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.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Pancake Day Special: Set of Two Pouring Bowls

For quite a few years now I've been forgetting to remember Pancake Day. Perhaps it's because the date moves around every year; I never know when it's going to pop up. Also these days IAC is gluten free - so torturing him with the smell of freshly frying pancakes seems ever so slightly cruel...and just think, I'd have to eat them all by myself! So for a couple of years now I only notice it's whizzed past un-celebrated when I stroll into the supermarket and see a haphazard 'after-the-rush' display of flour, eggs and squeezy lemons on special offer.

But this year I decided I wanted to feature my pouring bowls as a set - so Pancake Day seemed the perfect opportunity. I've been making my pouring bowls for about three years now starting off with my smallest size 'drizzle' bowl and then adding a medium sized batter bowl. I also make a larger version which is currently made-to-order only. I had wanted to offer a three-bowl set in time for Pancake Day, but I'm out of stock on the larger bowls. So instead I'm offering a two-bowl option at the moment featuring one medium and one small pouring bowl as a Set of Two.

I hope you'll agree they're very cute bowls! I have a set myself in the kitchen which I'm always using for just about everything. The extra functionality of the pouring lip just means these bowls are often my first choice out of the cupboard - because then if I happen to need to pour anything when cooking, I'm ready and prepared.

The photo above shows the Set of Two pouring bowls on offer which includes one small 'drizzle' bowl and one medium batter bowl. These are currently available in both my Folksy and Etsy shops priced at £28. (This gives a discount of over 10% on buying them individually.)

By the way, just in case you don't know, this year Pancake Day is Tuesday 4th of March!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Tealights, Hearts and Valentine's

Making pots can be a fiddly process, especially when you start cutting holes into clay. You have to make sure the pots are wet enough not to bend or buckle under the pressure of cutting, but also not too dry or you risk cracking the clay. So when I decided to make these new tealight holders with a cut-out heart motif, I knew I'd be spending a long afternoon muttering to myself!

The hearts were made using a normal heart shaped cookie cutter - and the holes with normal hole cutters. Hole cutters are designed to make holes in clay of course, so they're fairly straightforward to use. But cookie cutters are generally expected to be used on a flat surface, cutting into dough or pastry. To use them on an elevated, curved wall - like a pot - requires a bit of care. But as long as you take time and put even pressure on the cutter whilst supporting the clay at the back, they cut quite cleanly. 

In a perfect world, the heart-shaped leftover cuts-outs could be used for making my double heart decorations (below). I've been making these little hearts for quite a few years now. They're popular as little gifts for people all year round; as gift tags, decorations, keepsakes and love tokens. But unfortunately the leftovers from the tealight holders were just too distorted (after all they'd been through) to re-use; so instead they had to go in the recycling!

But I'm pleased with my new tealight design. You may remember I made an earlier version a few years ago which was essentially the same, except instead it featured a series of different sized round holes. I think this new version with the heart motif gives them a different character: and it's always nice to give customers options. From my point of view it's also good to keep developing an existing design by returning to it and re-freshing it. Then you don't feel like you're making the same thing forever!

Luckily all my new heart motif tealight holders came out of the kiln safe and sound - just in time for me to put them in my Folksy and Etsy shops for Valentine's! Hope you enjoy them.