Wednesday, 31 December 2008

We Have a WINNER!!

Yay! Congratulations to Leanne for being the first to guess correctly that the piece I am currently working on is a swan! Here is the progress so far...

I still have to make the wings, which I am really not confident about, but then I wasn't confident about the neck or the head either! I just have to keep telling myself "You can do it Linda!"

We are lucky enough to have swans in our town and I went to see them yesterday to take a few photo's for you.

The light was fading, but it was quiet and peaceful and I enjoyed spending those few moments watching these beautiful birds preening. I really should come here more often.

Synchronised preening!

Swans feature quite heavily in our town actually. Our shopping centre is called The Swansgate Centre, and many years ago there used to be a fountain in the centre of it with beautiful huge swan sculptures. I have no idea why they decided to remove it. We also have a place called Swanspool Gardens with a tree carved into the shape of a swan.

And now, on with the prize!

I have found it quite difficult to decide what would be an appropriate prize for this competition, especially as I am still early on in my journey and don't have many pieces to choose from! (Plus the fact that I am in the UK so I have to think about postage!) So I will allow Leanne to choose her prize from the following options:

My Johnny Depp portrait, measuring approximately 4.5 x 5 inches, framed once I can get the right size mount!

My castle, remembering that it needs a candle taller than a tea light!

Or my flower mug, which actually isn't so bad, despite the fact that it's not brown!

Thank you to everyone for taking part! And lastly I would just like to say a special thank you to Leanne, because until I saw her blog the thought had never even crossed my mind that coil building could be used to create sculptures. In fact, I didn't even realise that it was a genuine technique - I just thought that coiling was what kids did in school!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Can You Tell What It Is Yet? - Part Five!

Wow, I can't believe there were no guesses for yesterday's post! I felt sure that the last photo would give it away - but then I suppose it seems obvious to me because I know what it is!

It's been a few day's now since I last worked on the piece - I have been so tired! So here are the last of the photo's of the progress so far. Hopefully I will get to work on it more later today before it dries out too much.

Once I started working from a photo I realised that the pointed end was the wrong shape, so I cut a piece out so that I could change it.

Here I have started changing the shape of the pointed end, and you also get to see the rounded end from a different angle than yesterday!

The pointed end has been closed up again, and the rounded end has been extended. Only two more things to add to this piece! Come on people! You must know what it is now!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Can You Tell What It Is Yet? - Part Four

There have been some really good guesses so far, but sadly none have been right! Thank you to everyone that has been joining in! I feel sure that today's photo's will completely give it away!

I found this part really tricky. It's at this point that I decided that working from a photo might be a good idea! I pulled off some of the polystyrene to get it out of the way, but some of it is starting to come off in my hands when I try to turn it! This piece is getting heavy!

I feel sure that once you see the next photo you will know instantly what this is going to be! (Although I took the photo at a different angle to try to disguise it!)

I've been shopping around for just the right sized frame for the prize! Unfortunately, I've had no luck yet, but I will keep trying!

Remember - one guess each for this post! If we have a winning answer, it will be revealed tomorrow!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Can You Tell What It Is Yet? - Part Three

This is where the piece starts looking... interesting. Is the curiosity and anticipation mounting?

In this photo I had to wait for one end to firm up a bit, so I started working on the other end...

... then I decided it was all wrong and took it off again...

... and then I had to re-build that section again! I must have done this at least three times! In the mean time, I continued closing up the top.

Any ideas yet? At this point I didn't have a clue either! But I feel sure that the next couple of photo's will be a complete give away!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Can You Tell What It Is Yet? - Part Two

No correct guesses so far, so on with the competition. Remember, only one guess each for this post, and the first one to guess correctly is the winner!

Don't let these walls for support fool you! (A tip I learnt from Leanne)

I have this amazing tool for making holes in clay - it's called a drinking straw! You just poke it in the clay and when you pull it out it leaves a hole! I'm the queen of improvisation!

That black thing that it's sitting on is my "whirler" - or in layman's terms, "the polystyrene plate that my frozen pizza came on"!

More clues tomorrow!

Friday, 26 December 2008

A Rolf Harris Moment - Can You Tell What It Is Yet?

Now that (some of) the festivities are over I thought maybe you could all do with a pick-me-up to help you get over those post-Christmas-blues. I know, I'm so thoughtful :) So, it's competition time!

I've been working on one of my planned projects this week. It was coming along so quickly at first that I actually thought I might finish it in one "session". Alas, after five hours it was still not finished! Can you tell what it is yet?

Ok, probably not, but I wanted to give everyone time to join in, so for the benefit of those who don't check in as regularly as others, the progress will be revealed slowly! Clue two is coming up tomorrow! So check back if you want to be in with a chance to win!

Umm... yeah, I'd just like to point out that what you see above is not five hours worth!

I have photographed the piece at various stages and I thought it would be fun to see who can work out what it is first! Answers in the comments section please! And only one guess each for this post! If you change your mind you'll have to wait until my next update!

(Any suggestions for a prize?)

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


Today/yesterday (I don't know, I'm confused - I woke up before 3am so it feels like the same day!) Anyway, I bought some clay! Yay!

I was looking for a white clay and my (ex) tutor suggested that white St. Thomas was a good choice as a lot of potters use that. But when I got to the suppliers I looked at the fired colour in the catalogue and it didn't look white at all! So I went for a different one which I think is lightly grogged and supposed to be good for hand building - which is what I want.

I also bought another clay which they call crank. It's very coarse and heavily grogged, and is supposed to be very easy to work with and good for hand building. I had seen a piece made with this clay at class and the results were beautiful. It looked like it had been made with something like cork or woodchip. I realised today though that crank comes in different colours, so I hope I bought the right one. Edit: apparently it is known in some places as chamotte.

I'm also experimenting with making my own slip for slip trailing. This is something I've wanted to try for a little while, and right now seemed ideal since I want to coil build a little dish to sit under my plant pot and a) I couldn't get the lino print to work well on the coil built piece so I will slip trail the design instead, and b) my old clay is now too firm for me to coil build effectively so I will allow the remaining slip to dry a little before I wedge it and re-use. I remember Cynthia saying that plaster board is ideal for helping sloppy clay firm up because it soaks up the moisture, so I went to Jewson's today and they gave me a scrap piece that was no use to them.

So, with so many new things to try I am going to try to stay away from the computer this week! Time just seems to fly by so quickly when I am sitting at this thing, and by the end of the week I would like to have finished at least my little dish for the plant pot, and one other project that I have in mind.

So if I don't speak to you before hand, I hope you all have a lovely time with your families over the holiday period. :)

More information on crank (you'll need to scroll down the page, I can't link to the item directly)

Saturday, 20 December 2008


... I didn't manage to get any clay on Thursday or Friday. The supplier is a couple of towns away so I tried ringing before I went over to collect (as they suggest) but I just kept getting the answering machine. It's a shame because I've been having some great ideas (or they will be if they turn out right!) and I really wanted my nice white clay to work with. This particular clay is supposed to be pretty good at holding it's shape and not prone to shrinking so much either.

I have news about classes... I had already re-enrolled on my current class but I was ringing round trying to find other classes. There was one in the next town, which was nearer than the one I go to, but it's not running for some reason. Mind you, it was twice the price! Not sure why that is. But then I found out there was another class in another nearby town, which is run by the same council as the one I was going to and held on the same night, so it was easy to switch courses, which I did! It was a bit of a snap decision so I hope I am not jumping out of the pan and into the fire! I will find out in January won't I?

Also, I came across more courses but they are quite far away - I'm guessing it would take me about an hour to get there. I am seriously considering taking one of these courses though because there are various levels and they seem much more tailored to the individuals needs. The price is roughly the same too, which is great considering they sound so much better. The distance puts me off though, especially as I won't really know what the class is like until I start it. I wish I could go for a "taster" first. I shall have to decide soon though because they start in January!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

"I Shall Eat, Drink, and be Merry... "

"... for tomorrow I buy clay!"

That was my motto for the evening, and I stuck to it! It's been a while since I drank any Pepsi so I decided I should probably dilute it with large quantities of Malibu! With that and my chocolate liqueurs I was definitely merry!

Of course that was after I came in from having a lovely time at the life drawing class. I have to tell you, the tutor at that class is so lovely. He is so encouraging and so genuine. He always makes me feel so important, and although he is a great artist and I am just a learner, he treats me as an equal. I've only met him four times, but each time I like him even more.

He didn't know about my art college rejection, but one night, after admiring a couple of my early portraits, he said to me: "Don't go to art college - it will ruin you". I felt ten feet tall as he really made me feel that I was too good to go to art college!

Tonight I mentioned my clay class and the fact that my tutor there won't let me use my own glazes. Although he knows my tutor and likes him as a person, he didn't try to justify his decision, he just simply said: "Then that class isn't for you". He recognises the importance of being able to grow in your own direction, and that is what is so great about him.

So after all that waffling I suppose it's about time I showed you what I drew tonight!

Hmm... I see now that her body gradually got bigger as I went down! Oh well, I'll claim it as my style and that will make it ok!

Let me just say a huge thank you to Queen Crafty Girl as well. I was so moany again in my last post and she was so encouraging in her comments. Thank you Queeny! You really are something special.

B6 sketch stick on A4 heavyweight paper.

PS. Oh yeah, I forgot - this was my lovely dinner in my new roasting dishes! Yum yum!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Finished Pieces and The Creative Roller Coaster

I couldn't sleep at all last night; my head was buzzing with new and exciting ideas. I was almost tempted to get up and start working on them straight away!

I left home to collect my fired pieces tonight in a good mood. I had a few questions to ask the tutor as well. I was interested to know why some ceramic pieces crack in cold weather and some don't - apparently it's to do with the moisture content in the piece, so the problem can be solved by using stoneware (which is water tight even without glaze) rather than earthenware (which is quite porous), and firing at a reasonably high temperature. (Please correct me if I've got a little bit muddled - my tutor doesn't always explain things very well)

I was also interested to know why he fires specifically at 1220c every time, when there is a range of temperatures suitable for the clay and glazes. He said that he had found 1220 was the optimum temperature for the glazes that we use at class. I beg to differ, seeing as I have used the cream glaze twice now (on my little head and also on the "Yes I Can" mug) and both times it has left a bubbled surface. So I have a "Yes I Can" mug with a finish that says "No I Can't". *Rolls her eyes*

He said he buys a clear glaze and adds other ingredients for the colours. The top firing range for the clear glaze is 1220. Common sense tells me that one should fire slightly lower than the top temperature to allow for temperature variations in the kiln, and I also know that adding other ingredients can alter the temperature at which a glaze vitrifies.

Talking of temperature variations in the kiln, this plate and mug were fired in the hottest part of the kiln, and the lovely brown colour that I was expecting has turned into this awful green, which proves my point about not firing at the maximum temperature really. (I'm not sure if the colour shows very well in the photo, but trust me, it's awful) I'm sure he wouldn't do anything as stupid as that with his own pieces.

The plate had warped really badly. The tutor said it could be my clay, as I don't know what the firing temperature for it is, or because the plate needed to be thicker. Oh well, it's a learning curve. How do other people make thin plates without them warping?

I've been looking at other glazes recently and asked my tutor if I could use my own, but he said he wouldn't fire the pieces because it's "too risky". Personally, I don't see what the risk is - if the temperature is within the firing range then what's the problem? And we've already proved that glaze run issues can be overcome.

So once again I feel like my progress is being hindered. It is so frustrating. I just want to learn and progress and improve.

The only pieces I was reasonably happy with tonight were the ones I had least expectation of - my roasting dishes. The small one (light green - achieved by using white glaze first and then green) is a bit patchy, but like I said, I had some trouble glazing it - the glaze was rubbing off in other areas when I was trying to clean the bottom. At least I can have some toad in the hole now!

These have warped slightly in the middle too. I'm guessing that it's because of the quality of the clay at class?

Has anyone else had problems with glazes bubbling? Is it because of the temperature? Actually, has anyone else had these problems with tutors?

Monday's Fun

As you know my clay class came to an end last week, but just as Cynthia said, that doesn't mean I have to stop making things! I felt a bit lost last night though, and I have to wonder what I did with my time before clay - I can't imagine life without it now.

Anyway, I thought my Mum's mug looked so much like a plant pot that I decided to make a plant pot in a similar design. Is this how ideas evolve?

If you compare these photo's to the mug in the post below you'll see that the mug is more "upright" for want of a better description. Looking at it now I see that I could have made this plant pot wider still, but sometimes such a small change can make such a big difference, so I wasn't sure how wide to take it. I have made small drainage holes in the bottom of this pot, so I still need to make a little dish for the pot to sit in. I'm trying not to worry too much about the fact that it's wonky, seeing as it will probably shrink and warp anyway!

I keep forgetting to mention the fact that I gave my little coil built pot away. I was a bit nervous as to whether the recipient would like it or not, but she loved it, and said "It's very rustic looking! I love rustic things!" Ahem. So moving swiftly on...

It appears my tutor does more than rustic. Anita spotted this lovely little collection by him at our local theatre. I love that Celadon glaze. I think all of these pieces are made from porcelain. Sorry about the photo's.

This evening I collect my glazed pieces!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Mum's Mug - Take Two

Last night I made my Mum's mug "for real". I showed my Mum the trial mug and she really liked the lino cut print on the side, but she wanted a bigger handle. She also preferred the shape of the flower mug and really liked the idea of having some flowers on her mug too, so I combined both designs and came up with this:

(The photo's are even worse than usual because they're taken in artificial light - it was just too wet and dark outside to take the photo's at the back door today.)

This is a monster of a mug! In fact it's so big it looks more like a plant pot with a handle attached! I'm not sure how much it will shrink though - the trial mug started out taller than an ordinary sized mug and is now fractionally shorter!

The trial mug is still wider though and holds 475ml or 17fl oz, compared to the usual 300ml or 10.5fl oz. I wonder how much this new mug will hold?

I suppose I'll have to wait until January to find out!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

My Last Ceramics Class :(

...well, until January anyway, but it's too long! It feels like forever!

I got to class late this week. I was feeling really unwell but I was determined to go and finish that vase! Thankfully it wasn't too dry at all, but I decided to just add three more leaves and then call it finished. Just three more leaves! What a shame I didn't have time to do that in the previous lesson - it could have been dry enough to fire by now! Now I shall have to wait until January. Oh well. That'll teach me to talk less!

My tutor was very pleasant and complimentary again! Maybe we just got off to a bad start? (Or maybe I over-reacted about the glazing issue?) Or maybe he's really shy and feels more comfortable with us all now? (Although some of the students go back year after year, so he knows them well) Or maybe he's just really happy that he won't have a class for five weeks?!

Next week I shall go in to pick up all my glazed pieces. I never did make any test tiles - I suppose these early pieces have become my test tiles really. My expectations aren't very high for the roasting dishes as I had a bit of a struggle glazing them, but I really hope the flower plate and mug come out well, which I glazed last night. We shall see...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sonnet of the Sea

It's interesting how we all feel connected to different things. For Jafabrit it's trees, for me it's the sea. What do you feel connected to?

Sonnet of the Sea

Barefoot, I stand upon the sandy shore
The wind blows freely through my misted hair
The roaring of the sea fills me with awe
I'm energized, and left without a care

My very soul calls out to the expanse
If I could walk on water, I would run
Oh sea, you have seduced me, I'm entranced
I long for you and I to become one

I fall upon my knees and grip the sand
Just please don't tear me from this place I be
The power of my soul, at your command
If I should leave my life will part from me

But now I'm "home" with no words to convey
Just what it was I found and lost that day

by Linda Dixon

Edit: I hadn't titled this piece until it came to writing this post, and I've just realised my obvious mistake - that this is a Sonnet, not an Ode.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

It's all about the Journey

Oh yes, it's all about the journey on this blog, so you get to see everything, good or bad, and this is definitely bad!

This is my still life drawing from last night's class. We could draw anything we wanted, and I wanted a challenge, and boy was it! For some reason the photograph seems completely different from what I was looking at! Who says the camera never lies? Even so, I know that the horn at the top is too narrow, and the nose is too short (I should add that this drawing is unfinished). I need practice! But this was the last drawing and painting class for six weeks. Where can I find a skull from? *Linda looks around at possible candidates for beheading*

Anyway, I know I was supposed to be skipping the last drawing class and going to my clay class again last night, but I got a call during the day saying that the clay class had been cancelled. Unfortunately, thinking I was going to be working on my vase the following night, I didn't put a damp paper towel in with it, so I don't know if it will be damp enough to work on next week. I might have to call it finished. Also, although it might be too dry to work on, it won't be dry enough to fire because I've wrapped it in plastic. Of course if I could have gone in to class last night I would have left it to dry afterwards. Oh well. It happens. I'm sure the tutor wouldn't have cancelled the class without a very good reason.

I still have one more class left next week and I have re-enrolled for his classes starting in January. I know I moaned about my tutor before, but now that we have the glazing issue sorted out, he's actually not that bad. When I think about it, he might not be very enthusiastic or complimentary but he lets me go into class early and he allows me to bring pieces from home to be fired; I'm not sure if other tutors would. He also said he would help me to choose a clay that's right for me to work with at home, which I thought was nice. (I'm running out, and I wanted a nice white clay this time, but there are so many! It's quite confusing!)

I have a bit of a dilemma regarding classes. I really want to do more than one clay class next term. I have the chance to enrol on the Tuesday evening class with the same tutor, which would give me more time to finish the pieces I start on a Monday effectively, but that would mean that I won't be able to go to the drawing and painting class. There is another class nearer to home on a Tuesday, and I can see the benefits of having more than one tutor and possibly more glazes to choose from, but again I wouldn't be able to go to the drawing and painting class. I think there might be other classes held during the day time, but I won't know for sure until the prospectus comes out in January, and if there aren't any, by that time it will be too late to enrol on a Tuesday evening class because the spaces fill up quickly. I obviously need drawing practice though, so maybe I should stick with that class on a Tuesday!

Monday, 1 December 2008

This Week's Ceramic Class - Unbelievable

Remember me mentioning that miserable so-and-so of a tutor of mine who is critical and negative all the time? Well, I'm convinced he must be reading my blog! I took my flower mug into class tonight to be fired, and he said it was "excellent" and "very good"!! Wow! How amazing is that?!

I was hoping to finish my vase tonight but unfortunately, I didn't get as long to work on it as I was hoping for. I wanted to leave all my glazing until next week - the last week - but the tutor suggested I do some tonight in case everyone has the same idea and there ends up not being enough room in the kilns. So I didn't quite get to finish my vase but the tutor said I can go in tomorrow night to finish it. (If you're reading - thank you!)

Actually, I've decided I don't like glazing that much. When I'm a rich and famous potter (cough) I shall hire an assistant to do all my glazing for me, and then I can concentrate on the really fun bit - playing with clay!

I forgot to take my phone with me tonight (which has my camera on it) but a very nice lady in the class offered to take a picture for me and send it to my phone, so this is the vase so far!

I'm not sure how clear the picture is but that is supposed to be twine with ivy leaves cascading down. I'm not complaining about the photo at all - I was very grateful that the lady was willing to take the photo for me and send it to my phone, so I didn't want to push my luck by insisting she take a perfect photo! (Like any of mine are perfect!)

So, tomorrow night should have been the last drawing and painting class, but I've had to prioritise, and I shall go to the clay class instead. Next week I shall be glazing again.