Monday, May 20, 2019

Message in a Bottle!

It seems a bit strange to be writing the blog after such a long absence, but I thought I would hammer away on the keyboard on this rather chilly evening launch a message in a bottle like a shipwrecked sailor of old to say that we are still here!

I have taken lots of photos over the last few months with the thought of being organized enough to regularly upload them to the blog, but never quite got that far! However, it is interesting to look through them and to see the record they contain of the passing of the season through summer, to autumn and then on to the beginnings of winter. Some feature the vegetable garden with potatoes from planting, to flowering, and then to harvest, and others show the rapid growth of a pumpkin plant, through to the gathering of about a dozen pumpkins!

There are, of course, many of the flowers that Laura grew through the year, with tulips, gladiolus, and lilies, being particularly memorable. 

There are also photos of some of the spontaneous things that happen in the garden too, such as the arrival of fungi in autumn, or lichen on tree trunks.

Photos of pots and of the studio are not as numerous as in previous years, but the flow of producing them did not completely dry up, and good things did happen from time to time. I really have been working at a very different pace due to the level of fatigue I often have, and I usually have to be content with achieving one thing in a day out of the list of things to do. There are many steps to making a pot, and each takes time!

Here are some bowls and vases out of my most recent firing. 

Bowl with layered glazes, 7 7/8 x 2 7/8 inches (200 x 72mm)

detail of bowl above

Green bowl with a blue swirl. 7 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches (190 x 70mm)

Bowl with mirror glaze. 7 x 2 1/2 inches (180 x 65mm)

Vase with layered glazes. 8 3/4 x 7 inches (220 x 180mm)

detail of vase above

I also had some tiles in the firing, they average about 5 inches square (127mm) The pale green and mid green worked well. I pushed leaves into the tiles when the clay was still soft, and put a black under glaze into the line work after the tiles had been bisque fired.

I recently took delivery of half a tonne of clay from Waikato Ceramics who are situated fairly near Hamilton in the North Island of New Zealand. My early tests with the clay have been very promising and exciting. I actually feel rejuvenated using it, and my creative ideas are starting to bubble up again!

I ordered Whitestone, Classic White, Buff Stoneware - all high fired stoneware bodies - and Brick Red which is a lovely earthenware clay, very suitable for making planters and outdoor pots as well as for traditional majolica decorated domestic ware. Once I have glaze fired all of them I hope to write some reviews of each one, but for now it suffices to say that I am really delighted with how they perform.

Buff Stoneware was a particular favorite when I threw some test pieces on the wheel, but Whitestone is marvelous for hand building due in part to the 50 mesh grog that it has, but it is also surprisingly good the wheel, and the coarseness of the grog adds real character that can be exploited by wiping back with a sponge, or cutting with wire, or scraping with a metal tool. 

The tiles above were in Whitestone, and making them was a helpful way of calculating shrinkage, which was a fraction over 11 percent from wet to fired when fired at about 1280 C (Cone 10).

I spent a happy hour or so throwing cylinders out of Whitestone, then turned them into sculpture over the next three days. The sculpture was inspired by in turn by a cat, Notre Dame Cathedral, and a dog. I had fun joining and cutting cylinders of clay and "went with the flow" as they say! The result was rather odd, but very interesting to do, and I look forward to making something else soon.

This clay can range from buttery smooth to gritty and abrasive, depending on how it is finished. It is fun to play with texture.

Once the sculpture is fully dry I will probably fire it in the wood fired kiln and let the flames do the decorating.

Oh well, time to put this message in its bottle, pop in a cork, and float it out to sea!