when I am always looking for NEW challenges? NO, of course not, but oh so hard to throw them away. This weeks dustbin has reached capacity, with lots more to be added next week. The space on the shelves is wonderful.

Hurricanes and earthquakes in the USA, while the sky in S W Scotland was on fire.

Wednesday 17 August 2011


This week it's been goodbye to Allie, who has moved up to Edinburgh. I have been so lucky to have had Allie's help and support over the last few years, just the perfect person at the right time. I'll miss her a lot, not only for her capacity to eat up jobs, but also for her good company, humour and patience.

Last week we fairly 'beasted' through the work and I now have shelves filled with this years Hard Rock Challenge prizes, plus a good batch of jugs and mugs drying out. So huge thanks Allie!

It will be another significant change at the pottery. I see it as an opportunity to reflect on where I have travelled to over the last few years, and where I am going.

Here is a pretty straight forward bit of advice cut out from a junk-mail banking leaflet.

But if possible I am hoping make less pots, at least for a few months this Autumn, and spend some time developing the more individual 'pieces'.

I choose the word 'pieces' deliberately.

My good friends from art college, potter Sue Dunne, and mask make Stephen Jon, have been staying this week. I asked their opinion about the use of the term 'sculpture' as in 'ceramic sculpture'. I have never been happy with this description, it conjures up something which I don't feel I make. I tried using the term once in a 'Spring Fling' brochure, only to have one woman remark, "Lovely pots, but where's the sculpture'? which only confirmed my discomfort with the word. But if one leaves the safety net of even a hint of function behind, as does 'Out of Sink', what exactly does it become?