Friday, 26 February 2010

Oh my giddy aunt!

Hehehe, have you heard that expression before? I haven't heard it in a long time, but it's one I used to say when I was a kid. I bet Jafabrit remembers it! It's an expression of disbelief, along the same lines as "Oh my God" or "Goodness me" or (and this is the one my sister uses) "Oh my days". Well, today I had an "Oh my giddy aunt" moment! But before we get on to that, I'd just like to say "Linda, I finally posted your tiles!".

Yes, I have been extremely lazy just lately, but I finally dragged myself out, collected my clay, and posted Linda's tiles to her. I also bought myself some new clay tools, which I couldn't afford but I'm convinced I really need them for Fred the head, as he has become known.

Well, my efforts were richly rewarded! When I got home I found two big sacks of wood for my fire on the door step, from my brother Anthony. Thank you Anthony! AND.... when I got indoors a huge parcel waiting for me!! I had no idea what it was, as I wasn't expecting anything. It was sort of big, but flat.... and inside was this beautifully expressive painting from Philippa!! Oh my giddy aunt!!

Notice the texture around the ear? This pieces is called "Hearing Hallucinations", and I think the fear and confusion this causes the sufferer is wonderfully expressed in the face and eyes. Thank you so much Philippa! That has completely made my day, my week, and my month! Whooppeey!

With it came a card with "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" written on the front. Hmm, what a question! What would I attempt to do? The possibilities are limitless. If I knew I could not fail I would sculpt so many things... lions, elephants, horses, and definitely old bones! Yes, it's true. I watch archaeology programs and they find the most amazing human remains, and I sit and think to myself "I'd love to sculpt that". Or what about those amazing people who can tell what a face would look like based on the structure of the skull? It would be amazing to be able to do that. But not as amazing as sculpting mummified remains. Yeah, I know, I need to get out more.

Thank you so much for the painting and the card, Philippa. I'm hoping that the card's message will inspire me to try harder and to think positively about my creative projects.

This kind of brings me on to Fred the head. I continued with the shaping of the head and the face, but everything was going pear shaped. Well, not literally shaped like a pear, just wrong. Just... so wrong. So I filled him in (which is another strange expression for beating someone up!) No, I didn't beat him up, I just filled him in. Like this:

I think/hope the head shape is much better now though?

So I will continue with this piece this weekend, and hopefully the new tools that I bought will turn my sculpting skills into something amazing!

Coming soon: The "doomed" jug and other fired pieces! Plus recent exhibitions I've been to, including Philippa's!

Monday, 22 February 2010

There's a new man in my life...

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention! Meet Fred, he's my new man...

Fred very kindly allowed me to wrap his head in clay at 4 O'clock this morning. It had to be 4am, because, y'know, that's when inspiration strikes isn't it?

I've been wanting to make clay head sculptures for the longest time. In fact, I made one at school about... umm... 20 something years ago. Unfortunately that was before the days of camera phones so I have no photo's of that.

Keith Phillips from Mudstuffing Sketchbook has been working on the same thing, with stunning results. His inspiration came from the DVD series of Philippe Faraut. There are some little clips of the DVD's on the web page, and from what I saw, the instruction looks excellent. Unfortunately, those little clips were all I had to go on since I can't afford the DVD's at the moment and I'm not even sure if they are available in the UK.

I put off making a start for a few hours because I didn't really have the right tools - I don't have a dowel to put the head on, and what's that interesting tool they use for the eyes? Plus I wasn't sure if I had enough clay, but that restless feeling got too intense and I just had to make a start.

Here Fred's head looks like some sort of strange patchwork football head! I've re-watched the little clip on the website and I see now that it was all going wrong right from the start! His head should have been more like a light bulb!

I should have taken more photo's as I progressed with the piece, but to be honest I wasn't confident that I was follwing Faraut's instructions right. I didn't seem to be able to get the head shape right. I added the "cap" of clay at the back, which I think was too small for the size of the head, and I kept pressing down on the top of the head to steady it while I worked, which has obviously flattened the top of the head. The result is this strange looking being...

I have faith that I can pull it back though and make something semi-reasonable. The good news is that the person I am making is a strange looking creature anyway! Now there's a clue!

At this point I'm not worrying about the shoulders at all. They're there really just to support the rest of the piece, and will be corrected later. The eyes look too high, but that is probably just because the head is so flat on the top! The nose isn't very big, but this person has a tiny nose! Lot's of clues there!

Oh, what the heck, why not have another giveaway? A tile of your choice for the first person to guess who it is! (And no, it's not Fred! That's just a working title!)

PS. Linda, I'm sorry you haven't received your tiles yet, I just haven't got round to going to the post office! They'll be on there way very soon!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

OWOH draw - we have a winner!!

I hope you have all enjoyed your magic carpet ride and have discovered many wonderful blogs along the way. I know I certainly have, and yet I didn't visit anywhere near the full 1105 blogs that took part. On many blogs I was blown away by the beautiful art work, and on some blogs I was blown away by the personality of the writer. All in all it was a very enjoyable experience, and I can't wait to join in next year.

But now, on with the important part - the winner! I wrote out each name on a piece of paper and put it in my tree fairy vase, ready for Scott to draw the winner's name. I could hardly bear to watch! It was so exciting!

(I swear, the yellow on that vase is nowhere near that bright in the flesh!)

We couldn't believe it when the name drawn was of someone with the same name as me! What a coincidence eh? Yes, the winner of this years OWOH draw is Linda, from The Briar Rose Gate. Her art work is beautiful, so if you haven't already, I encourage you to take a look.

Congratulations Linda! And a big thank you to everyone who commented, it really gave me a lift. :)

Linda, I hope you like your tiles when you receive them, and I would love to see a photograph showing how you decided to use them!

I enjoyed that so much, I think I shall have to do another draw sometime :)

Monday, 1 February 2010

Clay has rules

It's true. Clay has rules. It doesn't matter how big you are (and I'm pretty big) or how clever you think you are, you cannot escape the rules.

One whopping great big fat rule is that you have to let clay dry evenly. You don't always have to let it dry slowly, but it has to dry evenly. So if you have some bits sticking out - say like... ooh, I dunno, a handle, for example - that's much thinner than the rest of the... let's say jug, for arguments sake... then it's better to cover up the whole thing in plastic and let it dry slowly and evenly.

I know that. I'm not stupid. "So why didn't I do it?" I have no idea. "You can't cheat in this game Linda, you have to play by the rules." If you don't dry delicate items slowly and evenly, as the clay dries and shrinks it will put the clay under stress.

"We know all about stress, don't we Linda?"

Well, you can guess what happened. The handle dried out way before the rest of the jug, and the shrinkage and resulting stress caused it to crack and break.

I wasn't too upset; I was convinced I could fix it. I struggled though, and in the end I thought I would be better off taking the whole handle off and making a new one. I made my new handle, and then while it was setting a little, I decided to moisten the area of the jug that the handle would be attached too. You see, I still hadn't learnt. "That was a very silly thing to do wasn't it Linda?" What do you think happened? "Go on, tell the nice people what happened, Linda..."

Umm... the jug cracked. "Yes that's right, the jug cracked. And why do we think that happened, Linda?" Umm... because the clay expands when you make it wet and it put the vase under... stress. Well, it was only a little crack, and I dunno... maybe I can fill it with slip or something? Anyway, the handle is attached and it is now slowly drying. I have no idea if it will stay attached, or if it will crack again. I'll just have to wait and see.

Mean while I decided to reglaze those little blue bowls again. You know, the ones that went streaky? And I noticed that the glaze was separating on the surface of the bowls as I was applying it. "Ah-ha" I thought "The surface must be greasy" so I washed them first...

One of those nasty bowls which I actually love except for the glaze. I know I should just give up and make them again, but I just can't bring myself to leave them looking like this. (And yes, the photo is still upsidedown and won't let me correct it).

I also decided to wash and glaze that little white vase; I'm not happy with the iron oxide showing through from underneath - it looks like someone has drawn on it with a marker pen and then unsuccessfully tried to wash it off...

But as I was drying it I realised that the warm water had made it crack a little. "Ah-ha" I thought "I have a vase that needs cracking!" So I fetched my ivy vase and ran that under the tap. "Crack".

Unfortunately it wasn't the crack I was after - it was one of the leaves that had got knocked and broken! NO!! Why does my stuff always break?? Why?? First the small ivy vase, then the tree fairy vase, now the large ivy vase... and the jug! I wouldn't mind now and again, but I seem to have more rejects than anything else!

The ivy vase with the crackle glaze that didn't crack.

Do you ever have those moments when you just think: "This whole clay thing was just a big mistake"?