Sunday 22 December 2013

Winter Greetings from the North

Wishing you all the best for Christmas and the New Year!

And then it will be full steam ahead. After a dozen plus glaze tests we may have, indeed most likely have, at last found a recipe which appears to be both stable and look as good as my beloved old matt transparent. Good for Rodger, even though he was getting a little slagged off at times for being a 'David Green'. David being our old art school glaze tutor who used contemplate and calculate countless glaze formulas as he puffed his pipe. Most frequently they were dreadfully disappointing but always in his view 'interesting'.

 It has just taken a very long time to put the tests through the kiln and then use them with a sufficient variety of slips and kiln firings to feel confident about them.  I am now optimistic and excited about getting back to pots which have been stuck in the pipeline and ideas which I have had to put on hold. At least I did a lot more throwing than usual over the last few months,  so I am better stocked with the smaller domestic items for the turn of the year. May it be a good one for you all.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Shiver me Timbers (- not this time you won't)!

Although a lot has been going on here, not too much has actually been finished. I have had to put glazing my boats and cars on on hold while we run countless glaze tests. 

I  had no problems over the summer using a fifty/fifty mix of the suspect new batch of clay with my old clay,  but as soon as I used the same mix with my matt transparent glaze which I use on the boats, I noticed that just a hint of the horror problem of 'shivering' (or 'shimmering' - flaking glaze) was still lurking. It is made more complicated because there are undoubtedly two problems - the different batch of clay, PLUS a change in the supply source of my glaze materials. A glaze formula whose heart has never skipped a beat in 30 years has suddenly become unstable! Aargh! Every time a new batch of anything arrives I must remember to test first!

Luckily Rodger has a good chemistry head so we will get there I am sure, but I am not risking weeks of work until 'sure' is truly 'confident'.


Meanwhile I have been doing lots of throwing, building up much needed stock and fitting in orders, such as the annual Hardrock Challenge prizes. 

This year I made an extra trophy for 'Mac the Voice', who has compered the event since it started ten years ago.

Last weekend I had a delightful trip to Glasgow to attend a demo day by potter Shozo Michikawa. I very rarely get to these events, but it is well worth making the effort. (In this case the effort being setting my alarm for an unearthly early hour to catch the train).  I came back with a head full of Japanese aesthetic and philosophy - all very stimulating.

Having thrown an initial flat and scored thick plate he threw it and shaped it like dough only to return it to the wheel and re -throw, this time with the concentric circles now elliptical. 


It was really good to watch such a fluid worker, whose hands just knew what they were about. Not so much making pots as making pot sculpture, using the wheel as starting point. 'Throw away the rule books' he said and 'Put common sense out of your mind'. He certainly worked with a tremendous freedom which fairly sang through his pieces. 

This 'platter' was textured with a wire brush and manipulated into a rather lovely triangular shape, still retaining its thrown edge.

And here a fat slab, brushed with slip and scored also had the thumping and manipulating treatment. It was just lovely to watch those confident hands and absorb the energy and enthusiasm  of the man.

It's Tuesday morning now I am off to tiptoe around the workshop for a while, listening to the last of Grayson Perry's  Reith lectures. NOT TO BE MISSED! I

Saturday 7 September 2013

An idea taking off

I have had an idea of a piece I wanted to make simmering away ever since I made the Terracotta Tours bus last July. 

I extruded a half pipe and threw a few tyres and exhausts. 

By cutting and pinching one end of the pipe it was converted fairly successfully into the vehicle's bonnet.

The driver and his dog were assembled from thrown sections and popped into the cockpit.

The vehicle is rather rocket like at the back, with a half plate which fills in the hollow end and two thrown tubes as exhausts.

It looks more like a sports car at the front.

The driver has a flying helmet and goggles. Funnily enough while driving to Castle Douglas last week we found ourselves behind a car with a very large dog whose head was sticking out of the window sniffing the air and whose ears were fairly blowing in the wind.

I'll get back to the constructing my next batch of boats tomorrow now that I have got that one out of my system.

Meanwhile the Dalbeattie Hardrock Challenge mugs are not only underway but nearly finished. This year is the 10th, so there was even more slip trailed writing to squeeze in round the base.

Monday 26 August 2013

Heat and Light

Here are are very old friends indeed - warming their tootsies by the barbeque. They are two of the smaller 'Russian doll' stacking knights which I made at college, and who still patrol the garden.

Rodger has been busy. We have truly brilliant workshop, in terms of space. The one thing I notice and probably because my eyes are getting past their prime, is how dark it can be. There are definite areas which always have to be illuminated by overhead lights. I have for a long time harped on about how a 'Velux' roof light would help, but now these much less expensive solar light tubes have come onto the market.

Rodger ordered a couple to try and has  taken on the installation. The utube video suggests that this can be done in two hours. That is if they are going into a flat felted roof.

But hey, a solid weekend and we have (at least one ) light!

Taken by the camera pointing straight up it looks like the moon.

And here as though I have forgotten to switch off the lights.  I am impressed!

Wednesday 31 July 2013

An OctoPuss at Potfest in the Park

So, what has eight legs and comes 'From the sea'?

An OctoPuss!

The Potfest 'competition' theme this year was 'From the Sea'. I think the standard of pieces was the best ever. My OctoPuss looked very happy on the green lawn. Whether everyone 'got' it or not I don't know, but he had the company of several other word plays.

 It was a great show and I am always amazed by the high standard of work. Truly inspirational. It is such a treat to see the work of and meet so many international potters. All thanks to Chris and Geoff Cox whose brainchild it is and who beaver away, not only seeing to our every need but with their own stand and work on show as well, they are quite extraordinary. Thank you!

The sun shone and although there was a spell of torrential rain, it obligingly came overnight. Perhaps not so good for the potters camping. There were a few camping chairs which looked more like swimming pools on Sunday morning.

'Extra' was very much the model for OctoPuss's bottom - I never mentioned this in my last blog, but a few tears were shed while glazing him!

I would have liked to have photographed all the pieces. But they hopefully they will be on the Potfest website later on. Here are just a few which I managed to capture. This is 'Shellfish' by Richard Dewar. Made up of lots of ceramic shells.

 Garry Uttley's Plaice Mats

  Chis Cox's jelly fish.

 Guy Routledge's Coral fish.

Sue Dunne's waves which moved when you wound the handle.

Toon This's bowl of sharks

My Father has never missed a Potfest yet, and he certainly wasn't going to miss this one!

It was a treat being next to Wendy Kershaw, who shared my studio for this year's Spring Fling. It was Wendy's first year at Potfest in the Park and her illustrated ceramic pictures created a great interest, deservedly so.

We always do a rough plan of how we are going to set up the stand. It really helps on the day, especially when we can be rather tired and overwrought. As in-  just about to set off to find that the caravan lights aren't working! Yes, we were rather later to arrive than planned.

Back home now, unpacked and ready for action. It all takes time though, putting away boxes and re arranging the showroom. OctoPuss has a new home, looking out of the showroom window happily greeting our visitors.

We had a lovely visit from Japanese potter Fumihiro Fuyushiba and his wife Kaoru. They have a week between the Park and exhibiting at the Pens and used some of it to visit Wendy in Renfrewshire and us on the way home. Good to have time to get to know them better. It is hard at the show, when I am 'on duty' to give enough time to other potters and their work.

Well, that is Potfest in the Park over for this year, though Potfest in the Pens is this weekend for anyone who missed the Park.

Sunday 21 July 2013

An Extra special cat

She has been in our family for 15 years so to lose Extra this week has been very sad. It is barely over a month ago that she charmed us by tiptoeing into the workshop where the Feral Choir were running through their songs and sat down to listen to the harmonies with unusual feline interest.  She was called 'Extra' because she was extra to requirements at the time we got her, but soon became an essential part of family life. She was always around to meet us, a constant companion and reassuring presence. She was one of the best natured cats I have known and would play with velvet paws. Rugs were never flat for long, one of her passions was scrabbling them up. She spent her last week under her favourite bush in the rockery listening to the outside sounds. The garden seems very empty now - how we miss her!

Meanwhile in this heatwave Timbalada seems to have been too hot and ‘out for the count’  to notice that she is missing.

Ho-hot! Why oh why have I had so many kilns to fire over the last two weeks.  I have been firing the two kilns ( the small top loader and the big font loading kiln) back to back, only possible if I really push it, as in unloading with sweat trickling down me as was the case yesterday, and then glazing and repacking the same day! I must have managed to get through six weeks work in three. I have moved proceedings outside into the courtyard where there is a bit of shade - the workshop has been unbearable.

 But I am NOT complaining , it has been lovely, more vitamin D absorbed in the last few weeks than in the last three years. Meals outside and a few quick swims in the sea to cool off when the tide obliged.

 It is of course the big push for Potfest in the Park next weekend. I am just about there, though I don’t have quite as many new larger pieces as I would have liked - partly because people kept coming into the showroom and buying the ones I had mentally ‘put on one side’ for Potfest. In past years this hasn’t happened as I have stashed things away, but I have been a little short of pots all year (all the knock-on effect from that awful winter of illness), and have to keep the showroom looking good.

Mind you, three kins still to unpack has to help!

Riddle me riddle me riddle me re,
What has eight legs and comes From the sea?
You might hazard a guess - you may think that you know, 
Come to Potfest next weekend -its all at the show.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Having fun

At last - We got a chance to try out our new toy. Well, not exactly a toy. It is actually our new state of the art Peter Pugger tile extruder from the USA. She worked alright. No more standing around coaxing the old pugmill to keep going, cooling its body with cold flannels as the engine overheated. This beast has POWER! So much so in fact that the first attempt came through so fast I didn't have time to collect the extrusion before it collapsed. Being used to the old pugmill I had loaded it with a fairly soft batch of clay.

 An hour later and a lot of kneading we had a second attempt with a much firmer batch. This time it worked a treat. It still came through a little fast even on the slowest setting - I had to get Rodger to stop and start the On/Off switch as I wanted to bend the form as it came through. 

I wonder if we can somehow adjust the settings.

She certainly made light of this extrusion.  The speed with of flow in a straight line wasn't so critical.

I cut this extrusion using a piece of corrugated roof as a guide.

It was a bit tricky getting the top on and keep the angles at the same time. A fair bit of measuring and then some firm pushing down.

I  extruded pipes and shaped the legs of this creature and attached them upside down.  But how was I to get it onto turned over and on to its ripply base?

By a pulley and sling of course!  I  found myself working this one out at 3am one morning. We already have a pulley for our glaze mixer so it was easy enough to make up a hammock. It worked a treat. The body was leather hard and firm enough and I was able to lower it down and position it until it just rested on the base.

I left it supported overnight under polythene and by the next morning it had firmed up enough to attach the feet,

and remove the sling. Next instalment will be the head and tail.

Meanwhile in between all this creative excitement Rodger and I had a long weekend in Derbyshire. It was a midway place in Britain to meet up with old friends from art college.( Corsham - Bath Academy of Art). What a time we had - ten in all,and we hadn't met up in a group like this for ten years. All of us are still involved in the arts and with lots in common, shared experiences and interests it was a totally inspiring and rejuvenating few days. With a lot of laughs. Not least when Stephen Jon, mask maker extraordinaire, produced beaks for us all. 

Am I too proud to show the resulting Christine with a beak?

 Here are a beak nosed Stephen and Rodger,

and the resulting hilarity as we were treated to a picture show of our beaked evening. Well - I could post a few more pictures my friends, but then again I would like to keep your friendship!