Monday, 29 December 2014

43. NEW YEAR - NEW IDEAS

Hello Potters and Friends,

Hope you all had a good festive holiday and are looking forward to the new year.

I took part in a couple of Christmas Art Fairs, the last being in our town's Art Gallery and Museum.


It's known as the Royal Pump Rooms and that is exactly what it was. This rather grand building was built in 1814 to allow townsfolk to partake of the natural spa water that had been discovered 30 years before in 1784. This murky, salt saturated, green, foul water was so popular with the wealthy London set that Queen Victoria, in 1838, changed our town's name from Leamington Priors to Royal Leamington Spa.
They obviously believed the old wives' tale; if it tastes awful, it must be doing you good!

And so here I am selling my wares in this grand building, as I'm sure many hundreds have done before me.



Top left of the picture are a row of Edmund de Waal's pots. He held an exhibition here a few years ago. 

I used these Christmas fairs to see what people thought of my new porcelain collection. I was pleased to find a very positive reaction. And I was also pleased to be asked to exhibit and sell a selection of it in the Art Gallery of this historic old building. 

I looked up some of my old designs in my sketchbook, tweeked this and that, used a lot more colour and painted with bolder strokes. 

Here are a few pieces that I experimented with.










All were painted with underglazes at a bone dry stage before bisque firing. Then all dipped in a transparent stoneware glaze.  


"Feelin' Groovy"
I think I must have been when I made this!!


I took a break in writing this post here because the doorbell rang, and to my great delight the piece of pottery that I have been waiting for has at last arrived.  


Here it is as I took it from its box. The ceramic poppy is one of 888,246 that were made for the art installation 'BLOOD SWEPT LANDS AND SEAS OF RED'  at the Tower of London.

It is the work of Paul Cummins and it commemorated the centenary of the start of the First World War 1914. 
They are individually hand made. No two are the same. 
It arrived with it's metal stem, all rusted from the London weather and I love it.

Just off now to look at it again...



HAPPY POTTING FOLKS

AND  HAVE A VERY HAPPY 2015



  







Saturday, 25 October 2014

42. 'THOSE AUTUMN LEAVES'

Hello Potters and Friends,

I think I've been heavily influenced recently by all the autumnal colours that have suddenly appeared across our lovely rural town. As I swept up bright red and yellow leaves from our path the other day I had the urge to save some, and dry them out for Christmas decoration. But I resisted this urge because I do this every year and have bowlfuls in my workshop that I never use at Christmas or at any time!

But as I opened my kiln this week I really surprised myself. I had aimed at being bolder with colour and experimenting with ornamentation, and considering my favourite glaze is white satin, I'm quite pleased with myself for taking a few risks. So here are some of my favourites;



This clay was an experiment. It's a new clay produced in Northern Ireland at SCARVA. It has the pure white appearance and the feel of porcelain but is actually stoneware. They say it should be easier than porcelain to handle but I found the two clays very similar to throw on the wheel.
The colours are underglazes with a bit of sgraffito with only the inside glazed.

Out next came some jugs.




I love this colour. Talk about vivid!! I only have a small amount of it so when I dipped it in, it didn't quite go to the top, but I think the yellow flower balances it up nicely.



Now....why put a boat on the handle is a mystery to even me. Sometimes I make little flowers, boats or birds from off-cuts of clay and put them in a sealed plastic container then forget about them. Well, this is what happens when I remember! But, when pouring, my thumb sits comfortably against it and it is as if it was meant to be.



In case it's not clear there is an oak leaf on the rim and an acorn at the base of the handle. A real autumn jug. And I must photograph it better.




One of the ever popular Grab Jugs. I made two in my usual white satin glaze, but I went crazy with this one. Some underglazes fire glossy and some fire matt. I quite like the resulting mixture.

Painting very fine lines on greenware or bisque is very difficult because the clay in both cases is porous so it absorbs a whole brush load on first contact, leaving you with nothing on the brush. What is needed is the finest of brushes but with the greatest absorbency. Here was my solution.....




........My daughter's hair.

Find someone with lovely fine hair and go at them with some scissors. Then make your brush with sticky tape and a wooden skewer.  



I then wrapped it with wool in order to have something substantial to hold. And look at that fine point. I paint effortlessly with this.



Great hair Rosie......and you too Hector.


Then lastly, this little pot. 



New sort of handle for me. And there's a little porcelain bird added....from the plastic pot, of course.

Now finally a hand-building tip....



   


When cutting through leather-hard clay, cut through cling film. It gives the cut a nice rounded edge. I also cover the clay with cling film when smoothing it out with a rib. 


HAPPY POTTING FOLKS 

  













Thursday, 2 October 2014

Tea Bowl with Landscaped- Rim

Hello Potter's and Friends,

I'm working away at a few new projects at the moment, so will have something to show you in a week or so. But in the meantime I've found some very informative videos that I'd like to post here, so as to keep as a reference for myself and pass on to you.

Here's a good one if, like me, you like these charwan  Japanese tea-cups.

Keep practicing.









Sunday, 14 September 2014

Magh Seola - Ger Fahy on Uilleann pipes

Hello Potters and Friends,

I heard this great player, Gerard Fahy, playing this brilliant tune in Galway, Ireland this week.

He wrote it at the age of 14 and since then it has been recorded on all instruments and by all the great players.

So have a listen to Gerard on the Uilleann pipes  (uilleann being the Irish for elbow, because this elbow action is how the bellows are filled).

And the title Magh Seola means the Level Plain - which well describes the landscape around Galway.








Sunday, 24 August 2014

41. SELL THE SIZZLE NOT THE SAUSAGE.

Hello Potters and Friends,

Lots have been going on this summer in our small town. The best fun was the Warwick Folk Festival.


My son Leo came home that weekend and off we went feeling slightly underdressed. (Note the woman to the left of the picture.) And, believe me, she looked quite ordinary compared to some.

But Alan preferred the Ukulele Festival that took place in the pub gardens on the Campion Hills just a few minutes away.


I heard it perfectly well by just opening the back door of our house!

But what's all this sausage business, I hear you cry??  Well, I'm trying to make photographs of my work a whole lot more interesting.

More and more, our work is being judged initially on a photograph. I was contacted, only this week to take part in an Art Fair in Stratford-upon-Avon. The invitation came after someone looked at the photographs on my website. But I also have photographs on this blog and on my new Facebook page. So they are important and I want to put the sizzle out there

So I'm going to show you some of my experimental pics. Some are good, some don't work at all. But I think I'm getting a little bit closer to the sizzle.



I love this picture. A few years ago I had a passion for making paper bowls and now I have a use for the ones I still have. I displayed my pots at the Open Studio Exhibition like this and the red bowls caught the imagination. So Japanese-style pots against the red sun of Japan.



The Charwan teacup got the same treatment. I also deliberately chose a wooden base. Wood, clay and paper all in one small space.



I've made my friend Bernie a personalised jug and thought a nice lace cloth would give that tea-time homely look. But I've decided it's altogether too busy and just wrong. 



 But this I think I got right. Bright blue cups had to be on my white Welsh dresser. 

The next two photos were taken outside and here's a tip; Natural light is perfect, but don't pick a sunny day. The sun will reflect on the glaze, wash out the colour and create flares. A lovely dull day is what we want. 



It's not over exposed by sunlight. And good contrast between porcelain and rough wood-chips.




My little painted boats seem to be shipwrecked on the rocks! Both pics get a tick.




Of course, showing a use for the bowl is always a good idea.  




But I was once asked.... what would you put in a casserole dish?? For once I was lost for words.

 I photographed these on my oak kitchen table to give the feeling of warmth. If you removed the lid you might find a creamy Irish stew inside. I think I could go further with this idea. Maybe a few veg?

I'm so enjoying setting up the photographs that I haven't put my hands in clay all week!

HAPPY SNAPPING FOLKS 






Friday, 4 July 2014

40. KILN OPENING FOR THE OPEN STUDIO EXHIBITION

Hello Potters and Friends,

The Warwickshire Open Studio Exhibition has come round again and, as last year, I have a joint exhibition with my daughter - jeweller Rosie Bill and painter Kathy Webster.



Turning my studio and Alan's study into a gallery always takes several days of hard dusting, window cleaning and emptying. The rest of the house acts as a warehouse for the unwanted items but, hey, it's a very enjoyable 2 weeks. 



So a couple of weeks ago I had a kiln opening and here is a close look at a few of the contents.

Continuing the naked clay theme that I talked about in the previous post, I enjoyed experimenting with red iron oxide.




After a bisque firing I painted on a wash of red iron, then removed most of it with a damp sponge. Then when it was bone dry, I rubbed it carefully with sandpaper to bring back some of the white clay. I used a brush-on glaze to confine the pool of glaze to the centre. 

The edge was imprinted with various objects including a lump of lava from Lanzarote and red Monopoly houses.




The ginger jars have attracted a good deal of attention. The insect decoration was painted with very thick iron oxide.



And here's a wonderfully happy accident.......



I brushed on white slip at leather hard stage, then burnished it with the back of a spoon until I achieved a good shine. Then I painted my fern on top with thick red iron oxide. 
It came out of the bisque kiln as I imagined. I glazed the inside and fired it to cone 6 (approximately 1230ÂșC) and I had, quite by chance created this crackle effect.



I've no idea why this happened. Something shrank, but was it the slip or the oxide? It's a mystery to me, but I will certainly be doing it again. I love it.

But I haven't abandoned glazes altogether. These Charwan teacups present quite a splash.



Thrown stoneware with a handful of porcelain dragged around the middle (previous post shows me making a Yunomi cup in the same way).

Charwan and Yunomi teacups are made without handles so that the temperature of the tea can be felt when picked up. If the cup is too hot to hold then it's too hot to drink and therefore bad for the digestion. 

And on this ginger jar is a mixture of glaze and a highly flecked clay surface.



But what caused the biggest celebration in our household this week is the birth of another grand-daughter. Welcome to the family, Lana Quinn Kennedy.

HAPPY POTTING FOLKS 







Saturday, 3 May 2014

39. THE NAKED CLAY ROUTE AND BEYOND.

Hello Potters and Friends,



Here I am exhibiting in a mixed art and craft fair in Chipping Campden, in the heart of the picturesque region of the Cotswolds.



Here we have village after village of stone cottages built beside shallow, fast running streams that reflect all the surrounding beauty. And, of course, a constant crocodile line of tourists.
So as well as chatting to the visitors about my methods and techniques, I was also looking at my work as a whole and feeling the need for a bit of a change. I'm not unhappy with what I've been making, but sometimes (as my mother would often say) 'a change is as good as a rest'.

So first off, Alan offered to make significant changes to my website and get all my work bang up to date. I love it, and you can take a look here.

And in the workshop during these past few weeks, this is more of what I'm going for -


More naked clay and less glaze. The decoration is a velvet underglaze.

I then progressed on to this -


A thrown stoneware cup with great dollops of porcelain smeared on.




This is a Japanese cup called a Yunomi. Although deliberately made misshapen, as if not wheel thrown, it should still give the impression of being made with skilled hands. So I'm prodding and squeezing all over the place and somehow it's really freed me up. It's like going back to that beginner stage again, where everything is new and exciting. 



I've put aside the glossy glazes for a while and dug out a matt one that I haven't opened up for some time. I applied it with thick and quick brush strokes, as on these stoneware buttons.



And I've dirtied up my pristine white porcelain brooches by mixing in some black clay. The cutter I used for this I bought in the cake-making department of a local store.

And finally, from an old ceiling light fitting that I came across in our junk room ...



 I rubbed on a thin coating of Vaseline, lay stoneware clay over it, and I've just put this together with a wheel thrown foot -


I heartily recommend going for some changes to give yourself a rest!

HAPPY POTTING FOLKS.





















Sunday, 2 March 2014

38. BACK TO THE EARTH.

Hello Potters and Friends,

Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco, and its most notable feature is that it's covered in black volcanic lava. Every house is painted white, by law, thanks to the artist Cesar Manrique who had a major influence on planning regulations and achieved sympathetic development of tourism from the governing body.
The result is a beautiful black and white landscape, and one that Alan and I love.


We visited there last month with our daughter Rosie and grandson Hector. And I think it's no coincidence that most of the pots I have just taken out of the kiln have been black or white.



I recently saw a photograph of some quite small plates about 5inches in diameter, and they reminded me of the small plates my grandmother served slices of cake on. In fact she called them cake plates. So I thought I would introduce the idea of a plate for this sole purpose into my next exhibition. 



I love making jugs. I used a few brush strokes of oxide to create the pattern on the right-hand jug. It could be a boat or moth or nothing at all, but I liked it so much that you'll see it again, make no mistake. The other two are Grab Jugs (no handles) They are always popular, I can never make too many.



A spot of hand-building. The ends were cut then overlapped. It creates a more oval shape than this photo shows. So here we are.....



The same technique and this one was stamped with two Indian wood blocks that I bought in the old town of Teguise in Lanzarote.



Alan, Rosie and Hector outside the shop



Here's that mothy, boaty pattern again. You may have seen my sweet potato mould I made a while ago. I've never found a better, more knobbly vegetable. The top is an added thrown piece. 



OH WOW COLOUR !  Wax painted on before glazing gives a very rough and ready effect. I dipped them in Tenmoku when the wax had dried out.



This was a complete surprise, but a welcome one. I had painted on small oxide dots before the bisque firing.  (Manganese and copper carbonate) However, when I had dipped it in a glaze called Marguerite and placed it on the bottom shelf of the kiln (the hot spot in my kiln) the dots became streaks. Brilliant. But can I ever achieve this again???

And finally......a moment of madness.



The fishing boat, bobbing seaside pot.
I can only say.....


HAPPY POTTING FOLKS



Mi amigo.