Preparations for the Bristol Wool Fair are underway! And the photo shoot.

Busy busy busy, I hardly get any downtime at the moment, I had to go down to 2 days a week at my paid job to have time for my clay, and it still isn’t enough!
But! Patrick, our kiln (our as in I co-own it with my studio mate) is almost refurbished! Those of you who know me personally will know all about that little saga, but suffice it to say, neither of us had ever re-bricked a kiln a before, but we did it and now it’s over to the professional to do the scary stuff, the elements and powering up any potters out there will know just how exciting this is.

So, I’ve made 23 yarn bowls so far, and with the help of the magical Peter Stone, have cobbled together an advert for the Wool Fair programme, which looks, well, I can hardly believe I made that bowl. The photo looks totally amazing. There is no way in the world that I could have taken such wonderful photos.

I will update this post when I have more time and I’m hoping to get a post on the refurb and my right royal…. well, I really messed up, but we managed to sort it in the end, no thanks to me!

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New yarn bowls, new techniques and why I don’t blog very often

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Science Museum SingaporeLamp Post at Wat Pho, BangkokHubby's leg and Giant Ray

Ughhh I just spent the last 2 hours writing this blog post only to have wordpress lose it even after making multiple saves….

Ok, why don’t I post very often? I’m too busy DOING to have a lot of time or oomph for blogging. Why do I bother with a blog? I’m an artist, I need to get what I’m doing ‘out there’ for people to see. How else will the right person fall in love with one of my pieces? So I tell peeps I have a blog, and say that’s where you can see my work.

Anyway, I’m going to be at the http://www.bristolwoolfair.co.uk/ in September selling my yarn bowls and buttons. So I really won’t be on here much at all as I will be as good as living in my studio for the next 3 months trying to make enough for the 3 days. Luckily I only work 2 days a week now. Just enough to pay for my studio while I get making. Besides, it’s all my boss’s fault, she’s the one that picked up the flyer for the fair. Just as well I gave her a yarn bowl!

 

What have I been doing since my last post? Well, apart from having been to Oz and back for the first time in 12 years and having a massive shopping spree in Phahurat Market in Bangkok on the way back for loads of gorgeous lace and lace fabric and embroidered fabric to use in my studio, I’ve been busy working out a few ideas for various projects.

Lace imprint buttons

Thanks to my visit back to the land of Oz and the brief visits to Thailand and Singapore, I’ve been really feeling that Asian zen influence, especially after our visit to Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. So I’ve been making tea mugs, sort of like the ones you get in Wagamama’s made in that nasty plastic that makes the green tea smell weird. Well, I’ve been making them out of porcelain, flecked stoneware, my mixed up reclaim made of the different clays I use and most recently the Vulcan smooth (a sculptural clay that looks and feels like a stiff-ish dark chocolate fondue that throws well, but does go to slip a little too easily).

Tea Mugs

And of course I had a go at making yarn bowls out of my porcelain reclaim. That was fun, but they did slump a little, but that’s ok, they gave me a chance to try out my wonderful new ceramic tissue transfers. These you can use on fresh clay, leather clay, bisq – under or over the raw glaze. The only time I don’t think they will work is on-glaze. I’ve had such excellent results that I’m going to look into making my prints.

Porcelain Yarn Bowls

As well as that I’ve been tackling my avoidance of making lidded vessels. So far I have a few little pots with lids, and hope to be making teapots in the coming months, it’s my own silly fears that have held me back from that, so I’m now going for it, every time I have some reclaim to muck around with I WILL make lids!

One last thing, Bath Artists’ Studios where I have my space, are now doing open days 10.30 am to 12.30pm last Friday of the month. There is even coffee and nibbles. A chance to come see what we are all doing!

Time just flies by, doesn’t it?

So I did get the urns to the glaze stage, but then they went really really wrong. Silly me, never having worked with paper porcelain before had no idea that it can warp so much in a glaze firing. One fell over and the other kind of twisted a bit and the lid totally fused to the body. That kind of knocked the stuffing out of me and I had to step back for a few weeks, I couldn’t even bring myself to blog about it till now.

 

 So then I tried using some Audrey Blackman Porcelain with fine molochite in it, I just got really frustrated with it, porcelain is fickle, so now I’m going to use the Potclays Grogged Pink (or I might even use the Scarva Professional Black, not sure yet). It comes out a very nice earthy tone at 1280C, and if I use a temmoku on it, it will be a nice fat and shiny dark brown with a sheen of iron crystals on the surface and the glaze breaking to tan over edges and texture giving the form some natural detailing.

It was very silly of me to even think of using porcelain in the first place, Dad wasn’t a fine china sort of person, he worked with his hands most of his life, so using a nice groggy clay is more fitting. Anyway, his urn has had to go on the back burner until I have everything I can possibly make, made for the xmas markets I have coming up, I’ll be doing the next 2 Frome Super Markets, a small one in Bath organised by a friend, as well as the Bath Art and Craft Markets, 3 dates there which I am now managing.

Other than that, I managed to fit in a little side project on something that I really wanted to try, and the tests are really promising. More to come on that, I need to get the vessels glazed and sanded, but I must say I’m really excited over the whole project, even though it’s a departure from my mostly functional work.

Sorry, no pics this time, I couldn’t even bear to photograph the disaster on the kiln.

The Spaceship Urn part 2

Well, it’s been a hugely busy few weeks.
I went back to work, the pop-up shop opened, and I have finally managed to bisq fire the 2 surviving urns. Oh, and my hubby and I went to the Duxford Airshow (709 photos!?!?!?!?). We saw a Mitchell Spitfire with my last name on the side (sort of). My hubby’s last name is Mitchell….
Duxford Day Out (376)sml

Well, 3 urns survived the turning/trimming process, but then, after I attached the fins, I knocked one over and all three fins came off. By that stage, the clay was way too dry to re-wet and attach, even though it’s paper porcelain. I used vinegar in the joining slip, but the join just didn’t seem to be good enough. So after that, I got the surviving two into the kiln for a soft bisq. It meant a not very full kiln, but I couldn’t bear to take any more risks. Now I just have to glaze them. I’m so excited and very very sad. Dad won’t get to see the finished result.

Making the fins was time consuming, starting with a very technical guide
Prowork2013 (148)

I then cut three blanks
Prowork2013 (149)

Which I carefully carved into streamlined shapes and attched them with a slip made from the clay and vinegar to get
Prowork2013 (152)

As you can imagine, it was a huge relief to get them into the kiln for their first firing. I don’t have to panic when I handle them now.

Now, about the pop-up shop…. WOW! The first week I only made a couple of sales, but the second week, my mugs were almost flying out the shop! Now, with just one week to go, I have very little stock left and have to get onto making again. Only 2 yarn bowls are left, out of 8. All of the ones I’ve featured have sold, it’s been very exciting. I know now that my work really is worth the effort so now I have to really knuckle down and make a shed load, literally. There’s a gallery that’s expressed an interest in stocking my work, the open studios weekend is coming up http://www.bathartistsstudios.co.uk/open-studios.html, and I need to get ready for the xmas markets I hope to do.

So that’s me. I’ve been dreading doing this post, and found I couldn’t during the week with my hubby away at work, and now I’ve left it to the last minute. Only two more posts to go on this, and then back to yarn bowls and swirly mugs, and no more play/product development till xmas is gone again.

The Spaceship Urn

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My Dad died last Saturday (30th June). It was sort of a shock, but not 100% unexpected.

Anyway, me being an Aussie Expat living in the UK, and my parents being in Oz, I wasn’t able to go back for the funeral. However, I am able to make a contribution to Dad’s next great adventure and what better than a spaceship?

Being primarily a thrower, the classic 1950’s rocket style ship lent itself most handily to my design. The clay I chose (after very careful thought) is Scarva Porcelain Paper Clay. I’ve tried quite a few different clays in my time, but the most unusual to throw with has to be this. It’s pulpy, and doesn’t form a slip in quite the same way. So I started throwing them yesterday and ran out of clay, which is just as well as I wasn’t coping on my own too well.

Because of the size I’m making, I’m throwing 2.5kg at a time so I’m only getting 2 vessels to a bag. So my hubby took me off to Bath Potters (again) for more clay. £53 is cost me for 25kg!! But for this, no expense will be spared.

Today was easier, and there were lots of people around so if I wanted to talk I could and I did quite a bit of wandering around between vessels. So at the end of the day, I had another 4 made, as well as thier saggar slabs (for the glaze firing). And I managed to make a couple of swirl mugs as well.

 So back to these spaceships….. Why so many if you only need one you ask? Well, I need some redundancy, as well as each one will end up with its own personality and I probably won’t know until I’ve glaze fired them which one I will choose. Then I will do the lustre firing. I bought gold, platinum and blue to do the markings and such. AND I plan to name it the R.A.S.S Neil Cross (Royal Australian Space Ship) and hopefully I will be able to stamp that on with the lustre to give it that true Star Trek/Honor Harrington feel rather than clumsy and hand painted.

So anyway, the ships are going to turn out like the unfired junkyard dog in the next pic, only in porcelain and I will seal the bottom and cut the top off adding a small ring inside the lid to give it a gallery. The spike/antenna will be fired separately and added after all of the firings, this will reduce the height and reduce the chance of it actually slumping over at max temp.

the spike is just a plastic dropper to give an idea of the finished product the spike is just a plastic dropper to give an idea of the finished product.

Now I have to wait a day or 2 before I can do the next step which is trimming them into the desired shape. One of the advantages of using the porcelain paper clay is its more robust on account of the flax fibres and the end result is lighter and stronger so will travel better. That’s it for now, more when I get to attach the fins which I will cut tomorrow and get drying before I shape them, that paper clay is WET!

Fresh from the Kiln

SwirlDuo

I have recently had an intern with me, for an entire month, and I decided to start a project I had been planning on doing since I got into my studio but had been putting off because I hadn’t had the time to do it as well as everything else.

That project is coloured clay. What I have to say is WOW instant addiction or what?!?!? This Technique is totally awsome. We used the Harry Fraser Porcelain powder simply because it’s in a convenient powder form, and added 5% hi-fire stain to it, made it into a slip and left it for a few days to soak, then we started working with it. Some of the colours didn’t really work, like the pink, that went a funny grey green colour, but the others are so intense, like the yellow, red and jaffa orange in the photos.
To get the swirly effect, I coned some Audrey Blackman Porcelain, then started to throw, but added sausages of colour which I really pushed into the clay, then I just recentred and threw the pieces. We also had a go at making a loaf, which turned out pretty awsome too. Definitely something I want to continue to experiment with in the future.

SwirlDuo(2)

Porcelain Bowl

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Porcelain Bowl

This is one of my favourite pieces. I painted some hi-fire stains on the raw clay just after I turned it. Then I used just a clear glaze over the top. I think it got a little over fired as the glaze moved a little giving that gorgeous blurring and creating a landscape effect. I only glazed the bowl to the inward curve, so there is a ‘pooling’ of the glaze that exaggerates the curve. Inside is simply glazed with a trasparent cobalt glaze. I used the Audrey Blackman porcelain for the bowl which IMHO is one of the best affordable porcelains avaliable.

This bowl will be for sale in the pop-up shop in 2 weeks time along with the yarn bowls I have featured already. After this next selling event I will be starting an Etsy shop as well as various markets.