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!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Three Tall Jugs - Throwing, Making Handles and Taking Photos

Last week I made three tall jugs and decided I'd try to remember to take photos along each of the stages of making - from throwing to attaching handles. This is actually harder than it sounds! Sometimes when you get into the 'creative zone' you forget all about taking photos. And pottery is a messy business: there's water and wet clay everywhere and consequently a huge potential for accidentally dropping a digital camera into a bucket of sludge... (Thankfully, I didn't do that by the way!)

Tall Jug - On the Wheel on a Wooden Batt
Tall Jug - On the Wheel, Lip Formed
The other reason why it's sometimes difficult to remember to take photos is that pottery doesn't happen in just one day. The initial stages of making a pot - especially a hand-thrown one - can take several days: by which time the plan to take photos can slip the mind. Above you can see two photos I remembered to take (!) after finishing throwing the first of these jugs. They show the jug still on the wheel, freshly thrown and still on its wooden batt. As you can see, I've finished forming the jug and even put in the lip. I've also cleaned off the batt with a sponge - because when throwing it gets covered in slip clay.

First Jug - Off the Wheel (and Mugs Drying!)

Three Tall Jugs on Batts
The next stage is to take the jugs off the wheel and put them aside to start drying out. This is what the wooden batts are for: they allow a larger thrown pot to come off the wheel supported on their own surface so they don't lose their shape when being moved. Then I simply put the next batt on the wheel and throw the next jug. The above photos show the freshly thrown jugs drying out still on their batts (also some mugs drying upside-down in the background!) No photos of the actual throwing process itself though...

Attaching Handles
Cut to the following day and the jugs were still very wet. It was late afternoon before they could be persuaded to come off the batts at all (using a wire). Then I could begin to 'turn' the bases. This involved putting them back on the wheel upside down and trimming the bottoms to tidy them up. And just to prove my earlier point about forgetting to take photos I forgot to take any of this particular stage! In fact overall it was a frustrating day. The weather was dampish so everything was taking ages to dry and I had to use a hair drier on the pots (which I don't like to do) to try to hurry things along. It was late in the evening before either the jugs or their intended handles (which I made for them that day) were ready for me to attach and put together. Hence the only photo I remembered to take was this one above - a bit late in the evening when it was dark and I had the very last handle to add!

Three Tall Jugs - Drying

Three Tall Jugs - And Oxide Decoration
And then it's two days later before I remember to take any more photos! In the meantime the jugs were positioned upside-down on their rims to allow the handles time to dry onto the body of the pots. In this position gravity helps keep the handles 'stuck on' and discourages them from cracking away at the join. Of course then the weather changed that day and became sunny and warmer - so I worried the jugs might dry out too quickly! To avoid this I draped plastic over them to keep them damp.

Above are two photos showing the three jugs safely attached to their handles. At this stage I was confident enough to put them right-way-up again and take off the plastic to let them air dry. The pot on the left though you may notice has some decoration added to it. I've brushed on an oxide mix around the top rim and down the handle. Proof yet again that I forgot to take photos and completely missed out another stage of making! Oh well, another time.