Saturday, 26 December 2009

You know that your nieces and nephews have stayed over too often when...

...the only channel you want to watch is the Disney channel and you can't stop singing Miley Stewart/Syrus/Hannah Montana/whatever-her-name-is songs!!

I hope you're all having a great time with your loved ones. Here's a little something for your delight.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Just a little something

I'm not going to mention the "S" word. You know, that white stuff that falls from the sky and makes everywhere look pretty and Britain come to a standstill. I love it, but we didn't have enough of it for my liking, so I'm sulking and I'm not going to mention it.

I am feeling much better now. Thank you for all your well wishes. I'm still not 100%, but much better than I was.

While I was ill I was sooo impatient to get my clay out, but I just didn't feel well enough. Yesterday I got my clay out for the first time and thought I would start with some simple pieces that were not too time consuming or physically demanding. So I made a couple of slabs to try out my Marianne design. What do you think?

The top one is slip inlaying. I carved out the image, then painted the slip on top and then scraped it off to reveal the image "inlaid" underneath. The second one is regular sgrafitto. I'm not that good at drawing though (the original drawing took me ages and I used the eraser quite a lot!) so I traced my original drawing, laid the paper on top of the clay, and drew over it to leave an imprint and used that as my guide. They're both slightly different though because I only traced the outline of the girl. Which one do you prefer?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Hey, look at this!

Well, believe it or not, I'm still ill, after nearly four weeks. Needless to say, I am starting to feel quite grouchy. However, this slide show of the exhibition on the Pytchley Village website cheered me up a little. This little slide show by no means shows every picture display, and out of nine tables only two were photographed - one of them being my own! Yay! I'm famous! I'm in the slide show! :)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Lots of waffle and photos - it's the virus talking

In my boredom, (due to illness, obviously, because who would normally have time to be bored?) I decided to try to finish that portrait of Scott when he was a kid. It still looks absolutely nothing like him and I'm not sure if it ever will. In fact, I think it looks more like my brother Robert when he was a kid. Strangely enough, whenever I see my brother Robert I always end up calling him Scott, and Scott, Robert, which he hates, but that's another story.

Scott tells me "It looks nothing like me" and in my mind I'm thinking "Yeah, tell me something I don't know". I'm getting really frustrated with this. So, I'm not a portrait artist. So what. There's a reason why I chose clay over pencils.

Talking of clay, I ordered some samples to try out the texture, colour, strength, ease of use, that sort of thing.

I only managed to try out one of them before I got ill. The one that looks red has a wide firing range, and comes out black in high temperatures and brown in lower temperatures. I wanted to see what the brown would be like, so I made a little something, nothing exciting (and I can't even be bothered to photograph it) so I will find out the colour in January when I get to fire it. I didn't really like the texture though. It was very coarse, more so than crank, and not very plastic, like garden soil with road grit in it! Ok, slight exaggeration! But they do two other clays the same colour and firing range but different textures, so I'll have to try them out too.

I've been having lots of ideas for my clay. More sgraffito mostly. I wanted a rose design that I could carve, but I didn't want to copy Leanne's beautiful design. So looked up some rose images on google and tried to draw a simple rose outline that I thought could work if it was carved on clay. I suppose I won't really know until I've tried it, but here it is, in my little sketch book.

And just to remind you (or just to show off, one last time) here is my vase that Leanne carved for me, with her rose design, now filled with porcelain roses.

Isn't it beautiful? Anyway, I digress...

I drew another little sketch in my sketch book, which I hope will translate well in to sgraffito, but I'm not sure, it might be too detailed. Again, I won't know until I try it. If it comes out well I'll probably use this image a lot. It makes me think of Marianne, pining for her Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen).

While I was looking through my sketch book I came across some ideas that I never did get round to painting. I went through a bit of a phase with triptychs... I only painted the top one of these designs. Remember Nanna's Bulrushes?

You see, I was already testing colours. I think they could be fun to paint too. Who knows, one day... Just like that portrait of Scott... one day! I'd made up my mind to give up on that, but you never know... Perhaps I should just start it all over again? I don't know, it's so frustrating.

Y'know, Mona's and Angela's drawings/paintings have been making me want to get my pastel pencils out and try drawing an animal, but I had soo much trouble drawing Scott's hair, what chance do I have of drawing something covered in fur?!

So that's my waffle for today. I must say, I prefer them with cinnamon and ice cream, but we can't have everything we want. I'll leave you with a couple of photos of Pete's pot, from class. This man has so much patience when he's decorating his pottery, and it pays off!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Out of Action

My silly virus took a turn for the worse last Monday. Well actually, the Doctor thinks I caught another virus on top of the one I already had. So I have been very poorly all week.

Doctors are amazing people aren't they? The one I spoke to on Tuesday was able to listen to my chest with his stethoscope down the phone line! He couldn't hear any wheezing so he said I should stay at home and let the virus run it's course, but to ring back if it got any worse. It did get worse, and I did ring back - four times this week actually - and each time I have been told that they can't do anything because it's viral but to ring back if it gets worse!

So now, on top of the muscle pains, swollen glands, sore throat, blocked sinuses and chesty cough, I also have blocked ears and a perforated eardrum and I can hardly hear a thing. But they can't do anything because it's a virus! (Edit: Add to that an upset tummy, and now laryngitis from coughing so much. Scott has got worse again now too and keeps throwing up) :(

I have trouble understanding the difference between a viral and bacterial infection. I understand that my aches and pains are viral, and even my cough and sinus trouble could be viral, but how is discoloured mucus viral?? I'm not a doctor, but surely there is a point where illness passes from viral to bacterial?

So anyway, I'm obviously out of action. I didn't go to class last week and I won't be going this week either. This week is the last class until January, so no goblets until then :( I shall have to postpone my girlie night anyway because it's less than a week away and I still feel like deaf I mean death. I can't even watch telly cos I can't hear it! So how bored do you think I am, just watching the clock until it's time for my next dose of pain killers?

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Exhibition - lots of photos!

Well, it's all over, and yes, I did manage to get to the preview evening after all. My silly virus has been very up and down, feeling like nothing more than a cold one day and then flu the next, so my sister very kindly collected my unsold pieces on Sunday evening. I say "unsold pieces", but that would be all of them! I didn't sell anything this time, but I'm not put off by that. Once again it was a great learning experience. The organiser (whose name I don't remember), was very encouraging and said that there was a lot of interest in my work but that people are more likely to buy when you have more pieces on display and have become more established, so he said to definitely come back next year. My table did look a little empty this year...

My dear friend Jeanne really liked my Ivy vase and Swan, but since she has arthritis in her hands she wouldn't have been able to carry either. (Note to self: make a smaller Ivy vase and Swan!)

Personally, I didn't think the standard was as high as it has been in previous years. That's not to say that there wasn't some beautiful pieces, and probably there were other exceptionally painted pieces that just didn't catch my eye for whatever reason. We all have different tastes. I know Jeanne and I have rarely agreed on pieces when we have come to Pytchley together before!

There definitely wasn't as many pieces as there have been previously either.

Of course, the first pieces to catch my eye were those of Stella Benford:

I don't know why that always happens. There's just something about her work that I absolutely love. This piece is made of clay and then set in a frame:

I totally love the beautiful colours in this one. I'm terrible for noting artists names though. Sorry about that.

I thought this one was beautiful. Sorry Mona, but there was only one horse painting that I could see, and it was no where near the standard of yours or Angela's. I hope this wolf satisfies you both!

Some of the paintings I like may seem like unusual choices. I don't know what attracts me to certain pieces sometimes, but for this one, it was the texture.

Again, I don't know why I like this one, I mean, it's a bunch of people standing around! But I love the colours.

Ok, I'm a sucker for winter scenes...

And this one is for those of you who love all things needle craft!

This little painting caught my eye because it looked like it was painted onto slate. It's only when I touched it I realised it was canvas.

Anita loved this seascape for it's crispness and colours.

Of course, being a village affair there were plenty of jams and pickles for sale, and even "Pytchley Honey"!

I thought these beehive candles were cute.

By the time I arrived for the preview evening, this table had been set up. It wasn't there in the morning when I had set up my pieces. Suddenly, the green eyed monster appeared!!

There's no getting away from it, the pieces are lovely and displayed beautifully. How could I compete with that? Interestingly this has been a topic on Mona's blog recently. Does the success of one artist have to mean the failure of another? I questioned one of the ladies about how they produce their items. She must have thought I was interested, but no, I was just weighing up the competition! I felt relieved once she told me that these are all made in moulds. I felt superior somehow, because my pieces are all hand built. How awful of me. I'm the first to admit that there are certain aspects of my personality that I have to work on. I don't know why I'm confessing all of this because it doesn't make me any nicer just because I'm open about it! I have to give credit where it is due, the pieces were decorated and glazed beautifully. Well done ladies. I hope you had some sales. Next year I'm going to get me some of that lovely satin material you used for your table!

And that's just about it. There were some artists who have exhibited here in previous years who didn't take part this year, and they were missed, by me at least. I look forward to next year!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Packed up and ready to go... sort of

My pieces are all packed up for the morning (the ones that haven't been damaged, anyway!), ready for me to set up at the exhibition. But I, unfortunately, feel like death! (Just a silly virus) So although I will have to go to set up in the morning, it doesn't look like I'll be going to the preview evening later in the day, unless a miracle happens between now and then. :(

I shall try to get some photos in the morning, depending on how much is set up already. Please don't let me forget to take a table cloth with me. Sorry, a thought that just popped into my head and ended up being typed!

Everyone absolutely adores the vase that Leanne carved for me. I keep being told to include it in the exhibition, which of course I can't, and I won't. I can't because it was carved by Leanne, so it would be... theft really, to pass it off as my own. And I won't because I want to keep it for myself!! It's absolutely beautiful, and actually brings out the pink flowers in the Tree Fairy vase as it sits beside it. Here it is to refresh your memory (or to show off, really) :)

I can't take a photo of it beside the Fairy vase because my camera phone is where I should be - in my bed!!

So goodnight. Wish me well with the exhibition, and please leave lots of sympathy in the comments section!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Lots of learning curves... and photos

Ok, so I may have put just a little too much faith in Mayco glazes. Not that they aren't good glazes, just that there are still certain rules that need to be adhered to if I want good results - the glazes can't do all the work!

#1. They're obviously not designed for covering over a previously badly glazed item! The glaze stuck well to the shiny surface when I was painting it on, but then this strange separation thing happened in the kiln...

Where the glaze cracked apart you can see the previous glaze. It's quite an interesting effect, but not quite what I had in mind for these bowls! I still can't decide if I want to include these at the weekend or not. Part of me likes the effect, but part of me thinks they look awful. (and I have no idea why blogger has uploaded the photo upside-down!)

#2 - and this is a major one - I really need to match my glazes with my clay body. I have a problem with glazes cracking on the inside of vases and such like. John (my tutor) mentioned previously that this could be because I am using low fire glazes on stoneware clay, although sticking to low temperatures. This has happened on the inside of my large Ivy vase, although not on the outside where the crackle glaze was!! Instead I ended up with this mottled effect...

I'm not really sure what caused this. The firing range of this glaze is the same as the other Mayco glazes that I have used. I'm guessing that either the crackle range is more sensitive to temperature variations, or again, this is because I'm using the wrong clay body.

This strange thing happened at the bottom of the vase as well...

...which is ok, because I quite like it. If the glaze had actually cracked like it was supposed to I think this rough edge at the bottom would have added to the aged effect. I'm not sure if I really like this piece as it has come out. It doesn't look aged, it just looks... dingy. The leaves didn't come out quite as green as I was expecting either.

Back to the cracking on the inside though; I realised that this is going to be a problem with my goblets that I have made for my girlie night. Obviously cups with cracked glaze on the inside can't really be used for drinking out of, but John has been thinking about doing a high firing, so I have ordered a high fire clear glaze to use on them.

I'm also looking for a nice white low firing clay now, to match my glazes. In the mean time the clay I have seems fine as long as I don't make anything that needs to be glazed on the inside.

So, as if it wasn't bad enough that my Ivy vase came out... not as expected, and my small Ivy vase stuck to the kiln shelf last week, and my bowls have also come out looking... not at their best, this evening I broke a leaf on my tree fairy vase! I'll have nothing left for the show at this rate! Somehow I'm feeling quite positive though. I think I've learnt a lot recently and I'm looking forward to improving. So I shall knock every-one's socks off at the next show!

Not everything has been a disaster recently though. The vase that Leanne carved for me has come out beautifully.

This glaze was more opaque than I was expecting and didn't pool in the carved areas as I thought it would. But I love it! Thank you Leanne for your beautiful carving, and thank you She-she for glazing it for me!

There were other lovely pieces that came out of the kiln this week. Pete's mini vase...

...and Zandra's beautiful horse...

...I also wish I had photographed Fiona's leaf bowl. The autumn colours on her leaves were absolutely gorgeous.

So that's about it for this week. I need to try to cram in some more goblet making before the weekend... and then it's the show!

Saturday, 14 November 2009


I've received my first commission!

Scott's friend Dave has been visiting this evening, and he liked my "goblets" (as we have decided to call them) so much that he asked me to make a couple for his Mum and Dad! Yippee!!

I had no idea what to charge, but I just blurted out a price and he accepted, so Yay me! :D

In other news
I'm not sure what's going on with blogger but I've noticed that my new posts have not been listed in the blog roll feed thingy on other people's blogs. So if you're thinking this is my first post in a week, scroll down!

Friday, 13 November 2009

There's nothing like it

No, there's nothing like a few new glazes and coloured slips to spur you on! So, I've been quite busy with clay this week!

Leanne's beautiful work got me itching to do more sgraffito, so I started with a couple of tiles. I haven't been able to photograph them successfully yet though, so you may have to wait until they're fired to see them.

I also spent some time with my niece and nephew last weekend, so we made a couple of mugs for them to decorate themselves. Asriel did a great job decorating his over sized mug!

He's decorated it with coloured slips and added a few ivy leaves. He's carved his name on the other side, which again, doesn't photograph well at the moment.

Charise has decided that she will colour her mug with glazes. She plans to glaze the butterflies in pink.

When I was helping Charise put this mug together (well, ok, so I took over and just did it for her!) the clay was quite soft and started slumping outwards at the bottom. I decided to make a feature of it and pushed it out slightly further, which gave me an idea...

I'd been planning to have a girly night and wanted to make a gift for everyone. I gave small clay gifts last time (coasters and tiles) and it seemed to go down well. This time I thought I would make cups/tumblers/drinking vessels since I don't have many drinking glasses, and I decided I would personalise them and then my guests could take them home at the end of the evening. I couldn't decide on a shape though, and this is where Charise's mug helped! This is what I came up with...

These won't have any handles because they're meant for cold drinks. I think the shape is really pretty, even though I say so myself!

They're slab built, and I made them two at a time, since that's all I really have space for.

Here's the before and after! On the left I have wrapped the slab around the base, and joined it together. On the right I have smoothed the join, pushed the clay in slightly at the bottom to create a "foot" and then using a rounded end tool I pushed the clay out from the inside using stroking movements. Then I smoothed the rim.

Here they are, painted with coloured slip and ready to carve. If only these colours would stay those pastel shades! They're so pretty!

And here are the personalised cups, waiting to be fired and glazed. (This clear photo was a fluke! Since making more I can't seem to get a clear photo of the carving, just as with the tiles. Oh, and notice Asriel's huge mug in the background! He's just like his Nan and likes a big cuppa when he gets in from school!)

I've made six now, so only another... four to go, I think.

I've also been making another set of small coil built bowls. Here they are...

Just the square one to go and then the set is complete. They're both made with the same clay, but one is dry and the other is still damp, hence the different colours.

And that has been my week! It's been great to get back in the swing of things. I think I've been spurred on by this upcoming exhibition too, as well as the fact that classes finish in a few weeks.

This Monday I see how my Ivy vase looks glazed!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Getting Nervous...

After spending over four and half hours at home glazing my Ivy vase and then another couple of hours at class touching it up, I took a moment to say farewell to it before it went into the kiln. This is the worst part for me, never knowing if the glaze is going to enhance it's look or completely ruin it. I always get nervous at this stage, but more so this time because I really need this piece to come out perfect for the show.

One piece that had no chance of survival was the smaller Ivy vase, which I stupidly put in the kiln without stilts after I touched up the leaves, forgetting that the bottom had been glazed previously. This was the result:

I'd kind of "grown beyond" this piece anyway and wasn't really attached to it, but it's annoying because I know there was a lady who actually wanted to buy it!

The other vase that I touched up was the Tree Fairy vase. The leaves were too grey, so I put a greener glaze on them.



Hmm... what a rubbish photo. I'm getting really lazy with my photography aren't I? Daylight is better for photographing pieces really, but we don't get much of it at this time of year! And it's cold outside! So, the leaves are greener and the face isn't that bright, and I suppose you'll just have to take my word for it!

Other pieces that came out of the kiln this week were my two little vases:

The black one has pin holes, and you can still see the design under the glaze on the white one. I keep getting told off for being a perfectionist: "But it's hand made!" I keep being told. "If you want perfection, buy something from Tesco!" Why can't I have hand made perfection? Anyway, I think they're good enough for the show. Only I know that the design on the white one isn't supposed to be there (well, and you as well now!).

And now I wait to see how my pieces come out of the kiln next week...

My vase that Leanne carved all those months ago was finally glazed last night... by my new glazing technician! Ok, I wish, but you never know... if the results are good this could become a regular thing! She seemed to enjoy herself anyway, "she" being my niece, Charise (pronounced Sha-reece). (I had so much stuff to carry that my tutor said she could come with me to help)

I was thinking of paying her in chocolate. Would that be classed as child slave labour? :)