Saturday, August 15, 2009

Catching Up After A Little Gap!

I haven't posted for a while. It has been a slightly strange time following the big changes to the studio, lots of small fiddly jobs to finish, and straightening up to do before really getting back into the swing of producing more things. We had a successful open studio weekend at the beginning of the month, and just managed to get the place ship shape and pleasant looking about a minute before we opened on the Saturday.

I have been battling a little with health matters (nothing really serious I must add). I have been having difficulty shaking off an infection and tend to run out of steam by about lunchtime, and really struggle in the afternoon. By evening I'm mostly too out of sorts to do more than post a few comments and have had to neglect blogging to some degree. However..., the good news is that, from last Wednesday afternoon I have actually started using my new studio space, and have begun throwing some earthenware jugs on the wheel.

Most of the jugs are approximately 3 pounds in weight and about 9 inches in height (although this varies depending on how big a handful of clay I have plonked down on the wheel head). I am making most of the jugs with big round bellies, mostly to improve my rusty throwing skills. Fat jugs are a good challenge as I take the clay out nearly as far as I can to form the belly without the pot collapsing, then collar the clay in again to form the neck of the jug. The jugs aren't very pretty, but the the taller ones mostly feel respectably light for their size.

As an experiment, I cut one of the jugs in half to see what the wall thickness was like. This is a good thing to do from time to time when trying to improve throwing skills. The pot in question had not come up quite to the height that some of the other ones had, and slicing it in half shows too much clay down below, and a wee bit of surplus around the shoulder area that should have been converted into more height. The wall thickness is just under quarter of an inch thick where it is thin, and gets a little bit over that around the shoulders and down near the base. I throw thinner than that, and more evenly when I am in practice, but this is day two after a few weeks diverted into other things.

I don't really like turning pots after I have thrown them, unless the form really demands it, so I try to throw the walls to their final thickness (or thinness??). One problem with achieving nice thin walls on a jug, is keeping them strong enough to take the stress of fitting a handle, especially if the handle is one that is "pulled" off the jug, as mine usually are. I had some trouble with a couple of jugs with their rounded tummies squishing out of shape as I held the jug to attach the handle. It is a juggling act really, and a judgement call about adding the handle when the jug is damp enough to join clay firmly to, yet not too damp so the jug goes like something that Salvador Dali thought up. Remember Dali's soft watches??

Laura is beginning to settle into her new studio area too, and is enjoying the better light and space.

Things are coming up in the garden at last with some days feeling like spring might almost be here. Laura has planted quite a number of Hellebores, which look really good under the trees in the half acre "forest" that we planted, there are also other treasures as well, such as snow drops and a miniature Iris.

Ginger also looks good under the trees, and made sure that he had his photo included in my record of woodland beauties.

Ginger has some colleagues, namely Big Puss and Little Puss. Big Puss occupies our back door mat for hours on end and doesn't do much. We do wonder sometimes if he has legs, or if he moves on hidden wheels, as we can only guess at what goes on under his long, tangled Persian hair.

Little Puss moves like lightning, and is very affectionate towards Ginger, who actually "mothered" him when he was a kitten. We have discovered them all curled up together on a chair and very content.

Believe it or not, Big Puss and Little Puss don't live here..., Ginger does now.

My little class of teenagers have had most of their first term's work glaze fired, and I had some pleasure, and relief, unpacking the firing from the electric kiln. I have a photo here of the bottom layer of pots in the kiln. I especially liked the cheerful larger bowl, which was made by coiling clay, the green rim and the spots and spiral decoration are cheerful and fun, and might inspire me to loosen up a bit myself.


Pat - Arkansas said...

Good to hear from you again. Sorry you've been not completely well for a while; fighting an infection can be very tiring. Listen to your body.

Very interesting cross-section of the jug.

Your flower photos are wonderful, as are those of the cats. I do admire Little Puss; she looks just like my Sweetie Pie. Big Puss is a really BIG puss! Just because they don't live with you doesn't mean that they don't know where to hang out! :)

Wishing you a wonderful weekend which, for you, is half over already!

dwing said...

Ever tried throwing bellarmine shaped bottles?

Judy Shreve said...

Sorry to hear you haven't been feeling well. You have really been working hard lately - so maybe it is good to slow down for a few weeks. Hopefully you are on the mend!

Like your pitchers. I always struggle with getting my pitchers light enough - I should cut through one of mine.

Isn't it nice to see spring -- those flower photos are wonderful.

So Ginger's moved in, huh -- seems like all the cats in the neighborhood know the best place to hang out.

Peter said...

Hello Pat,

Lovely to hear from you, I was wondering if you had won the battle with the dreaded chiggers, or if they were still at plague proportions... so it is good to know you are still alive! Little Puss is a darling and, you are right, there is a strong resemblance to your Sweetie Pie. Not sure how big Big Puss really is, as most of him is fluff... He is a funny fellow. He had made very occasional lightning raids inside our place, but is scared of indoors, and meeting him when he is engaged in such a daring mission is amusing. He tries to get out so fast that his little feet don't really get a grip on the lino and he is apt to progress at enormous speed on his tummy with all four legs acting like oars in a boat race!

Hello Dwing, welcome to my site and thanks for following it. Lovely to hear from someone from New Zealand and interesting to see what you are up to as well. Your project with Theo Schoon's letters sounds like a big task, but it will be a great resource when completed. I do remember his paintings from when we used to live in the North Island, and I gather Len Castle and Theo Schoon collaborated a bit in the early days?
Regarding Bellarmine shaped bottles, I am very fond of them, and do feel their influence when I work. I have occasionally made them and would like to do a little series exploring their form, and also playing with the image of the bearded gent that usually is a part of them.

Hi Judy, Lovely to hear from you. Slicing work in half certainly helps diagnose what is going right or wrong in throwing, and also may have a creative spin off, in that it could lead to sculpture. It would be fun sometime to do some sculptural work with cut and rejoined pitchers. I did one once with a bottle that I made, sliced vertically, and rejoined. I rejoined it so that the halves no longer matched perfectly and the inside was visible through the gap in places. It was very interesting to suddenly transform a domestic form into something that was obviously sculpture. I was actually surprised at how the simple transformation changed how I looked at the work. Such alteration helps persuade the viewer to see art in the every day things, in the commonplace, and that is a wonderful thing!

I remember the time years ago when I was out painting a watercolour of some trees. I changed the sky from blue to red, and also changed the green foliage from its normal colour to something completely different. I was amazed at how this change from what was expected and ordinary suddenly made the form and structure of the trees apparent.

It will be fun for you seeing spring flowers here, as you move to late summer and autumn.

Thanks to you all for writing in and for your kind thoughts, Best Wishes P.

Linda Starr said...

Hi Peter, so glad you are on the mend. I was kind of worried about you. What lovely flowers you have and special cats.

I love your description about purposefully changing the shape or color of something and how it alters or causes a different focus on the art. I'll have to think about that some more. It must be fun to have students who look at things with a fresh eye.

I have no idea what a bellarmine shaped bottle is, so I must now do a little reserch as I am eternally curious.

Nice to see Laura in her new space too. Those hellabores are wonderful. Toodles.

Peter said...

Hi Linda, really nice to hear from you!
I think that flowers and cats can bring healing don't you! Purrs and colours, wonderful!

There are some good photos of Bellarmine Jugs at:

And more information at:

A Google Image search for Bellamine Jugs will give all sorts of wonderful results.

In brief, Bellarmine Jugs originated in Germanic areas of Europe. Most appear to have been made between about 1550 and 1764. Often the jugs are salt glazed and most have the face of a bearded grumpy looking man on them, thought to be Cardinal Bellarmine a man of the cloth who didn't approve of alcohol! There are other theories of who the bearded gent might be, but many must have supped their drink with enjoyment and toasted the Cardinal's health as they did so!

I once taught a Saturday morning painting class at the local Primary School, and greatly enjoyed the fresh perspectives on life this offered me! Children had their own way of looking at everyday things that made them no longer everyday. I think artists should not quite "grow up"! We need to retain the ability to marvel and not quite understand, to enjoy the moment, and to jump and splash in puddles!
I am glad to read that you are eternally curious, that is a gift I think!

Arkansas Patti said...

So sorry to hear you have been feeling puny Peter. Hope that is behind you now.
So glad you and Laura are finally enjoying the studio. Loved the cross section.
Was surprised to see all the lovely flowers. I thought you were still in winter but happy to see spring is on the way. That does wonders for the energy level.
Big and little Puss are not yours??? How about--not yours YET. Ginger is spreading the word. Both are grand looking cats.
Keep healing and take care.

Peter said...

Hi Patti, a great lump like me "feeling puny".. you're quite right! However I hope to spring back with spring! Lovely to hear from you Patti, and I am surprised to see the flowers too. I always am! The seasons are odd here. Muddled! I had a look through some photos yesterday and saw snow on the hill near our place in November last year! This winter seemed to occur in some haste, brought here with blasts of cold air from the South pole, there was almost no autumnal prelude. We have Readers Digest Condensed Book seasons!
Little Puss is sleeping on the end of our bed as I write this.... humm, I need to send him home for his breakfast!