Saturday, 30 November 2013


Hello Potters and Friends,

While my kiln was working away on a glaze firing, Alan and I went on a trip northwards for a couple of days to the Lake District.  Just south of Lake Windermere to be exact.  Cold? Oh yes, I should say so, but very beautiful.

And we visited Lord and Lady Cavendish at Holken Hall.
We don't know them personally, of course, but we paid our money and had a good nosey around their castle-like home. 

Below is the vast library where Queen Mary spent many hours hiding from the paparazzi after her son, King Edward VIII, announced his love for US divorcee, Wallis Simpson, and expressed his intention to abdicate the throne in the December of 1936. 

And here is the dining-room where she probably found it hard to enjoy a single mouthful of that year's Christmas lunch.

I hope they remove the enormous floral display before the turkey arrives! Some parts of that could poke your eye out.

But it was lovely to return to our humble abode and have a look at what was waiting in the kiln.

The two teapots that I made in the previous post came out very well. And I've made some small cups to match them.

I have been trying out a much darker green glaze called Northern Woods. 
(Very appropriate to this post, I now realise)

I have been making lots of these little blackbirds and putting them in a plastic lidded container to keep damp for when I need them. They'll stay just as I made them for a couple of weeks – maybe even more if well sealed.

I painted them with manganese to get this bronze/metallic look. And I fixed them on with paperclay slurry. (See previous post for paperclay recipe.)
This glaze shows texture really well.

To create the sgraffito markings I used a sharp pencil. This works better for me than a needle or other potters' tools. I feel that I am really drawing by using a pencil and I never feel that with other tools.

Bits of clay stick in the markings as you make them, but just leave them until the pot dries out a little and then brush them off with a stiff paint brush. 

And finally, my obsession with adding beads to everything is still with me.


Sunday, 3 November 2013


Hello Potters and Friends,

Having done very little work over the summer, I've got my head down and embarked on some new ideas.
First off, I decided to make a collection of teapots, in the Japanese style. Fruit and herb teas are very popular at the moment and it's best to reserve a teapot for this use alone, in order to retain the true flavours. For myself, I want a small one that holds just two cups for Alan and me when we have a mid-afternoon Earl Grey.

Teapots, quite definitely make the best tea. So here's how I began.

I threw a pot, first as a cylinder then coned in the top just as I would if I was shaping a vase. As you can see I didn't create a gallery for the lid to sit into on this one. This lid will sit inside.
(If you don't have a wheel you can still make a teapot by combining coiling and slab building.)
I put it to one side and then threw the lid (upside-down). I added the little knob later at the leather hard stage. 

And here are the other parts: small spout and a larger one for the handle.

And here is the pot in its first rough state, when I assembled all the parts.

 In traditional style the handle is fitted onto the side of the pot. On both the spout and handle I've cut the bases at an angle so that they will point upwards. It is most important for the tip of the spout to be almost level with the top of the pot. This is because as you fill the teapot with water you'll have tea spilling out all over the table if the spout is too low.

Here's my second pot showing quite a steep angle to achieve this.

This is a different shaped teapot and this time I did create a gallery for the lid to fit in quite snuggly. I threw this lid the right way up and just coned in the knob. 

Also notice the hole in the lid. You may think it's there to let the steam out, but actually it's there to let air in. Without it the tea would struggle to creep out of the spout.

And before I leave these pots drying out I want to give you a tip that I use on all pots that have a join somewhere or other. I've taken to using paperclay slurry to join handles, knobs, decorations etc.
With this you can join clay at any stage of drying out.  Wet to dry, even join dry to dry. It's strong and it works. And as it dries out in your tub you can make the most delicate and fine decorations that tend to stay where you've put them on your work and not drop off or crack in the firing. And what's even more brilliant is that you don't need to buy it, you can easily make it yourself.

Here's how.
1. Take clay from your bucket or new from the bag and soak it in water until it resembles a puree. 
2. Pour boiling water over some ripped up newspaper and leave it to soak, then mash this up (I use an old electric hand whisk) until it is also close to puree. 
3. Add the pureed paper to your clay, but no more paper pulp than around 40%. Give it a good stir and wait for the water to evaporate, then kneed it into balls and bag it up. It's invaluable.

The paper burns away in the kiln and the clay becomes extra strong because of the fine network that remains. 

The little blackbirds here might not have stayed on the rim without it.

I've been testing some new glazes recently and so I've taken to making eggcups instead of test tiles. 

Once photographed and recorded I can put them up for sale, or make use of them in our kitchen.

At my last exhibition I put little heaps of various buttons scattered around the pots, but I'm doing it differently now. Customers get better value buying in batches and I don't get left with odd ones.
Alan found me this lovely picture of tulips that could be printed 8 to a page, and so I'll just sew them on. Fiddly but worth it.

And finally......our grandson Hector experiencing clay for the first time.

If you think that getting a 4 month old to oblige with a hand or foot print is easy......phew!
Lovely soft clay, grandma, feels so nice why don't I grab it and dig my nails right in!!!

We decided to wait another few months.