Monday, 30 March 2009

Another Glazing Disaster

Please do not adjust your screen settings when I tell you that this mug was glazed last week in deep pink with lilac flowers.

Not surprisingly then, I spent my evening doing this:

I'm told it can be glazed again because the glazes are brush on glazes, and therefore thicker and stickier, and will cling to the surface. But now I will have to wait until the end of April as tonight was the last class. Sorry Mum.

We're not sure what the problem was. It could be that some stupid idiot one has put a different colour into the container. One of the other students (who is more like a teaching assistant) is testing it. He found that a lot of the glaze had settled thickly at the bottom of the bottle, so maybe the problem was that it wasn't mixed thoroughly. I thought a good shake would be sufficient, but it seems some of these glazes have been sitting around since the beginning of time! I will not be making that mistake again!

On a brighter note, I remembered to photograph Leanne's demonstration piece tonight, which has now been fired and I glazed it tonight with the new bottle of clearly labeled transparent glaze! (But don't hold your breath!)

So, that's my last class until the end of April. I didn't mind spending the evening testing glazes since I get to make quite a few pieces at home. It's slightly disappointing that I haven't even finished one piece in class all term!! Maybe next term I will really get to grips with glazing and have lots of finished pieces to show you!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Tree Fairy

Yes, I'm going with Kathy's choice of name as it sounds so much prettier than "Foliate Head"!!

I had some problems with it this morning - I couldn't get the flamin' tube out! After much huffing and puffing, and pulling and squeezing, I was tempted to throw the thing out of the window! I nearly pushed the bottom out trying to grip the stupid tube from the bottom of inside! In the end there was only one thing I could do...

'Tis all mended now though, and I'm feeling calm and relaxed again...

Here is the finished piece. (Click photo's to enlarge)

I actually prefer mine to the plastic one (can I say that?) because for a start it's not plastic! Also I didn't really like the pixie ears on the other one (scroll down for photo in earlier post), and she has a bit of an evil thing going on with her eyebrows! I loved the concept though, so what can you do except make your own improved version?!

Scott prefers my one too - there's something about the expression on the other one that freaks him out! I definitely think my tree fairy looks calmer.

It's intended as a vase, or an indoor plant pot. I have some deep plant pots in my home and I just put pebbles in the bottom to raise up the inner pot. It measures 8 inches in height, 5 inches in diameter (not including face), and the inside circumference is about 14 inches.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Update on New Project

I don't really have a name for this project. Maybe I should call it the "Green Woman" Vase? (Although it's looking more like a man than I had intended) Or maybe the "Foliate head" Vase would be more appropriate as it's less gender specific?

Anyway, here's a couple of photo updates. I didn't do much of it this evening, but I've carved in the tree bark...

... and I've added some hair around the face.

Just a few leaves and flowers and it will be done :)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

New Project

Tonight I started a new clay project. What's that you say? I should have been at my drawing and painting class? Ah yes, well, about that... a) I've been very tired lately, b) to be honest I'd rather spend my time on clay, and c) Anita has managed to get a lift from someone else for the last couple of weeks. The only downside is that with Anita also working full time during the day I haven't seen her since... well, it was a long time ago anyway! We hope to rectify that at the weekend.

So my new project was inspired partly by this beautiful (but plastic) plant pot...

... and partly by something I saw on someones blog, which I can no longer find. The blogger was walking in the woods and found a face carved out of a tree, or attached to the tree in some way. If it was you or you know who it was then please let me know!

Here are some of the early stages... After wrapping some clay around a cardboard tube and attaching the bottom, I stuck a lump of clay over the join and made some markings as a guide for the face. This will be hollowed out later.

I stuck on some pieces of clay to add to the shape - Scott thought this looked like Julia Roberts!..

... but I thought it looked more like Homer Simpson!

Phew! She's starting to look a little more human!

I think the face is more or less done here. It took me about 2 hours which I thought was a long time, but then when I made my piece of Philippa it took many many more hours than that. Of course, this is a little smaller, and I'm not working to a photograph.

I'm using crank for this piece. I was hoping for a sort of brown woody effect but I'm not sure how it will look fired because I don't think I bought the right one. The clay is rather grainy, which prevents me from getting fine detail, but perhaps if I glaze it grey I could get a rather nice stone effect?

I've had this project in mind since before Swanee, and at the time I thought it would be one of my "major" projects. Hahaha, after Polo it feels like a little "in between" project! Just something to chill out with until the next major piece!

PS. A big thank you to Jafabrit for helping me to understand the miscommunication with my tutor in the last post!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Tonight's Class

I haven't really updated you on my classes recently have I? As you know, two weeks ago Leanne came with me to my clay class and did a demonstration. Last week I continued with my coiled vase, which seems to be taking me forever! And tonight I glazed my Mum's mug, so hopefully that will be ready to give her next week. I was going to glaze Swanee tonight, but I'll explain more about that later.

Last week one of the students called Lesley was coiling a bowl ready to sgraffito, after being inspired by Leanne's demonstration the week before. I noticed some slabs of clay firming up, and wondered if someone was making a box... but tonight there were at least three people decorating them with sgraffito!

One girl made this lovely daisy, which unfortunately broke, but hopefully can be mended.

Here she is in action.

She was on a roll and made two more pieces!

Another student made this lovely piece. She had disappeared somewhere by the time I took this photo, and someone else told me she didn't like it, so I'm not sure if those markings in the middle were part of the original design or whether that was her way of putting a red cross through it, but I think it's beautiful anyway :)

Lesley said she finished her bowl at home, but here is one piece she worked on in class.

And she also carved this lovely piece, which I think is beautiful, but again she didn't like. What strange people eh?

I'd still like to try some sgraffito, but to be honest I'm not sure if I could even come up with a design. I don't think I'm very imaginative in that way. I'm not upset by that - we all have different artistic strengths and weaknesses - and I greatly admire those who are imaginative in that way. Talking of those who are imaginative - Leanne's demonstration piece went in the kiln tonight, which I forgot to photograph again!

Ok, so the thing about the swan. I was going to glaze it tonight, but I was daunted, not undaunted as I should be. I was nervous about glazing the beak because it would have to be painted on so precisely, and I was worried about ruining the piece with glaze after all my hard work. Another student suggested just glazing the whole thing white, for a kind of modern "stylized" look. We were discussing this with the tutor, but he said the design of the piece wasn't stylized. On the other hand he said I wouldn't be able to make it look realistic with glazes either. I didn't really understand what he was trying to say, but it upset me. I felt like he was saying it needed to be either stylized or realistic but it couldn't be either, and all I kept thinking was "Why can't it just be mine? My style? What's wrong with that?" I asked him to clarify his point, but I don't even remember what he said because he was still being so vague.

I probably sound like I can't take criticism, don't I? But I don't think that's the case - just the other week one of Scott's friends looked at my polar bear and said the nose and ears were wrong, and he was right, so I changed them. But tonight my tutor made me feel like whatever I did it would be wrong, although I'm sure he didn't mean it that way because he seems like such a nice person, and previously he said that Swanee was gorgeous. So I don't know, I'm just confused. What is it with male potters?

Friday, 20 March 2009


Here is the long awaited Polo! Also known as the polar bear! I was going to wait a couple of days before posting this to make sure that everyone got the chance to see my shiny new award! (see below) But Leanne begged to see him, so here he is!

It's hard to see in the photo's, but his body turns slightly to his left, and his right foot is a little further forward than his left. I didn't want to make him exactly symmetrical. I'll have to get back to you with the measurements. Edit: from nose to tail - about 18 inches. Height about 15 1/2 inches, width about 10 inches.

Why Polo?
When I was a kid my Mum made soft toys for a while to earn a bit of extra cash. She made the most beautiful polar bear and I begged and begged her for it, for what seemed like forever. Imagine my surprise and delight when I unwrapped her on Christmas day! She is still one of the best gifts I have ever had. I named her Polo, which made perfect sense to me at the time - Polo sounded similar to polar, and she was white like a polo mint! I loved her so much. She came everywhere with me. I never stayed away from home without her, much to my friend's amusement, but I didn't care. She was my best friend and I shared all my secrets with her. I knitted her boots and a hat and made her a coat - not that polar bears need any help to keep warm!

By the time I was about 18 I decided to pass her on to my youngest sister. I was so disappointed that she didn't love her as I had, but why would she? By that time Polo was old and tatty, not the beautiful shiny and smooth furred bear that I had unwrapped about 10 years earlier. I wish I had kept her, but alas, she is long gone now.

So, male or female, I decided from the start that this bear would be named Polo. In memory of my dear old friend.

Some interesting facts about the polar bear.
The male and female don't meet that often, so when they do, they mate. Due to the many months spent feeding her cubs and not hunting, the female needs to be in good health and of a good weight before birth, and so she doesn't always fall pregnant immediately - her embryos go into a type of suspended animation, so cubs are always born in the winter after the female has had a good summer getting fat. Unlike the brown or grizzly bear, polar bears don't hibernate, except pregnant bears. This isn't a proper hibernation as she will give birth to her cubs and feed them during this time. Once they come out of their den, the mother will continue to feed them and to lose weight and will not be able to go in search of food until the cubs are strong enough. By this time she will not have eaten for 5 months and will have lost half her body weight.

Polar bears hunt seals by pounding on the ice with their front legs, with their weight behind them, until it breaks. They have an amazing sense of smell and are able to smell seals even through thick ice. They are excellent swimmers as well, being able to block off their nostrils and having webbed feet.

PS. Queeny and Leanne, you would have loved the big owl that my Mum made!

Another Blog Award!

Yay! Lucky me! I'd like to say a big big thank you to Kathy for awarding me the Kreativ Blogger award!

This was such a huge surprise for me, especially as I know that Kathy has looked at so many blogs recently, being involved with the One World, One Heart giveaway for 2009. So to be picked out of all of those is amazing!

According to the rules, I think I am supposed to list 7 things that inspire me, and then pass the award on to 3 other inspiring bloggers. So here goes...

1. I'm really inspired by nature at the moment. I've been watching lots of wildlife programs and I am just in awe of the beauty and intelligence that surrounds us. Well, not so much "surrounds" us, because a lot of it is on the bottom of the ocean or in far away lands, but you get my point!

2. Other bloggers are amazingly inspiring! There is so much beautiful art to see of all mediums, but what I love about bloggers is that you often get to see the work in progress, which inspires me to want to try their methods.

3. I find being creative is inspiring in itself. Some times I find it hard to get going, but once I do it's so hard to stop! When things go well I get a real buzz and I just want to keep creating.

4. Dare I say it? Bad art inspires me. I know really that no art is "bad", but sometimes I see mass produced ceramic pieces being sold and I think "That's rubbish, I could make something better than that". This happened quite a lot when I was looking online for images of polar bears.

5. This might sound strange, but archaeological finds inspire me. Not old pots and things like that, but mummified remains and human bones. It always makes me think "I want to make that!". One day I will.

6. I know I have already mentioned other bloggers, but I have to specifically mention Philippa, because if I hadn't come across her blog I don't know if I would even be on this journey. When I saw Philippa's work I was moved by art for the first time in my life, and was inspired to create for the first time in 19 years.

7. Umm... I'm not sure if I can think of anything else. I've mentioned life, death; good art, bad art; doing and seeing. The sky often makes me want to paint, but I know I'm not that good at it, and that probably comes under #1 anyway. Apart from that I don't think colour in itself inspires me. Music just makes me want to sing and dance. And I don't find the great artists of old half as inspiring as modern day artists who I can converse with personally. So I suppose that's it.

Next, I get to list other inspiring people to pass on the Kreativ Blogger Award to. Oh my goodness, there are so many!

Obviously I will start with Philippa, who reminded me of the purpose of being creative.

I have to name Mimilove because this lady actually makes me want to paint in water colour! Can you believe that?

Cynthia completely inspired me to hand build my own mugs, and decorate them with lino cutting.

Leanne opened my eyes to the world of coiling, and now I don't think I will ever look back!

And Mona really makes me want to draw animals - in colour even!

I could go on and on - let's face it, if I link to you then I obviously find you inspiring! I definitely look forward to reading what other people find inspiring.

In other news:

My polar bear is finished, but I haven't even had time to scratch me bum this week, so no photo's yet!

Since Leanne brought me that Reeses bar I keep craving them! My sister bought me a peanut butter Kit Kat, but let me tell you, it was lame in comparison!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Chocolate Exchange!

Leanne came to our little town on Monday and we had our chocolate exchange! I was really surprised because friends who have been to America tell me that American chocolate is horrible, but really, I couldn't tell the difference. Leanne said I could probably tell the difference with a solid bar of chocolate, but these ones had fillings. What I did notice is the obsession with peanut butter that ya'll seem to have! (Notice that little bit of NC accent coming out there?) And the Milky Way's are completely different! Did you get one before you went home Leanne? Oh, and look what I found in a little news agent's on Tuesday evening!

America is taking over the world!

Knowing how much Leanne loves birds I took her to see the swans we have in our town. They must have known the Bird Lady was coming because more showed up than usual! I think Leanne probably has a better photo of that than I do, but here is one of Leanne feeding the swans.

These were a little bit too big for Leanne to get them to perch on her arm and feed from her hand!!

We also went to our local country park, which Leanne said she enjoyed, but I realised later that she really just wanted to get her hands in some clay! She made me this lovely little bunny!

I couldn't believe how quickly she made it! She used the terracotta clay that I had since we had that one out anyway - my tutor suggested making tiles in terracotta to contrast with the white slip at class for Leanne's sgraffito demonstration. Unfortunately, the other coloured slips he had ordered hadn't arrived yet. The demonstration was fantastic! Again, Leanne worked so fast! Everyone seemed very impressed, and I noticed that one of the male students, who is usually very shy and doesn't really talk to anyone, came over to speak with Leanne to tell her how fantastic her work is. Being completely in awe, I didn't even think about getting my camera out! I'd make such a lousy reporter! But once the piece is fired I will take photo's to show you.

Leanne also did some carving on a vase I have been making at class! So although we didn't actually work on it "together", it's a great privilege and honour for me to have a piece made through our combined efforts.

Look what else I got too!

I have been drinking exclusively from this wonderful mug! Water, juice, alcohol, hot drinks - you name it, I've been drinking it from this mug! This was such a wonderful surprise because I'm so curious about the Octopus. I've never actually seen one before, not even on TV, but I'm collecting a series of wildlife books and DVD's at the moment and the next issue will have Octopodes (Octopi, Octopuses) in it!

So I have two things left to say:
Leanne, thank you so much for two wonderful days! I enjoyed your company so much! And thank you for your beautiful gifts!
And secondly:
Jafabrit, I have more of Leanne's pieces than you! Neh neh neh neh neh! :D

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Bird Lady

Yes, I spent the day with The Bird Lady today - also known as Leanne, or Painter Girl! We had such a great time! This is Leanne feeding the birds in... umm... someplace in London! (She had more of an idea of where we were than I did!) This bird actually perched on her finger and ate from the palm of her hand. I think it takes a special person to be so at one with nature, and for nature to recognise that in you.

We went to the National Gallery and saw the Picasso exhibition. I think I have a greater appreciation for his work after seeing it in the flesh. I wish I could have felt the texture of a lot of the paintings, but of course I couldn't do that. My favourite was a portrait of his first wife, Olga. Although it was definitely not the largest or the most colourful painting there, it seemed to stand out from all the others, grabbing my attention from inside another room.

Other highlights of the day included meeting Will (Leanne's hubby, really great bloke) and seeing lots of incredible sculptures, including the beautiful lions at Trafalgar Square, which strangely I didn't take a photo of even though I meant to. I told Leanne I'm going to make pieces like that one day, and she believed me. That's what I call true faith!

A beautiful sculpture opposite Buckingham Palace

Leanne (Buckingham Palace to the left)

And how could I forget the moment when I got trapped between the doors on the tube? Thankfully I don't have the bruises I was expecting, but it hurt! I was squashed! I wished Leanne had taken a photo because it must have looked hilarious! I couldn't stop laughing for ages, but I suppose you had to be there!

I really didn't want to say goodbye this evening, but tomorrow Leanne is coming to my little town, and to my clay class in the evening! Yay! We're going to clay together!

Monday, 2 March 2009

For me, it's all about the texture

Well, it's an absolutely beautiful day and I feel completely wretched. So I can't go out and enjoy the sunshine, but I can't sleep either. What's a girl to do? Blog!

Yes, I have finally come down with whatever that thing is that Scott has been (and still is) suffering from. It's more than a cold, but not quite the 'flu. I was exhausted all of last week and I couldn't figure out why, until Friday evening when this "thing" suddenly developed. Of course that means no creativity from me since my last post - and no class for me yet again this evening! This term has been a complete disaster for me so far!

Am I miserable about any of this? No, I'm not! I don't care how ill I feel this week, as long as it's gone by the weekend - because I'm going to meet up with Leanne!! Yay! Leanne is coming to England, and she's coming to my clay class next week! How amazing is that? We've also agreed to have a "chocolate exchange" - which cheered me up no end! (Sorry Rosa!)

But, I don't have to wait until Leanne arrives for the excitement to begin - look what came in the post for me on Saturday from Leanne!

I felt so poorly on Saturday morning, but I sat up in bed for ages just feeling this amazing piece. The texture is wonderful, especially on the underside where it hasn't been glazed, and yes, I had to lick it as well! It just has to be done doesn't it? I know I can't be the only one that has to do this to fully appreciate the texture of a piece! The blue on the inside is so pretty, it sparkles in the light and has a cracked appearance, and yet the surface is smooth. I've been carrying this piece around with me everywhere! I'm going to beg Leanne to make me a mug - something I can hold in my hands all the time.

I have always loved the contrast between glazed and unglazed areas. This mug has been my favourite mug for about 14 years for precisely that reason - and I own a lot of mugs!

Maybe I should write about my mug collection some time? If I wrote about one mug each week I'd probably have enough to keep me posting for two years! (And I could probably find something to say about each mug as well - how sad is that?)

This mug had special meaning for me when I bought it. My best friend at the time had just renounced her faith, and this mug was a reminder to me that I was a "sheep" and that I would continue to follow the Great Shepherd. I'm not sure if I consciously think of that each time I use it now, but it's still my special mug, and you have to be really special to get to use it!