Sunday, August 28, 2016

Earthenware jugs and bowls.

Fresh from the kiln, new earthenware jugs and bowls.
I have had to reduce my hours in the studio and try to adapt to throwing mostly with my right hand, and using my left in a light supporting role, rather than using both hands equally as I would normally do. I find that I am comfortable throwing 700 grams of clay (about 1.5 pounds), and can make objects of this weight for a couple of hours or so at a time without worries of further aggravating the shoulder. If I think about it and remain vigilant not to add any power from the left arm and shoulder, I can throw larger amounts, but going above 1 kg feels like I am starting to take a risk. This limitation is frustrating in some respects, but interesting in others. There are rewarding moments to be had when a rethink of some technical problem allows progress, and it is stimulating from a creative point of view to try to find forms that are rewarding to throw that are around 700 grams.

I have always had a fondness for jugs, or pitchers, and 700 grams (1.5 pounds) of earthenware clay will make a nice jug that has a fired height of 140 - 150 mm (5.5 - 6 inches). 700 grams will also make a generous sized breakfast bowl, just right for porridge to help a potter get through winter!

Detail from the jug above.
My attempts with majolica decoration are making progress, and I get enjoyment out of improvising patterns with the brush and a restricted colour range. I know that there are stains that can be used to give a very full palette of colour, but I am very happy with cobalt carbonate for blue, copper carbonate for green, red iron oxide for brown, and the odd excursion into manganese dioxide for a slightly purple brown. I may branch out in future and include an occasional blob of red or yellow, but I like how a restricted colour palette seems to sit well with an object made of red clay. I also like the "watercolour" quality of these oxides, which is something that stains don't usually seem to have.

This little jug was intended to be taller, but got all "curvaceous" when I had a momentary lapse of concentration and nearly had the thing collapse. I salvaged things and was pleased that I did.

Most of my jugs have the "twisted handle" look. The twisted handles are made from a rolled, slightly tapered, slug of clay that has been rolled diagonally over corrugated cardboard, then slapped down hard onto a flat surface. I am finding this form of handle much easier to make than a pulled handle that would require me to hold a round sausage of clay up in my left hand whilst pulling down on it with a wet right hand (rather like milking a cow!). I still do a few of those, as in the jug below, but most handles are now of the "twisted" kind!

When my jugs were still at a soft leather hard stage, I added texture to some of them with little clay stamps that I made some time ago. I wasn't too sure if the majolica decoration and the stamps would work all that well together, but I quite like the way the stamps add a bit of textural interest that is waiting to be discovered.

I have shown mostly jugs on this blog post, there were some bowls in this firing as well that were also made from 700 grams of clay (1.5 pounds), but I don't want to overload you with photos, so this will have to do!

 I have some shallow bowls and a few more jugs that will be going in the kiln this afternoon to start their bisque firing. I hope to glaze them midweek, and might even feature them on the blog a few days from now!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Talking about the Weather!

Here we are towards the end of August, and I am finding it hard to decide if I should talk about my pottery, or the weather! The inclination to talk about the weather is probably hard wired into me, I am by birth an Englishman! In my head are little quaint snatches of conversation that have sat there since childhood, such as, "Eeeh Lad, it's nice weather for the dooks!" ("dooks", ducks... get it!), and "It's nice weather for this time of the year!" (usually said after a week of bitter cold wind blowing rain horizontally!)

The thing is that we have had it all in August, real winter with snow followed by delightful spring days that would cause even the most dour temperament to contemplate a shy little dance of appreciation, a furtive skip, and a happy sigh! And there have been dramatic skies full of towering grey clouds with just the odd patch of blue peeping out near the horizon, or through a fleece-lined gap. Blue of the most tender and exquisite hue.

I have found myself out and about with the camera on several occasions, and have even dusted down my sketch book and have done a few pen and ink drawings out on location. 

I'll put 3 or 4 photos here to show what I mean... then I will get to the subject of potting, the noble art of making pots!

We had snow on 4 August, and on the morning of the 5th there was a little snow on the hills across the road from us.

I walked a short distance to the nearby railway crossing and took this photo looking South.

I took many photos of clouds. I was reminded of the great Dutch landscape painters, and of John Constable.

This photo, and the next, were taken on 4 December, as the snow started to come in.

Again, those clouds! I would much rather have a cloudy sky than one that is all blue!

One morning we went for a walk to the lagoon and saw a lovely puddle of ice that was in a hollow. There were cartoon cloud patterns even in this!

Laura planted snowdrops some years ago, and we enjoy seeing them emerge from their sleep and put on a show under the trees.

In August the moon was big, fat, and yellow. Definitely made of cheese!

Hawksbury Lagoon. A rapid change from winter to spring. The dramatic dark crimson bush is an akeake, Dodonaea viscosa, probably the Purpurea variety (often referred to as Purple Ake Ake).

Last of the light of the day over the lagoon.

I took a long sequence of photos of the sun going down. The impressive, rather pudding shaped, hill at the back on the right is Hikaroroa, this is also known as Mt Watkin. (There is an interesting newspaper article regarding the renaming of Hikaroroa to Mt Watkin that appears in the 13 October 1920 edition of the Otago Daily Times, you can read it here in papers past.)

Still with pea shaped seed pods, the old flower stems of harakeke, NZ flax (Phormium tenax).

A chill breeze came up after the sun set, and made "sand patterns" on the water!

Hum... "3 or 4 photos" grew in number! Potting next post!