Monday 30 May 2011

A dead clam in a box

Well, that's Spring Fling 2011 Open Studios over for this year. Phew! The windows have never been so clean, and the workshop so free of spiders since....this time last year!

It is a wonderful event, and thank you to all the hard working Spring Fling committee who put in so much time and effort. Over the three days I pretty much had a continual stream of visitors coming through. Indeed there were moments when so many arrived at once I really rather wanted to hide.

I met some of the most delightful people, but used to a quiet space mainly on my own and wanting to do everyone's interest justice I find it quite exhausting.

Thank you to all the kind and appreciative people who made the trip here. Please come back again when I have recovered!

Tomorrow the spiders can return and the workshop will soon go back to it's ordered muddle.

My nephew Patrick, was around four years old when he was taken to Australia where he had to meet hoards of Australian relatives. After being the centre of attention for the day, he told his Mother that he wished he was a clam, no, he wished he was a 'dead clam', indeed, he wished he was a 'dead clam in a box'. I remembered his words this evening.

I'll crawl out again tomorrow.

Sunday 22 May 2011

An exciting new piece of equipment

I have acquired another pugmill, 3/4 hp with a larger diameter nozzle. It seems that this Autumn I might be making even bigger extrusions. My little 1/2 hp pugmill struggles away, and although it's heart hasn't exactly slipped a beat, I know (when it overheats), that I am pushing it possibly beyond it's capacity.

It is a sad story really. Indeed a crime. The last ceramic course in Scotland finishes this term and the department is closing down. It has a good reputation, great facilities and tutors. But it is not 'cost effective' and takes up too much room. Apparently you could fit so many more students into those spaces that kilns, wheels, plaster rooms, and indeed pugmills take up. I am so lucky to have benefited from an outstanding education, I had a choice of colleges, and the one I went to, Corsham, had a ceramics department to die for. Over the last two decades they have been closing down one by one, and especially with the demise of Harrow, and the message that sent out, I do wonder that soon there may only be one or two in the whole of the UK.

I felt like a vulture picking over the sorry remains, I can only say that I will feel bound to put it to good use. But it will all have to wait for a bit as we will need a major workshop re-organisation.

Meanwhile, 'Spring Fling' looms closer. Only a week now until the regions major open studio event. I spent a day this week clearing out the shed, with visitors coming round the back and through the workshop we have to make make it look rather more respectable. Next week I'll spruce up the workshop, well that is in between glazing a last kiln load of pots, tackling the damp cupboard full of platters to slip decorate, and throwing a couple of large plates for two teachers who are retiring in 4 weeks time. Better get my skates on then.

I made it for Colvend school's teacher Miss Macdonald 21 years ago. The boy with the chalk in the centre was my son, and most of the children were recognisable. There were only 14 children (from 4 to 11 years old), in the school. A group of school teachers came in on Saturday with this plate in their hands. They wanted the same idea for their own teachers. This one was when I was still using a majolica glaze, which I have gradually phased out and now don't use at all. For one the glaze recipe ceased to work consistently well, (a change of materials perhaps), but I was also finding that I was getting too tight with my painting. The last straw was when at a show someone asked if the designs were printed. However it was good to see this plate and remember where I was at 21 years ago.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Crime and Punishment

I packed up the pots for the show at Imagine Gallery yesterday. It took most of the day making each one into a football of bubblewrap.I couldn't bear the idea of a great hefty foot kicking the teeth out of one of my mariners, or of some great hulk sitting on one of the long flat hanging dishes - both of which I am quite sure happens in transit. So I had in mind the Princess and the Pea.

Before I said goodbye to these pieces I had a bit of fun trying out 'movie' on my hand held camera. Please excuse the amateur wobbles.

I Shot the albatross

All averred

Stony Eyes

Friday 13 May 2011

Dead Birds and Deadlines

I don’t know where the last three weeks went. I have done a fair bit of throwing, and the stock shelves are filling up though I could still do with more time on the wheel making the popular lines such as mugs and jugs. But my mind has been more occupied with the ‘Ancient Mariner'.

I have put in a fair amount of time into this project, at times perhaps rather indulgent, but I was really enjoying myself.

Last Saturday the deadline loomed loud and clear and I had to pull out of a planned hill walk with friends to knuckle down and finish off the glazing. The kiln HAD to be packed that evening. As I listened to some torrential downpours hammering on the roof I decided that maybe glazing in a cosy workshop with some good music was the better option anyway.

I was a bit nervous about opening the kiln this week, sometimes I have a quick peek last thing at night when it is nearly, but not QUITE cool enough. But no, I waited, not wanting to have bad dreams. One of Hannah’s pottery films from her excellent ‘Pottery Porn’ film night last week was about Gwyn Hanssen Pigott. At one point this wonderful elderly lady announces, (with a smile), that - ‘Actually, making pots is quite stressful...GLAZING them is stressful, PACKING the kiln is stressful.....FIRING them is stressful.... and OPENING the kiln is stressful’. Oh how we love making pots really, but I did think of her words on Wednesday.

And thankfully I am pretty pleased this time. I seem to have sorted out the somewhat drab finish of the mark one of the ‘Coleridge candle boats’. Rubbing slips into the faces has lifted them and brought out the expressions just the way I had hoped.

I had a customer today (who bought my snakes and ladders low stool for a ruby wedding present. Happily entwined snakes: ups and downs of married life, all deliciously symbolic.) She was a painter, and most enthusiastic about her work. ‘I am worried that I don’t have enough time left in my life to paint all I want to’, she said. I knew what she meant, I often have that feeling myself.