Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Natural Dyeing Day - Wool, Cloth and Colours

Clockwise from top left: Natural wool skeins and fleece, Brewing up some eucalyptus leaves, and below, Pots of dye bubbling on the open fire pit

I don't normally blog about anything else besides pots (and very occasionally paint). But last week my sister and I spent a lovely day in her garden enjoying ourselves doing some natural dyeing. It was so interesting to see all the colours appearing - and I took quite a few photos too, so I thought I'd blog about it for a change!

My sister (Sue Wright Handknits) is a weaver, spinner and knitter who uses natural dyes to colour her hand spun yarns. Last week she invited me to come along to help out - and have a go myself. So I went armed with overalls, a big bag of home grown nettles (for dyeing) and some small pieces of muslin to make test pieces.

Logwood Natural Dye: A gorgeous purple. The bottom right picture is after adding iron to get a blue purple.

Our first test was to bubble up my nettles in a pot. We stewed them for quite a while before straining the liquid off to use as our dye. Sue also stewed a batch of Eucalyptus leaves on the fire pit - which we thought would smell strongly of menthol, but didn't! These were our two home grown dye material sources, while the rest were natural dyes available from kits: like the gorgeous purple Logwood you can see in the photos above.

Brazilwood Natural Dye: vibrant salmon orange shades (on wool) and pale pinks on cloth.  The bottom right photo is with the addition of iron - again adding bluer tones

We got into a good routine with batches turning around regularly. Which meant there was barely enough time to admire the latest result before the next batch was ready to come off the fire, cool down and rinse.

The Logwood and the Brazilwood (above) we used twice to get two shades from each by adding iron to the second batch. As a potter this was a very interesting aspect to the dyeing process - how additions of iron can change the colour. What would we do without iron and its oxides?! In both cases there was a shift from the red tones in the colours to a bluer, cooler shade.

Natural Dye Results: gorgeous range of colours from 8 different batches

What was also really interesting is how different the results were between the wool and the cloth. While Sue's skeins and fleece came out a vivid salmon colour using the Brazilwood, my muslin cloth was a pretty pale pink. Unfortunately my nettles only gave a slight change of colour - a very pale cream. Next time we'll add the stalks too! But the Eucalyptus was a good yellow response compared to the Natural Dye Fustic kit which was a much paler yellow.

Natural Dye Results: (top to bottom) Nettle, Eucalyptus, Fustic, Brazilwood (pink), Logwood (blue), Brazilwood with iron (lilac), Logwood (purple) 

Overall it was a lovely day with lots of interesting and inspiring colours. Above is a photo of all my scraps of muslin together. As everything we used was natural, the colour ranges go together really well. I had planned to make a handmade voile for the backdoor with all my pieces - but instead I've been using them to help 'style' my pots in a recent photoshoot. So you might see them around!



Thank you Sue!!!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Setting Up the New Studio

New Shelves (and Brackets!) in the Kiln Shed

It's been a busy few months setting up the new studio. In fact so much has been happening I'm not sure where to begin blogging about it! I also didn't document the process - or progress - very well, so I don't have many photos. But here's the short version of everything that's been happening.

I began setting up the studio in January. The most important thing was getting a new space for the kiln. My poor kiln was stored in the garden shed for three months wrapped in bubblewrap and tarpaulin to keep him warm and dry. Luckily the winter wasn't harsh, so in January a new kiln room could be built ready for the electrics to be installed. The Electrician was booked for the 15th of Feb, which meant Valentine's Day (the day before!) was spent preparing the new space and moving the kiln into situ.

By the way, I don't recommend spending Valentine's Day with just two of you trying to move a 17 stone kiln out of one shed into another over soft mud using improvised duckboards on a steep gradient! Luckily there was only one injury - me. I crushed the palm of my hand between the kiln and the door frame, leaving a lovely big bruise for a week. But at least the kiln was installed safe and sound!

The Kiln in its New Home - Pouring Bowl Sets Stacked for Bisque

Anyway, the kiln room is now officially up and running with some shelves/ware boards (or at least brackets for future shelves!). I also treated my kiln batts to a good clean and a fresh coat of batt wash (pictured drying out below) which I usually do once a year at the start of the new year.

Panorama of One Half of the Main Studio - Kiln Batts Drying Out

In the meantime I also made some pots of course. After being featured in Landscape Magazine, most of the pots I decided to make were custom order pouring bowl sets - as well as a few staple pots like modern pourers. This was ideal really, not only because it meant the kiln was earning its keep, but (as the forms are so well known to me) it also made it easier to get back into the flow of throwing after a break over Christmas.


Freshly Thrown Bowls on Batts - These Became Berry Bowls

In fact, it was a good idea all round to stick to familiar pots I knew how to make and I'd recommend it for a first firing in a new studio. It meant I could quickly plan how to pack the bisque kiln (which pots go where) as I've done it so many times before. It also helped with glazing too. Apart from one big bowl which I glazed in Aqua, I chose to make pots using just my white glaze so I only had to prepare two tubs - there's nothing worse than returning to an old glaze that's been quietly solidifying into an impossible cake at the bottom for three months! Also, the last thing I wanted to do was 'creative glazing' when I didn't even know if the kiln would work. So instead, I tried to keep things as simple and practical as possible.

Pouring Bowl Sets Drying

As for the rest of the studio, things are still 'ad hoc'. It's a work in progress. Things are currently 'in a place', but not necessarily in the ideal place. It's actually quite disorientating working in a new space - even when making familiar pots. Nothing is quite where you thought to remember to put it - if you get my meaning! I'd sit myself down at the wheel thinking I was ready to start when I'd realise I'd forgotten to get something basic - like water. Oh well, I'm sure it will all slot in to place eventually. But at the moment there is still so much to plan and do...

RESULTS...

By the end of March I fired the kiln for its first bisque and also its first glaze! I'm delighted to report that everything went perfectly! The bisque was perfect, the glazing all went well and the glaze firing was perfect too. It was such a relief. It had been on my mind for about a year since deciding to move house - worrying if the kiln would be OK...

Here's a few photos of the pots that came out - my first pots in my new studio.




Since then I've bought some new bags of clay and I'm ready to make more pots and fire more kilns! (Fingers crossed!)

Friday, 3 February 2017

LandScape Magazine Feature: Pouring Bowls and Pancake Day


I'm absolutely thrilled to be featured in Jan/Feb 2017 issue of LandScape Magazine! You can find a photo of me holding my pouring bowl set on page 41 as part of an editorial for inspiring seasonal ideas and recipes for the kitchen.




Pancake Day isn't far away: it's the 28th of February this year, and my bowls are great for making small batches of batter as well as all sorts of other culinary uses! The small 'drizzle' bowl is perfect for drizzling oil (hence the name...) or for dipping sauces; and the larger pouring bowl comes in very handy for making scrambled eggs.




My pouring bowls are available as a set of two bowls (one small and one large) for £30.00. At the time of writing I've sold out of current stock, but they're available as a Made to Order custom listing in both my Etsy and Folksy shops (making time approx 10-12 weeks).

I really enjoyed this issue of LandScape Magazine which has articles on the British countryside, cooking and recipe ideas as well as features on crafts - especially traditional ones. So it's just my cup of tea! And it makes a really lovely start to the year to be featured - so thank you!