Thursday, 24 July 2014

Open Studios 2014

Some of my pots on display

I had a great time at my Open Studio show last weekend. This year I was exhibiting jointly with two other artist/craft makers from the Isle of Wight: Anna Hayward and her daughter Ellen Hayward. They were very kind enough to let me share their studio space - three separate wooden workshops in a lovely garden setting. We were open for four days - Friday to Monday - and had a steady stream of visitors throughout. It was a really successful show with lots of sales and positive responses to our work - and it's so nice to have people come out especially to see you too!

The middle workshop - where I was!

Anna Hayward makes beautiful handmade glass beads and jewellery from her little studio: hence the name of her business Little House Jewellery. Throughout the weekend Anna demonstrated glass bead making using coloured glass rods which are melted in a flame and then slowly cooled in a kiln. Visitors could also assemble their own jewellery pieces using a selection of handmade beads.

Anna's studio

Ellen Hayward is a professional Textile Designer currently specialising in interiors. Throughout the weekend she demonstrated her expert hand weaving skills on her gorgeous AVL loom - as you can see below. Facebook

Ellen's Loom

Ellen's weaving

So a big thank you to everyone who popped in to see us. And an even bigger THANK YOU to Anna and Ellen for letting me share their workspace (and for all the lovely teas and cake!)

The second week of the Isle of Wight Open Studios starts tomorrow for Eastern Wight.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Biscuit Bowls - Yummy Cookie Bowls

One day I was carrying a mug of tea in one hand and some biscuits in the other and I had a brainwave. A little biscuit bowl; just big enough for a couple of biscuits. A small shallow bowl to catch all those precious chocolatey crumbs and cute enough to feel like a special treat (without eating the entire packet).

One of my favourite things about pottery is that now when I have an idea for a pot I'd like to own myself, I don't have to wait for someone else to think the same way or look out for something similar-but-not-quite-right in the shops. Instead I can actually make it. And so these are my first little biscuit bowls (or cookie bowls if you like).

I wanted these bowls to be a bit special so I decided to write a biscuit based message on each using letterpress letters impressed into the clay when wet. These are highlighted in a deep brown oxide wash under a lovely neutral glaze. I think this gives them a really cosy but cute feeling - and can be personalised if people want.

I also decided to use a different clay for these bowls. This clay has a lovely light neutral or ecru shade with lots of dark speckles - which I thought would be perfect to go with biscuits. I also left the underside of the bowls completely unglazed to reveal and emphasise the natural bare clay.

My new biscuit bowls are now available to buy in my Etsy shop. Enjoy!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Getting Inspired: Beach Finds

Pretty Pink Vases - with Glazing Tests
Sometimes I forget how spoilt I am living by the sea. My nearest beach is only a mile away and takes 15 or 20 minutes to walk there. Strangely this 'in between' distance (close but not really close...) feels far enough away to be more than 'just popping down to the beach' and requires at least an hour out of the day and a nice hot thermos of tea to properly appreciate. For this reason I probably don't pop down as often as I'd like to. But when I do go I usually find something to inspire me.

Getting inspiration from the seaside is nothing new of course. Artists are always doing it. And there can be a danger in just repeating what everyone else is doing. So when I look for things to inspire me, I try to look for the 'not-so-obvious'. 

My local beach is mostly shingle, and leans towards the 'small seaside-town/polite walk along the esplanade' side of things rather than remote and windy wilds. Nevertheless, even in a tiny narrow strip of civilised beach there's plenty of little pebbles, shells, driftwood and other shore finds to poke a warm boot at.

Pink Vase Detail - Seaweed and Shells
My latest vases are inspired by a choice of three colours found on my local beach. Pink isn't an obvious colour when you think of the seaside, but there's actually quite a lot of it on my beach. There's plenty of subtle shades of pink in the local shells: these look like a type of sea snail and range from the usual coral shades to unexpected deep maroons. Even some of the grey pebbles have a warm pink tone to them. But most of all there's lots of vibrant pinks and purples in the local seaweed which - once you start looking - pops up everywhere in little clusters. These can look like little pink flowers on the sand or miniature trees draped over the stones.

White is perhaps a more obvious colour to choose. White for the surf, white for the smooth insides of shells and white for chalk pebbles and clouds.

The last colour I chose was the beautiful pale frosted green found in sea-glass. I quite like the idea that pieces of sea-glass are ordinary manmade objects made beautiful by the sea: that being rolled around in the shingle and the waves for years gives them a quality that sets them apart. Part natural, part manmade. And of course being fragments of glass means they fit nicely with the idea of glazing on pots.

Sea-glass and Overlapping Edges
Once I had my three colours - pink, white and pale green - all I had to do was combine them in a design that complemented each other. I chose glaze recipes that were similar in tone (pale) and in texture (glossy and semi-opaque). This allowed them to work with each other as a range, as well as with my existing white glaze - a satin matte. 

I knew even when I was standing on the beach that I would be overlapping the pink and green glazes with the white: just at the edge where they meet. This always gives a small band of extra interest in glazing and fits perfectly with the idea of the shoreline. And then in terms of the form of the vases themselves, well that was easy: it came from the opposite shoreline...

The Other Shore

My new vases, both the Pale Pink and Sea-glass Green, are available for sale in my Folksy and Etsy shops.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Spring Flowers and Jugs

Spring is definitely here; I've been sneezing all day and the local blackbird hasn't stopped singing all week. It's been lovely to hear him while I'm in the studio - he's picked a tree at the end of the garden to call from (he's very loud...), and so far he's been pretty inventive with his tunes too, trying out all sorts of variations. Sometimes though while I'm throwing pots or trying to concentrate on something fiddly, he can be a bit distracting; chirping in at exactly the wrong moment and putting me off...!

Last week the latest jugs were finally finished and came out of the kiln. These are the same jugs which featured in my last blog post. Of course I've been photographing them again (!) this time for a series of shots I can use for listing them in my shops.

I also put together these two composite/multiple photos (above and below). Composites are quite a nice way of showing off pots because they allow different angles or details of a pot to sit side by side at a glance in one image. It also avoids the 'long scroll down' through loads of photos of the same pot!

I used to make composites just for my blog and for my flickr account, but recently I realised they'd be useful in my listings too. I don't know why it took me so long to think of it! Maybe I thought it wasn't possible to load them - although I save them as jpegs like other photos, and so far Folksy and Etsy have accepted them fine. Maybe I thought it was cheating! Effectively you get three extra images in one photo; which can be useful when you have so many angles to show off. Sometimes I have so many photos left after a shoot that it's a shame not to show as many as possible.

I'm very pleased with how these jugs came out. The oxide band around the rim and down the handle seen on the jug above has created a really interesting effect. Where it overlaps with the white glaze it has 'bled' and mottled into blues, blacks and browns. It does run a bit though which I'll have to be careful of in future - especially if I use it near a base. Probably don't need to apply quite so much oxide next time. But the result is very successful and makes for a lovely striking feature on this particular jug I think!

Anyway, these jugs are now available for sale in my Folksy and Etsy shops btw!