Monday, 13 December 2010

After the show: Wayzgoose

Last weekend I finished my last Christmas show and my final show of the year! Wayzgoose is an annual Christmas sale at a local artists' studio complex called Jubilee Stores. The studios are based in Newport on the Isle of Wight in a converted warehouse on the town quayside of the River Medina. There were about 25 artists and craft makers exhibiting at Wayzgoose this year including painters, jewellers, ceramic makers, textile makers, basket makers, printers and much more. We all had a really good time and lots of customers came through the door: I counted about 230 people over the event (though I was often distracted so it could have been more!) But I'm really pleased with my sales too - which makes all the hard work worth while!

Of course I forgot to take my camera so all I have of the event itself is this shot below of one of the rooms taken using my very old camera phone. I confess to tweaking with it a bit 'post-production' but hopefully it gives you an idea of the festive atmosphere.

Anyway, just a short blog update today: I can't believe we're already half way into December! I have lots of post-show admin to do (that means putting boxes of pots away...) and still lots of queueing at the post office sending off Christmas orders. But hopefully I might get some time to blog again before Christmas!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

After the show: Quarr Abbey

(Festive berries in the abbey grounds)

It’s been a few days now since the end of our 6-day show at Quarr Abbey. We were very busy for the whole week and had an excellent time. We counted just under 700 visitors in total through the door which we’re pretty chuffed about! And all of us who exhibited had a very successful week. This was also the first time I’ve been able to show my paintings alongside my pots instead of just one or the other – so it was really good to hear what people thought. And luckily the responses to both were very positive! So all in all it was a successful event.

In fact we were so busy most days that we didn’t get much time to enjoy the abbey grounds for ourselves! The abbey is a lovely place to visit. As well as the new gallery/exhibition space (which has a changing show every week) there’s a tea room, gardens, a bookshop and also some country walks on the land owned by the monks which include the ruins of the old monastery. I did manage to get away from the gallery to take a few pictures though and above is a composite of some of them. The top row shows an exterior and interior of the main church while the image below is an interior shot of the Pilgrims Chapel (which was lovely and peaceful inside). And finally of course I had to include a picture of the gorgeous piggies that live on the abbey grounds!

The composite image above shows an exterior of the building which houses both the bookshop (on the right of the arch) and the new gallery/exhibition space (on the left) which was where our show was held. The image on the top right is a view of my ‘stand’ including pots and paintings (you might recognise the pear picture!) The image directly below this is taken looking back into the room towards the main entrance across some of the other stands in our show. The little red Christmas star decoration is mine by the way: these were one of my best sellers and I have only a couple of these left now!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures. Here are some links to the abbey website and also to my fellow exhibitors. Thanks guys for a lovely week and to everyone who came to see us!

Quarr Abbey

Gill Chapman

Henny Penny Designs

Lis Toft

Sue Wright Handknits

Monday, 15 November 2010

Forthcoming Show: Christmas Crafts at Quarr

It's a bit busy round here! I had a great day at Handm@de Winchester last Saturday: we had 2000 visitors and lots of lovely stalls and craft makers. But no sooner am I back home than I'm re-packing everything for my next show which starts this week.

A group of five craft makers (including me) are exhibiting in the new gallery/exhibition space at Quarr Abbey near Ryde on the Isle of Wight. We've called the event Christmas Crafts at Quarr and it starts on Thursday 18th of November and runs until Tuesday 23rd of November. We'll be open every day from 10.30am until 4.30pm - so it's going to be a busy week! I'll be exhibiting both my ceramics and my paintings at this show because the new gallery has plenty of hanging space along the walls. I'm looking forward to showing my paintings for a change since normally at table top shows I don't get the chance. I think I've got a lot of work to do setting up though as I've got to hang all the paintings first and then arrange a display of ceramics!

Anyway, if you have a chance to come to the island and visit then do pop in to see us. There will be a selection of different crafts including ceramics, textiles and paintings. Click on the image above for more details. In the meantime I'm also waiting on a delivery of Folksy Samplers which I'm hoping will arrive either today or tomorrow! We're keen to hand them out at our show this week and also another show I have later on in December. I already received my Folksy post bag in the post a couple of days ago: just need the newspapers!

That's all today: got to get back to packing and stock lists.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Forthcoming Shows: Handm@de Winchester

I will be exhibiting at Handm@de Winchester this Saturday (13th November) and have almost finished making preparations! I'll be trying out a new display and some new work too which includes some lovely Christmas Decorations for this season. So if you're in the area do pop in! They'll be lots of lovely handmade crafts on offer as you can see from the images above (the little white and pink ceramic hearts on the multi-pic are mine by the way!) The show will be held in Winchester Guildhall and opens at 11am until 5pm. Click on the pics to link with the Handm@de blog.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Osmosis Launches New Range

Today I thought I’d blog about the new range of Mug and Mug Cosy sets launched by Osmosis this week. You may (or may not) already know that Osmosis is a joint venture between me (potter…) and my sister Sue who is a textile designer. We have a shop on Folksy called Osmosis where we list unique homeware designs using both disciplines – and this week we’ve been adding a new range of mugs and mug cosy sets.

Our new range is designed to be even more exclusive than the last because everything about them is handmade. My new mugs are hand-thrown as usual but this time I wanted to use my white gloss glaze inside and out to create a very simple but versatile design. The aim was to allow Sue to choose any colour she wanted for making the mug cosies (since all colours go with white) rather than have to complement the colour scheme with the glazing. It also means the mugs are very striking and show off the new colours beautifully.

Sue has used pure natural wools in her mug cosies so they feel even softer. Each one is hand knitted in moss stitch and features Sue’s own design label. Finally, we decided we wanted to make this range even more ‘handmade’ so each mug cosy also features one of my handmade stoneware buttons in matching simple glazes.

We’re really pleased with the results and hope people like them as much as we do! We’ve already added three of the colours onto our Osmosis shop on Folksy and will be adding more soon: so please do have a look if you get the chance! In the meantime though, here's a final composite shot of our mug sets being made showing the mugs coming out of the kiln (in black and white) and some colour matching ideas using wool and buttons during one of our creative 'brain storming' sessions!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Sugar Bowls

A while ago I blogged about adding food to my photos to help illustrate how my functional pots might be used in and around the home. During one of these shoots I used olives in my ‘small white bowls’ to give some colour and interest. I decided to try this again, this time using fruit and sugar. The above photo shows some of the new images I’ve taken which I’ve put together as a composite.

Using sugar in these photos gave me the idea of changing the description of my bowls from ‘small white bowls’ to ‘sugar bowls’. Originally I didn’t like the idea of being so specific in case people thought these bowls were limited to a particular use. But lately I’ve been wondering if it’s more useful (on-line at least) to be less vague: describing something as ‘small’ is a relative term and anyway I also make smaller bowls than these which I call ‘mini’ bowls! So I’ve started listing them as ‘sugar bowls’ in my Folksy shop hoping this means people will have more of an idea of the size of these bowls at a glance. Of course in the description details I also make the point they can be used for any number of things around the kitchen, like dips and olives etc. And at shows and in the real world - where they can be seen and touched - they almost don’t need explaining!

Here’s another photo of the same sized bowl in a different glaze. This is the wood ash glaze made from real wood ash. I’ve also called these ‘sugar bowls’ too in my listings just to be consistent. Here I’ve used limes and plums to illustrate size. These ‘sugar bowls’ measure 10cm by 4cm by the way – and are so useful! Click on the images above and below to link with the listings in my shop.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Happy Birthday Blog!

I realised about twenty minutes ago that it’s been a whole year to the day that I began writing this blog! One whole year! I can’t believe it: the time has gone by so quickly. And although lots of pots have been made during the past year, regrettably only a few paintings have been painted... Hopefully though this new blogging year will redress the balance a bit.

Anyway, I felt I couldn’t really let the day go past without marking it in some way. So I’ve decided to wish my blog a Happy First Birthday by posting this photo. I took the photo ages ago of some letterpress typesetting letters I bought off eBay. They’re from a complete set of Gill Sans font size 14 and arrived in the post (with a very heavy thud on the front doormat) tightly packed in their own dinky little box. They looked so nice altogether I just had to take some photos.

I bought them for a multitude of reasons really. I don’t own a press unfortunately but the letters individually are useful for pressing into clay to make little messages in both words and numbers. And of course they come in handy for making hand-printed messages onto greetings cards or wrapping paper using ink and a steady hand. Anyway the photo seemed to suit the occasion – and I’d been meaning to blog about them for ages; just hadn’t got around to it!

Also, I thought this would be a good time to officially say thanks to everyone who follows my blog and for taking the time to read it! When I started it I never thought anyone would: so it’s been really nice to get all the lovely responses, tips and comments from people.

Anyway, that’s enough waffling: I have to load this now before midnight!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Pottery tools

I’ve decided to clean the studio this weekend. It’s been a busy summer and at the moment the studio feels like a dumping ground for boxes, bubblewrap and other show-related paraphernalia. I’m actually looking forward to sorting through everything and finding out what’s left in stock. I have two big Christmas shows planned for November (the first of which is only 7 weeks away) so I’m already trying to make a list of all the stock I need to make before then. Christmas decorations are high on that list…

In the meantime though I found this photo on my computer from the last time I managed to clean the studio – which was (shockingly) way back in March this year. It’s a shot I took of all my pottery tools freshly cleaned and laid out to dry. I remember thinking how nice they looked (I suppose I have a thing for tools!) so I decided to arrange them a bit and take a photo: I thought maybe other people would be interested to see what tools I use for making my pots. So here’s a quick run down of what they are and what I use them for.

Running roughly from top to bottom and generally from left to right:

  • Small hand mirror (for seeing the other side of the pot when throwing)
  • Big sponge (for big spills)
  • Bowl of slops in water (excess clay goes in here for reclaiming)
  • Three fine-pointed decorating brushes (for glazing)
  • A metal awl, wooden stick and a nail (for making holes in buttons etc)
  • Wooden triangular rib and metal kidney (for shaping pots while throwing)
  • Small piece of sandpaper (for smoothing bisque ware before glazing)
  • Long sponge on a stick (for soaking up water inside a tall pot when throwing)
  • Various round and small sponges (for every possible purpose imaginable)
  • A metal ribbon tool (for turning excess clay at the base of a pot)
  • Rubber slip trailer (for decorating with glaze or slip)
  • Wooden stick (for making holes in beads)
  • Three metal hole makers (for making various sized holes in pots)
  • Wooden pointy hand-building tool (for shaping hand-built pots or throwing)
  • Small sponge on a stick (for soaking water inside narrow pots when throwing)
  • Rubber kidney (for shaping pots while throwing)
  • Two-ended ribbon tool (for turning excess clay at the base of a pot)
  • Piece of chamois leather (used wet to smooth the rim of a pot when throwing)
  • Plastic stick (makes good holes in card to sew finished buttons onto)
  • Three bisque fired seals (to stamp my initials into wet clay)
  • Metal wire (for cutting pots off the wheel)
  • Metal pin (So many uses…)
  • Metal turning tool (for turning)
  • Metal ruler (to measure things!)
  • Two-ended blade tool (for cutting leatherhard clay)
  • Brush (for cleaning and attaching handles)
  • Calipers (for measuring pots)

Hope all of that makes sense! Anyway, unfortunately all of these tools are currently lying jumbled up in a box covered in dried clay. So tomorrow I hope to get them all looking as clean as they were back in March!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Buttons and Bags Revisited

A few weeks ago I took some photos of this lovely clutch bag made by fellow islander Gill from Gillian Chapman Felts in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. This beautiful bag is one of a series Gill has designed using pure Jacobs fleece. The material has been hand-felted using a wet felting technique and the finished bag features one of my raku buttons in white and mushroom crackle glazes. I think the subtle tones of the wool and the subtle glazes on the button complement each other beautifully – and it’s always so nice to see my buttons being used in other people’s work. You can visit Gill’s Folksy shop here.

I have to say taking these photos proved a bit of a challenge for me! These days I’m fairly used to taking photos of my ceramics and have some inkling about what light will work for which glaze or what angle looks best for a certain shape. But until this shoot I didn’t realize how tricky it was to photograph textiles! The lighting needed for textiles to remain true to life in terms of colour is totally different from ceramics: or at least so it seemed on the day! So trying to get both the fabric and the button in proper focus and in true-colour-likeness proved for a long and tricky afternoon. In the end these three photos were the best shots of the day. But you can also see this bag and two others in this same style on Gill’s flickr page here (probably should have taken it to the beach to photograph too!)

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A Plate and Two Pears

A couple of weeks ago I found a spare Sunday to paint at last! I decided to spend the day on a simple painting to get back into the swing of things: nothing too complicated or detailed. Still life studies are always useful to get the ideas flowing, especially since they’re easy to set up with anything that happens to be lying around the house. So for a bit of inspiration I chose this little pear sitting on one of my own hand-thrown plain white plates.

After a couple of sketches on paper, I decided to plunge straight into painting on canvas without too much fussing with composition. The canvas is a deep edge 16 x 12 inch. I usually draw a rough outline in charcoal to begin with and then apply a general ‘back colour’ with a big sloshy brush. At this stage I still wasn’t sure what the scheme was going to be, so I just blocked on a base layer using a rough mix of blue cobalt, raw umber and titanium white. I find that blocking the whole canvas with one or two background colours helps to smooth the textured surface which otherwise might show tiny bits of bare white through the painting – it’s so annoying if you miss a bit!

As I got going I realized that my mood was to go VERY simple: not only with the subject (just two pears on a plain white plate), but to be very minimal with the style and colour range too. So the result is quite stylized: an ‘idea’ of a plate and two pears I suppose. It’s quite a calming picture with all that soothing green and because of the large blank, flat areas I think it has an open, spacious feel too. Anyway, I’ve hung it on the wall above the kitchen table for the time being - and it may even turn out to be the beginning of a little series. Here's a close-up cropped shot of the final draft.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


It’s all about jugs lately! Last week I listed these little white jugs in my Folksy shop. I call them ‘tip’ jugs because they don’t have handles: instead they fit snugly in the palm and the contents are simply tipped out. So they’re perfect for a spot of milk or cream in your tea or coffee. They measure just over 5cm x 5cm and come in three colour ranges: gloss white (listed), a wood ash glaze and a dark tenmoku.At the moment I’ve only listed the white ones, but the others will follow shortly I hope. (click on the pic to go to my shop.)

In the meantime I’ve also been taking lots of photographs of these jugs. As you may have noticed I usually photograph my ceramics against a plain white background. This time I thought I’d also try out some ‘styled’ shots to show these jugs in context and suggest scale. Although I do like the minimalist look of the white glaze against the white background, sometimes it helps to add a bit of colour to illustrate how gorgeous this glaze really is! Anyway, here’s a medley of photos that came out of the ‘shoot’ showing a 'styled' shot and also the wood ash and tenmoku glazes.

Last week I also put together my first gallery in my Flickr account. I’ve been meaning to try something for ages but didn’t know what subject to choose. In the end I chose a theme of ceramic jugs: I thought it would be a good way for me to think about different design features on jugs and be inspired by what others have made. And I’m really pleased with the result. There are so many lovely photos out there with some gorgeous pots. And now I’ve done my first gallery I’m looking forward to having a go at making some more. Here’s a link to my first Flickr gallery, Jugs.

And finally I also had a couple of lovely Folksy Friday features last week. Thanks to Sam for featuring my tip jugs on her blog A Simple Melody and also to Kellie for featuring my buttons on her blog It’s The Little Things. Here’s a couple of screenshots too!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Garlic Festival Finds...

Last weekend my sister Sue and I shared a stall in the Arts and Crafts marquee at the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival. It went very well and although it was hard work we enjoyed ourselves. It was so busy by Sunday afternoon people were still queueing to get into the showground! So I’m pleased we made the decision to go again this year. Yet again my photos of the event were pretty rubbish and out of focus: too preoccupied with manning our stall. So instead I thought I’d blog about my new purchases…

At the festival I found a fabulous stall selling lots of gorgeous vintage tools and garden equipment. I picked up a lovely enamel bowl for my studio, and since I don’t have a sink in there it's perfect for all manner of uses. I’ve already been using it to do a bit of mid-summer cleaning: washing all my work aprons and tea towels which were long overdue. I also bought a pair of tongs from the same stall. These were a bit rusty and dirty to start with, but after a few minutes soaking in WD40 have cleaned up a treat. I haven’t used these yet but I’m sure when it comes to raku firing again they’ll be useful for finding tiny buttons or pendants in all the sawdust. But at just £2 for the bowl and a quid for the tongs I could hardly resist!

Finally I bought this lovely old metal bin with lid and handles for just £8. Not sure what it was originally – maybe it was an old steam cooker or a copper. But I saw it and instantly thought I could make it into a small raku kiln. So I’m really quite excited about it! I’ll have to do some research and draw up some plans on how it might work – but in theory all it needs is some ceramic fibre on the inside and a hole in the back for the burner. But even if it turns out not to be suitable, it’ll still be perfect as a reduction chamber in raku firing (ie; the bin full of sawdust into which the raku pots go when they come straight out of the kiln).

So all in all it was a successful weekend!

(My sister Sue was also tempted to buy some lovely bowls and pots from the same stall for her natural dyeing process. You can see her blog here.)

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Glazes and Garlic

Over the past couple of days I’ve been sorting through a selection of small accessories that came out of the last glaze kiln. These included buttons, brooches, pendants, rings and miscellaneous ‘blanks’. All of these little pieces require some finishing touches. First I usually smooth them all using sandpaper to soften the edges and make sure they don’t snag on clothing or feel rough against the skin. After sanding I add the fittings like brooch backs and ring findings (I use Araldite as a ceramic fixative and the fittings come from my local bead shop). I also thread the pendants onto lovely new suede thongs and individually attach each button onto card in singles or matching pairs to keep them together. All in all it takes a day or two to go through all the pieces - choosing which items go best with which fitting (and also trying not to glue my fingers together). But it’s all worth it in the end I think – especially now I have a new selection of jewellery and buttons (with brand new glazes!) for my next show.

Talking of which…our next show is coming up very soon. My sister Sue and I will be sharing a stall together again (as Osmosis) at this year's Isle of Wight Garlic Festival next weekend (14th and 15th of August). It’s our second year at the festival. Last year was very good for us and we had lots of interest in our work, so we hope it will be successful again this year. We’ll be exhibiting in the Arts and Crafts marquee on site with lots of other local artists and craft makers - and there’ll be plenty of other attractions over the two day event including live music and lovely food stalls with garlic to eat of course! So if you’re in the area, please do drop by: here’s a link to their official site.

And I just wanted to thank Helen again for featuring my bowl on her lovely blog last week: here’s a screenshot, and here’s a link to her blog too. Thanks!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Open Studios: after the event...

Today I’m recovering from our four-day Open Studio event. I feel as though I’ve been on my feet for weeks! We had a very successful and enjoyable time. In my last blog entry I mentioned we were sharing a venue in Freshwater - which is one of the more remote areas on the island. So we were really pleased to count 592 people through the doors over the weekend! We met lots of new customers and also quite a few fellow artists too (including some potters – which was very good for me because I could ‘talk shop’ about ceramics with them). Overall I think we all had an excellent time and lots of people said how much they enjoyed coming to see us. So you never know, we might just do it all over again this time next year!

Anyway, I managed (in all the busy buzz of holding a stall) to remember to take some photos. However, the interior shots didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped. So instead I thought I’d blog these exterior shots of our venue – which was a lovely old thatched building (Freshwater Parish Hall).

(By the way, my homemade button display board was a hit: sold lots of buttons and had lots of lovely comments about them too. So I’ll definitely be taking the board with me to the next event…)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Open Studios

This year my sister and I (as Osmosis) are taking part in the Isle of Wight Artists’ Open Studios 2010. It starts this Friday (16th of July) and ends next Monday (19th of July) so it’s not long to go! We’re exhibiting in Freshwater on the island and will be sharing a venue (Freshwater Parish Hall) with 5 other artists including painters, sculptors, jewellers and other craft makers. This means visitors will get to see a wide variety of arts and crafts all in one place – so there should be something for everyone! You can see our listings and find out more details here.

In the meantime I’ve been busy planning what to take to the Open Studios in terms of stock – but also putting together details of the display. In fact the display part seems to take the longest! Since it’s a four-day event this time, I decided I needed to think more about how to show off my buttons. Normally I put them in wicker baskets or arrange them flat on the table: but this really doesn’t show them off properly. So yesterday I had a brain wave and re-commissioned my cork pin board from the studio. I gave it a few coats of white paint, pushed in some nails, and hey presto, a simple, lightweight display board for my buttons! And it cost me nothing because I already had everything to hand. Anyway, these are some shots of the result.

I’m really pleased with it. I think once it sits in amongst all my pots and other display pieces it’s going to look a treat.

Anyway, wish me luck!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Buttons and Bags

Just wanted to mention this gorgeous bag pictured above. It’s made from pure Jacob and Mohair wool mix in a natural stone grey and hand crocheted in one piece by Deb Scudder of pipistrelle. And (you might recognise this) Deb has finished this beautiful bag with one of my little raku buttons in a mustard and white crackle glaze! I think they work beautifully together and I’m so pleased to see my little button doing what it was intended for! This truly is a unique piece: and you can read a more detailed explanation of the making process in the listing for this bag in her folksy shop and also her blog.

And here's a close-up of the button before it found its true purpose in life!

Thanks again Deb!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Wistfully thinking of paint

There seem to be two themes running parallel at the moment and instead of pots and paint it's been pots and computers! I've had quite a few orders lately which has been very exciting - so lots of tissue, bubblewrap and trips to the post office. Although of course now I'm a little concerned because my stock is so low! So I've also been trying to make lots of pots to catch up.

Summer is upon us and I have a busy show season ahead right through into mid August. So I've also been making preparations like printing out flyers, ordering new moo cards and putting links up here on the blog. I've started a new feature on the side bar called 'Events' to cover upcoming shows. So please do look to your right (!) and see what's on in case you're in the area. I plan to update it regularly over the summer with the latest news. And I'm sure I'll be blogging about the events too as and when they happen.

My other news is I now have a lovely new, much needed MacBook Pro! My old mac was having trouble loading images on-line poor thing and had started to make a strange clickerty whirring noise. I wasn't sure how much longer it would survive. But now I've transferred all my files and settings and have a lovely fast connection and bigger screen. However, a couple of days ago - barely a week after getting my new laptop - I was sitting down late in the evening to finish some emails when I knocked an entire mug of piping hot tea all over it. I couldn't believe it! A pale brown pool of tea all over the place including the coffee table, the carpet and sofa. Priority though was given to the laptop and I went into automatic disaster mode running backwards and forwards with cloths in over-calm silence. Miraculously the laptop survived and didn't explode into columns of tea-smelling smoke. In fact all the tea-soaked items, furniture and carpet are absolutely fine: to look at them you'd never know! Clearly I'd been awarded a get-out-of-jail-free card there!

While all this has been going on I've been planning a new painting in my mind - and it's a bit frustrating that I haven't had time to begin. New ideas for paintings don't come every day! So I hope in the next few weeks I might get a chance to paint - let's see!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Rustic Jug

I've been making these rustic stoneware jugs recently as part of a wholesale order. I usually make a few extra pots when preparing an order to cover accidents like breakages, and this one above is a 'spare' left over from a finished consignment. I decided to list it in my folksy shop today.

It's a lovely simple jug; hand-thrown in stoneware and glazed all over in a wood ash glaze. I love this glaze - it's very easy to use and so far has given reliable, consistent results out of the kiln. The colour is a subtle olive green with a matt finish - although in some places there's a hint of glossiness where the glaze is a bit thicker. And it gives these jugs a no-nonsense, rustic feel I think - which is why I call them 'rustic' jugs!

Anyway, for more details on this little jug visit here!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Napkin Rings and Wooden Printing Blocks

Today I decided to list these napkin rings in my Folksy shop. I designed them to match and complement my tableware range by using the same glazes and a very simple style. So far I've made this first set in white - and hopefully I shall be making more soon!

At first I toyed with the idea of throwing some napkin rings on the wheel: but that seemed much too fiddly. So I've made these by hand building them. I started by rolling out a slab of stoneware clay and cutting out equal sized rectangles. Then I curled these around themselves into a ring shape and fixed the ends by overlapping. They've all been glazed using my usual white gloss glaze both inside and out - this means that the napkin material slides nicely without snagging on bare stoneware. And inside I've also stamped each of the rings with my own pottery seal.

As you can see they have a very simple bird motif on all of them. This was made using a wooden printing block pressed into the clay while still soft. I have a selection of these wooden printing blocks which I bought back in October last year during a visit to London. They're textile printing blocks really, but I find they're perfect for making impressions in clay (and also for printing on paper of course: I've been using them to make pretty wrapping paper on birthday presents!) As soon as I saw them I knew I had to have them: they're such lovely things in themselves...

Friday, 21 May 2010

Birch Trees on the Downs

I painted this little landscape sketch a couple of weeks ago. It’s only small: just 5 inches by 5 inches on a deep-edge canvas. I’ve done a couple of these very small canvases recently (see here) and I’ve really enjoyed making them. I suppose I’ve enjoyed it because I haven’t had to worry about filling up the canvas – which sometimes feels like a large white and empty desert! Instead I can focus on a simple idea using a very simple colour scheme without fussing too much over the ‘finish’. They take just an hour or so to paint from beginning to end, and I think they work nicely because of this ‘no frills’ feel they seem to have.

This particular one is based on a quick line sketch I made about ten years ago while out walking on the South Downs near Ditchling Beacon. The sketch is also very simple – just three birch trees against a rolling slope on the downs. At the time it was autumn so the tree trunks were a lovely pure white and the leaves were bright yellow/orange against a rainy, grassy green. I’ve been meaning to do something with this sketch for a while, and finally a week or so ago I made this colour ‘doodle’.

The paints I used were very sparse: Hooker’s Green, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Burnt Umber, Titanium White and just a tiny blob of Leaf Green to add a touch of zing to the grass. I quite like the result; which is sort of chunky and loose somehow. I may come back to it and do a more ‘finished’ piece someday – or I may not! In the meantime this little canvas is hanging up in my studio and feels nice and cool and soothing; especially now my studio is getting so hot in the sun!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Charity Shop Inspirations

I’ve been rummaging around in charity shops lately looking for possible ideas and inspiration. There’s usually a few bits of old crockery, china and general ceramics in charity shops and although most pieces are no longer fashionable (some are truely hideous let’s face it…!) sometimes there’s a piece worth turning upside-down and inspecting if only to work out how it was made (before re-shelving it). And then occasionally there’s something that isn’t made of ceramics but it gets the ideas going anyway. Hence this little pewter jug I found for £1.50 in my local RSPCA shop.

I don’t know anything about pewter. It’s the first piece I’ve ever bought – although the fact it's made of pewter is incidental really because the thing that struck me about it was the little spout. I realize it's a common feature of metalwork to form a triangular hole when adding a separate spout on jugs, coffee pots etc. But in ceramics the instinct when making is to avoid this more complicated route and choose the quick and simple solution; which is to shape a lip on the rim of a jug by smoothing a channel in the clay while the pot is still wet. Of course I've seen examples of ‘hole-and-spout-pouring’ jugs in ceramics before, but it doesn’t feature as a design as often as a shaped spout. So I’ve been toying with the idea of using it; something a bit different and quirky maybe...

Anyway, the point is, it’s a nice little jug I think and it's currently perched on my shelf in the studio (along with some other charity finds) to remind me of potential design ideas. I also bought this little 1958 copy of The Observer’s Book of Painting and Graphic Art. You can’t beat Observer’s.

I just want to say thanks again to Kate at Bluebell and Rosie for featuring my tea bowl in her Folksy Friday today on her lovely blog which you can see here. And also to Helen for featuring my buttons on her Folksy Friday last week on her blog Dizzy Izzy Handmade which you can see here. And finally to Haptree for featuring my raku buttons on Craft Blog UK recently which you can see here.

Thanks guys! Bye for now.