Wednesday, 30 June 2010

I'm a mug for mugs!

I have a lot of mugs. I've been collecting them since I was 17. As you can imagine, I've had to limit myself otherwise the whole thing would have got completely out of hand. I try to stick to just chocolate mugs but occasionally I see something that I just can't resist.

This isn't the whole collection, but I ran out of wall space! My sister came round one day to help with my dishes and when she saw loads of mugs sitting on the side she thought they were dirty too! But I just don't know where to put them all!

So today the postman brought me something completely amazing, and exactly what I needed...

... a mug!! But not just any old mug! Oh no, it's a very special mug, made by Cindy! :) Exactly what I needed because of it's message (I've been feeling low).

So, I'm starting a new collection of mugs - hand made by awesome potters! I already have... ummm... two. Hehehehe :) Great collection eh?

That other awesome mug is by Leanne by the way :)

So I suppose I'll have to clear some space for my new collection by getting rid of some of these old factory made things. But which ones? Hmmm... not an easy decision!

So, as I mentioned, I've been feeling low lately. That will be why I haven't made anything with clay... or is that why I feel low? I never know which comes first.

Anyway, time to catch up with your blogs. And if anyone is feeling generous feel free to send me one of your gorgeous mugs for my collection!! :D

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Art or not?

In my last post I may have given the impression that I don't appreciate modern art. I'd just like to clarify that I have respect for all forms of art - as long as it actually involves some form of art!

I watched a very interesting program on TV today about modern art, and I have to say that I really liked most of it. But there are some forms of "art" that I really struggle with.

One such piece consisted of a couple of dummies demonstrating waterboarding - a form of torture I hadn't heard of until seeing this piece of "art". Is this art? I have to ask myself honestly; am I reluctant to admit this is art just because I don't like it? Obviously someone had to sculpt the dummies. Still, it's something I would expect to see in a museum rather than an art show.

There are lots of pieces of art that I don't like, but I can't deny that it is art. I hate the spider sculptures of Louise Bourgeois, simply because I have a phobia of spiders, but it is still art.

But some pieces of art really do push the limits. Poo in a tin? Not art. Obscenities, scribbled on a toilet wall? Not art. A messy bed with dirty knickers? Not art. Half a cow? Interesting, but not art.

On the other hand... knitted or sculpted poo - art. Spray painted stencil drawings - art. A painting of a messy bed with dirty knickers - art. A sculpted replica of half a cow - art. A piece of rump steak - dinner. (Oops, how did that get in here?)

Well, that's just my view anyway. Surely art has to involve some sort of artistic action on the part of the artist? What do you think?

Saturday, 19 June 2010


So, the headline news today is - Swanee and Polo were not selected for inclusion in the Open Art Exhibition.

I wish I could even articulate what is going round in my brain right now. Yes, I'm upset, but I'm also annoyed, and yet I know I shouldn't be either.

The standard for the paintings and drawings was exceptionally high. If the standard was equally as high for the sculptures I could accept the rejection. It's when you feel that your work at least equals that of another that it's so hard to take. Sometimes it's merely a matter of taste.

The other pieces I saw were very modern. I try not to pass judgement on other styles of art and try to appreciate the creative thought process and effort that has gone in to each piece. But it's difficult to think that way when you know that something that required no artistic skill whatsoever is going to be chosen over your hand coiled animal sculptures.

I know at least one of the artists in this catagory has graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours. I suppose that's what they teach these days - not so much artistic skill but "creative thinking".

I remember quite a while ago, John Black, the founder of the FPAA, told me that I had natural talent, that I don't need an art degree, and that art college would ruin me. This "creative thinking" is exactly what he meant. John is of the old school, and appreciates traditional art over "thinking outside the box".

Also in the post today came my cheque from the FPAA, for the pieces I sold at the exhibition. It wasn't much, but as Mona says "Sales trump ribbons any day of the week". I'm taking comfort in her words of wisdom from years of experience: "I tend to think you should feel more honored with the idea that someone is willing to part with their hard-earned money in order to have your work in their homes". It's true. I seem incapable of impressing snobby art critics but I'm glad to know that the people who matter most appreciate my work. And honestly, do people really buy those modern installation pieces??

I'm not going to change my style to produce some "new clothes" for the Emperor (although I have had an idea for a joke entry in the next Open Art Exhibition in 2 years time!). I know where I want to go with my art, and I like the direction it's taking. Some people will like it, and some people won't.

I feel much happier now that I have written this post :) I just wish I could go and collect my pieces today instead of having to wait until Thursday. I don't know why they want to hold on to them for so long seeing as they're so hideous to look at!!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Surely sales mean more than prizes?

(even if the prize is £600??)

I managed to collect my unsold pieces on Saturday without collapsing on the floor in a coughing fit. While I was packing up a lady approached me and, pointing to the Thrush, said that if I ever made a Robin she would be interested. I offered to make one for her as a private sale, but she seemed happier to wait until the next FPAA exhibition in November. I'm not sure if this means she's not really that serious, or if it is due to her loyalty to the Art Fellowship (they make 20% from sales at the shows). And let's face it, they could do with a few more sales. It's quite expensive to hire the venue, and roadworks meant less visitors this time. What do I care? I made 3 sales! :D

At these shows there is usually a "best painting" and "best runner up", but I have no idea who these were. I do know that Stella Benford won "best sculpture" (no surprise there) and "best runner up sculpture". I was happy for her because she is a wonderful artist, and such a warm person, but Scott was outraged! He said "when people run in a race they can't win first and second place, it has to be one or the other!" I see his point, but what surprised me more than that was actually the pieces that won! I really thought her sculpture of the lady would come first, but it didn't! I didn't get photos of the winning pieces but you can just about see them in this photo - in the top left is her Green Man oil burner, which came first, and in the bottom left is a pot/vase with holes carved out, which came runner up. (click for larger view)

Stella was as surprised as I was. She said "Personally, I was more excited about my raku fired pieces!" What can I say? Obviously the one doing the judging has a different artistic vision to the rest of us! He should have gone to specsavers!! (a UK joke) Scott's obviously upset because he wanted me to win something, bless him. But what do I care? I sold 3 pieces! :D

So today I dragged myself out again to drop off Swanee and Polo to the Wellingborough Open Art Competition and exhibition. I was sad to leave them there! Especially Polo. I gave him a pat on the head and told him to behave himself (which was my way of saying "I'm gonna miss you buddy") and the lady taking in the entries looked round to see who I was talking to! The judging is tomorrow and I should hear in writing by the weekend if my pieces have been accepted for the exhibition or not.

As I said before, I don't expect to win, but it would be nice to have a piece accepted this time. I had a look around at the other entries while I was there, and to be honest, none of the sculptures blew me away, not like last time. Last time, as soon as I had clapped eyes on Stella Benford's piece I knew I had seen the winner.

Stella's previous winning piece

This time there are a couple of pieces that I think might win just for being a little bit "different", but they're not my cup of tea. I suppose it depends on whether these judges have been to Specsavers or not!

But what do I care? I've sold 3 pieces!! :D

Friday, 11 June 2010

I sold another piece!!

I was really happy today to hear that a lady from Sheffield came to see the show, and she really liked one of my pieces but it had already sold. She took one of my busniness cards though, so hopefully I shall hear from her in the future.

Then this evening I heard more news that another one of my pieces had sold!! That's 3 out of 9 pieces! Last I heard I had sold more than anyone else! It's probably because I'm new, so my pieces offer them a style they haven't seen before. Not that I'm playing down my success - I'm as pleased as punch!

Wow. I feel like a real artist now! In yer face Art College man!!

Health wise I'm still not doing well. I have to pick up the rest of my pieces tomorrow, but I'm not really looking forward to going out. I wish this thing would hurry up and go away so that I can get on with making more stuff!!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

A question and a gallery response

No new clay pieces to show you I'm afraid - because I'm poorly again!! I tell you, Scott and I have never been so poorly as we have been the last 6 or 7 months. It all started with that nasty flu in November, and we just keep getting chest infections and chesty coughs since then.

It doesn't stop my brain from working though, and inside my head is an absolute riot of ideas! I can't wait to get going again!

I've been thinking about trying a teapot, but I have some questions about that for you more experienced potters. Do teapots have to be made from stoneware? And if I use earthenware, will I have to glaze inside the spout? I think I already know the answer to that one, but I just want to check.

I had a response back from one of the galleries I contacted about exhibitions. I have to apply 2 - 3 years in advance, and they want photos of the pieces to be exhibited included with the application. Hello?? Do they think I'm going to have pieces sitting around for 3 years just waiting to be exhibited with them? And I'm thinking a persons work can change a lot in 3 years! Oh well, I'll probably give them a miss then!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

When the rush is over - what comes next?

Well, I finished the 28 day challenge on Friday and already I feel lost!! I can't wait to just rip open a bag of clay and get going again!

This FPAA exhibition runs for a week, and then Monday is the day for submissions for the Wellingborough Open Art competition, run by the local council. I was hoping to enter Freda (the heada) but I gave up on that idea about a month ago, because I knew I would never be able to finish her on time and get ready for the FPAA show at the same time. So I will enter Polo and Swanee and see what happens. The standard was high last time, so I don't expect to win, but as this is a jury selected exhibition I will be very happy if my pieces are chosen to be exhibited.

So what's next?
I really love the shape of that pink vase I made - the one that Leanne carved and Charise glazed - so I'm tempted to start straight away on another vase that shape. But I need to finish Freda the heada. Poor Freda has been sitting there with no hair, wrapped in plastic for ages!!

Apart from that, I plan to start getting ready for November! I know it seems like a long way away but I was shocked at just how long it took me to prepare for this current show, and I have two shows to get ready for in November. Realistically, I'm guessing it would take me about 3 months to fill my kiln, based on how long it took me to make the pieces for this show. Once I'm prepared for the shows, I'll have time to concentrate on larger animal sculptures! I can't wait!

I am really enjoying the creative freedom that having my own kiln gives me :)

Friday, 4 June 2010


Yippee!! My first ever sale and it was the first sale of the night!!

And then Anita bought one of my pieces too! She assured me it was because she loves it and not just because she's being nice to me :)

These look much better in daylight don't they? So here's the rest of my pieces... again.

And here is my whole table.

I can't believe that I was unpacking my kiln at 9pm last night, and then less than 24 hours later I have sold two pieces!! In fact, for an open evening, not many pieces sold at all, and I sold two!! I had a lot of people looking at my table too, and a lot of people returning to my table again and again. So who knows what will happen over the next week...

These are my two favourite pieces from the show. The painting is by Michael Peachy and the sculpture by Stella Benford (of course!)

Thank you again to everyone for all your advice and support. I really can't thank you enough for helping me get this far. Of course the biggest thanks has to go to Philippa King, who inspired me to take up art again in the first place!

Wow, I can't wait to start getting ready for November's shows!!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Glazed pieces out of the kiln!

My kiln cooled down much quicker than I expected today, probably due to the fact that I didn't shut the lid properly last night! See that gap?

So that meant I was able to unload my kiln this evening instead of having that long wait until the morning! I'm really glad, because it meant I had extra time to think about pricing, which I have been absolutely agonising over!

So here are the pieces. I warn you, the photgraphs are not great. This kind of thing always looks better photographed in daylight.

I'm really pleased with how the ivy came out. I didn't think the veins would be visible after having both slip and glaze applied.

Those dark runs at the top are where the clear glaze ran down the side of the vase when I was glazing the inside. It really changes the colour of the clay. I didn't think it would matter too much because bark isn't usually one block of colour, but in future I will paint the top with glaze resist.

I don't know why, but there is very fine crazing in the clear glaze on the squirrel. It's also a little milky in places so maybe I applied it too thickly. Mind you, the glaze was really thick when it came out of the bottle and I had to water it down to glaze inside the vases.

Unfortunately the fine cracks on the two pitchers still show up. It's such a shame because I think these have turned out beautifully (even though I say so myself!!) I'm really pleased with these, and I will definitely use the wax resist on the images again because I love the contrast in texture it produces.

I'm still going to include these in the show, but at a lower price.

This "matte" clear glaze on the Marianne vase (and the squirrel) isn't very matte at all!! I'm still happy with the vase though.

But my favourite piece has to be... my Mum's mug!! It has finally come out the way it was planned!! And I really enjoyed glazing it too because it's for my Mum :) (The flowers are pink, but are washed out by the flash)

So, overall I am very happy with the results, although there are a couple of things I have learnt. That's the way I like it :) I like to learn so that I can constantly improve, but obviously I don't want the results to be sooo bad that I don't enjoy learning!

Tomorrow I set up my table, and you know what's next? I'm gonna start preparing for my next show!! More aboutt hat in another post. Good night everyone, and thank you all so muchy for your advice and support :)

Feeling Blessed

No, I haven't opened my kiln yet! But this feeling has been building up and I just have to share it with you.

I just walked into "my studio" to see what temperature the kiln was at and I just thought to my myself how totally blessed I am.

I have the most supportive and most wonderful husband any girl could wish to have, who has just allowed me to spend a fortune on a kiln to enable me to reach my artistic goals. But it's not like he just throws money at me to keep me happy, he really understands where I want to be artistically, and he would walk on hot coals to help me get there.

And I have the most supportive and encouraging readers! Really, the support I have had online recently has blown me away. I want you all to know how much I really appreciate it. It has really encouraged me to keep going.

So whether the contents of the kiln comes out a success or not, I feel really lucky to have the equipment I need to fullfil my artistic needs, and to have the support of people who understand why I need to fullfil it.

Everything is fine again :)

Wow, what a rollercoaster!!

I was able to postpone setting up the show for a whole day! So I don't have to set up until tomorrow afternoon now. Phew! So I went ahead and used the 11 hour firing schedule that I found on the net.

My business cards came today too, which I am very happy with. What do you think?

And that's about all I can tell you today! There isn't much I can actually do in preparation for the show today. The kiln won't have cooled down until late tonight. So I shall have to get my clay out again because it's clay day 27 and I have to do something!!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Someone, please help me!!

I don't believe it. Everything is going wrong again. I'm running out of time and I can't even find a blinkin' firing schedule on the internet. The only schedule I could find for cone 06 firing was 11 hours long! I thought the glaze firing was supposed to be shorter than the bisque firing?

I haven't even finished glazing yet because I forgot that I had to take my Mum to the dentist this afternoon, and I've just spent the last hour or so looking for a firing schedule.

And I don't even know how I'm going to get my stuff to the show. I found out today that the MoT on the car has expired, and all my friends with cars seem to be busy.

Is it normal to have to face this many obstacles when preparing for a show??

Edit: Ok Linda, calm down and think rationally. Just do the 11 hour firing and see if you can postpone setting up until the evening. And if it comes to it you'll have to get a taxi there with your pieces (and just hope that he/she doesn't drive like a maniac like they usually do, and that your pieces survive the journey). See? Problem solved :)

Closer inspection of the kiln contents

I did as much glazing as I could last night, until I was ready to collapse into bed. I still have more to do today, but I'm right on schedule for set up tomorrow. :) I can fire this afternoon and the kiln can cool over night. My business cards still haven't arrived yet, which I'm not very happy about, but anyway... back to the pots.

When I got the tiles out of the kiln I took a closer look at them. Scott inspected the break for an air bubble, but just as Kim predicted, there was no evidence of an air bubble at all, it was a really clean break. What I did notice was a strange discolouration in the centre of all of the tiles.

I searched the net for this but couldn't find a thing. Then I remembered reading about carbon coring. I looked this up and it was described exactly as it appears on the tiles.

For those who haven't heard of carbon coring (as I hadn't), it occurs when the bisque firing is done too quickly (I wish!) or when the "reduced" atmosphere (as in reduced oxygen) is introduced too early in the firing, by putting the bungs in the holes too soon (likely). I placed the bungs in the holes at just over 300c, and the other pieces seem fine, but as these tiles were piled up on top of each other it would have been harder for the carbon to evaporate. Carbon coring can weaken the piece as well, so maybe this contributed to the breakage?

Other pieces that weren't as perfect as they seemed at first were the pitchers/jugs. They both had very fine cracks in them along the crease where the pitcher starts to bowl.

These were only surface cracks, they didn't go all the way through, but I thought they might still be visible if I glazed them with clear glaze as I had planned. Thankfully I had a tub of wax resist and a big bottle of white glaze!! So I painted over the image with the wax resist and then glazed the rest of the piece in white.

Another thing I will have to remember for next time is to be careful of contamination. After painting the squirrel in brown slip I must have handled it with brown clay on my hands. Although not visable before the firing, when I took him out of the kiln he had dark brown finger prints on him!! I've glazed him anyway, and I'll just have to see how he comes out. It's pretty much the same for the whole kiln load though isn't it? As Whitney Smith says: "Clay is one thing. Glaze is another. Combining the two is a path taken by crazy people." I suppose I still won't really know if I have a show or not until tomorrow!!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Kiln opening day!!

Watch this space!! This is the post that will be updated as soon as the kiln is opened!!
Updated!! Scroll down to see!!

Well, I was trying to stay up with the kiln all night, but I was so tired I had to go to bed around 3.30am. I got a couple of hours sleep, and then Scott checked the temperature for me at around 5.30am. It had finished it's ramping and was about 5 minutes into it's 15 minute soak time. I cancelled that seeing as it's just a bisque fire, so that I could go back to sleep without wondering if it had switched itself off or not. I figured the pots should be hot enough without the soak. If it only reached 950c in parts of the kiln, that would still be hot enough, but the elements surround the whole kiln from top to bottom, so it should be fairly even in there. I'll still soak for the glaze firing, just to make sure.

After 590c the kiln was on full power, and it managed to go the remaining 410c in approximately 1hour and 20 minutes!

It was very warm in the conservatory this morning! Well, I suppose I can call it my studio now, but it still needs lots of clearing out before I can set some shelves up and get all my clay and glazes out there. Anyway, what I did notice is that there was no smell! So it was definitely the carbon and sulphur burning off the pots. Scott said he thought the smell was like a struck match.

The kiln is cooling down much quicker than I expected. In 6 hours it had cooled down by about 700c. I thought it would take as long to cool down as it had to fire, minus the soak time.

So this afternoon I shall go out and buy some silts for tomorrow's glaze firing, and maybe by the time I come back the kiln will be cool enough to open! :)

I am sooo tired! But I suppose it wouldn't be fair to keep you all waiting any longer to find out what happened.

Thank you to Kim for the advice on when to open the kiln. After reading your comment I went right ahead and opened it.

So now for the answers to the two big questions - Did everything survive the firing? and Will Linda still be having a show on Friday?

Well, sad to say, no, not everything survived the firing. It didn't seem to hit me straight away, but once it had sunk in I felt like crying...

with JOY!!! Only one thing broke!! Woooohoooo!!! I had you going there for a minute didn't I? Yeah, sorry about that, I couldn't resist. :) Wow, I couldn't believe it, a near perfect firing, and the one thing that broke was something that I least expected - a tile! See how the broken one has completely moved from under this pile...

These were bone dry, so I'm guessing that this was an air bubble. Dylan's mask broke before going into the kiln, so now that it is fired I shall glue it together before he paints it.

Despite being damp when they went in, the pitchers/jugs were absolutely fine, which I'm relieved about because if they exploded they would have damaged everything else in the kiln as well. This white clay is absolutely beautiful. I hope it stays close to this colour after I've clear glazed them. I just want to eat them!

And even the tree fairy vase, which I broke and repaired while it was in it's bone dry state, survived! It looks like the feet on the squirrel are fine too. You see how the brown clay has darkened?

Phew! I have a show!! I am sooo excited now! I feel like this is my first proper show and I feel like a real artist now because I have done everything on my own, even the firing! I couldn't have done it without all the wonderful advice and support from you guys though, so thank you so so much!! Wooohooo!! :D

And now, I have lots of glazing to do!!