Sunday, 3 May 2015

Spring Things - Making Bells, Jugs and Bowls

The kiln is on again. This time another bisque. It seems the only time I write a blog post these days is when the kiln is on! But I've been taking photos of some of the things I've been making this past month. Above and below are a batch of new bells or wind chimes I've made for an order. As you can see, each one is handthrown on a wheel just like a bowl and then the base is turned and rounded off. Then I attach little strap handles for hanging them up in the garden or for holding as a hand bell.

These chimes were featured in a great blog post on Remodelista back in March - so they've proved a bit of a hit lately (I've sold out at the moment.) These ones are in the kiln as I speak ready to be glazed hopefully in a few days time.

I've also been making a batch of large jugs for another order and a few one-off pieces including some low cylinder bowls suitable as fruit bowls or serving bowls. Everything was going swimmingly for a while and I made quite a few pieces when suddenly the weather changed. Spring arrived overnight and we had a very dry, warm spell which meant all the pots started drying out too quickly...

Normally during winter I can leave pots out in the studio uncovered and they can dry out nice and slowly in the damp atmosphere. But I took my eye off the ball and forgot to cover the pots overnight when the weather changed...and before I knew it, handles were cracking off and bottoms were splitting! Sometimes it's so easy to forget the obvious stuff. So I lost about four big pots: I had to hit them with hammers to break them up and put them in the recycling bucket. All very upsetting and disappointing, especially as I had to make them all over again!

Above are photos of the doomed pots! The ones that got away. I forgot to photograph the damage (it was much too traumatic). But I've remade all these now and fingers crossed they've dried out properly this time and they're in the kiln being bisque fired as I type.

Finally, here's some little porcelain eggs I made especially for Spring this year. They come in three colours: plain white, pale blue and sage green. Inspired by the little blackbirds I starting making last year, I thought I'd make some eggs to go with them. And because you can't have eggs on their own, I've hand knitted and felted some little nests for them too. These are made using a gorgeous soft Alpaca wool sourced locally on the Isle of Wight. The result is a very cute little set available in my Folksy and Etsy shops. Enjoy!


Friday, 20 March 2015

Eclipse: Moon Bowls in Black Stoneware Clay


Today we had a solar eclipse. The plan was perfect. Fire the kiln on Thursday (yesterday) so this morning I could watch the eclipse in the garden while I waited for the kiln to cool down. Unfortunately a thick blanket of cloud obscured the entire event! And although it went quite dark around 9.30am (during which time we had a nice piece of carrot cake and a cup of tea) it mostly felt the same as if it was about to start raining. Oh well, never mind! Hopefully the bisque kiln will be fine though and I'll be able to crack it soon and start glazing some pots.

In the meantime - as it's topical - I thought I'd blog about my moon bowls. I've been experimenting with different stoneware clays in the past year or so. One of these clays is a deep black stoneware designed mostly for modelling or sculptural pieces. It can also be used as a throwing clay however - in small doses. It has a very high iron and grog content which makes it very coarse to handle when making. This is perfect for hand modelling but when it comes to throwing (with the wheel spinning round) it feels like your hands are being shredded by sandpaper! When I first used it I raised the roof and could only manage to make one small bowl before I gave up and plastered my poor hands in E45. (People who throw porcelain have no idea...!)




Since then I have modified the original black clay by adding in some of my usual stoneware to make throwing more comfortable. This produces a lovely deep chocolate brown colour when fired and left unglazed. So far I've only used a white glaze on this clay. My usual satin white glaze reacts differently on this clay body producing a really interesting pitting effect. This instantly reminded me of craters on the moon, especially when used on little round bowl shapes. Hence calling them moon bowls.

Would you believe it, as I type the sun is actually coming out?! Time for more tea (maybe another piece of carrot cake) and to check the kiln temperature I think. In the meantime, here's a picture of some more pots and ceramic spoons I've been making with my lovely black/chocolate brown stoneware clay. Enjoy!




Thursday, 5 February 2015

Valentine's Day Ideas

 
It's been a busy 2015 already - mostly with finishing a spill-over of Christmas orders and re-stocking on some essential pots (bird bowls are back in stock btw!). The kiln has been bisque fired once and glaze fired twice already before January had a chance to put its feet up!

I think the kiln was wondering what on earth was going on - especially as it had to contend with some chilly temperatures out in the studio recently. As a precaution I brought all my bags of clay indoors from the outside store, just in case they froze. One day I switched on the electricity to the kiln and the themocouple plummeted immediately to zero. I'm sure if it could display any temperature below freezing then it would have...


Anyway, enough about the cold studio conditions! Here's some new items I managed to make in-between all the other pots in January: just a few ideas for Valentine's Day. I made some very cute little bottles with cork stoppers which you can see in the photos above, and I made some ceramic heart tags to go with them with 'love potion' written on them. 

These bottles are small enough to sit in the palm of your hand and make a lovely gift. They can be used as a bathroom accessory to hold oils and salts for instance and because the glazes are food safe and dishwasher safe, they can be used in the kitchen too. The glazing is plain white so they can even be used as little bud vases without the stopper and tag. They are available in both my Etsy and Folksy Shop.

In the process of bringing in all the stoneware clay out from the cold, I also found some porcelain - so I made this pair of love birds. These are hand shaped and left unglazed to show the pure white porcelain body, while their eyes were picked out by brushing on dots of blue/black oxide. This unique pair of love doves is available in my Etsy Shop. Enjoy!



Monday, 1 December 2014

Homes and Gardens Magazine Feature - Bird Tail Pouring Bowls


© Homes and Gardens Magazine December 2014

Recently I found out my 'bird tail' pouring bowls were featured in this month's Homes and Gardens Magazine (December 2014 issue). It was a complete surprise and I'm so pleased - especially as they look great too which is the most important thing!

I have two sizes of bird tail bowls - a small one that fits in the palm of your hand and a larger one about the size of a normal cereal bowl. Both have been featured in Homes and Gardens Gift Guide along with a selection of other Christmas gift ideas for budding chefs.

© Homes and Gardens Magazine December 2014

In the feature they used my blue and white bird bowls but I also make them using a contrasting brown and oatmeal glaze combination in the smaller size. All my bird bowls are available directly from me via my Etsy and Folksy Shops but in the feature they're also stocked by Aram Store in Covent Garden, London. 

It was such a lovely surprise and a great way to end a very busy year...!