Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cats, jugs (pitchers), slip, and finger wipes.

Big Puss posed for the camera yesterday morning, and it was quite a moment. For the last couple of weeks or so, Big Puss has been a doorstep feature. Whenever we have seen him, it has been as a lump on our doormat; and like a mushroom he would appear there one morning, and not be there the next. Speculation abounded in our household as to what means of transport Big Puss employed. There were no apparent legs under his thick skirt, and we thought he might have wheels, or powerful electromagnets, or slide along on a cushion of air like a hovercraft. Big Puss was not ours, but he liked to be here, and I would rub his head gently as I stumbled over him. He was frightened at first, but became progressively used to me, and started to show affection.

I think it was three nights ago when I was aware of an extra occupant on the extreme end of the bed. The occupant was trying to be light as air, and not draw attention. When I made a slight move to ease agony in my hip joint, the occupant was off, down the hall, and out of the cat flap. A short time later, he was back, and Ginger a lump near my elbow, and Little Puss snoring blissfully on my computer chair, I knew the occupant could only be... Big Puss. Later, another slight move from me, to relieve more aches and pains, resulted in the same style of speedy exit as before, but Big Puss was noticeably more affectionate when he met me in his official capacity as door mat mushroom later that morning, and rubbed my hand with his head and gave it a tentative couple of licks.

Anyway, yesterday morning Big Puss posed for the camera, and showed the world that he does at least have front legs, and a fine pair of front legs they are!

I'm going to miss the old fellow, as Big Puss will be moving to Dunedin today, and Little Puss with him. Sadly, their nice humans, our neighbours, have decided to shift to another place. As for Ginger..., he may be staying on with us, but I quite understand if there is a last minute change of plan. We shall have to see what the morning brings! I'll be sad to see our neighbours go, it has been good getting to know them. In a sense, that was a gift from Ginger to us, as Ginger's real mum visited him every day, and brought him an evening meal here.

Laura has been away for a few days, she is currently visiting her parents who live in the North Island of New Zealand (Laura's mum had a birthday, bless her). I took her to the Dunedin Airport last Tuesday, and deeply regretted that I had neglected to bring my camera, as I think the airport and the aeroplane, with its twin propellers, would have been of interest to some of you who live in different parts of the globe. The airport terminal has recently been extensively upgraded, and is actually very nice, but I was amused (when thinking blogging thoughts) to watch the passengers walking out of the terminal building, and across open area to where the aeroplane was waiting. As I watched, a happy scene floated into my imagination, it was a picture from a Rupert Bear story, with a colourful party of holiday makers walking across the grass to their waiting biplane, with its wicker seats, cheerful boy pilot, and curvy, but sensible, stewardess.

So, I have been on my own.

Well, not really, in that I have had Feline company and lots of things to do, and still more to do.

have managed to get my hands in the clay, but not nearly as much as I would have hoped to, as things have cropped up. On Saturday, for example, I hired a trailer for the day, picking it up at 10 in the morning, and delivering it back at 6pm. I used it to get a couple of loads of demolition timber from the old Presbyterian church which is having to be pulled down due to severe structural problems. The timber was the thin laths that were under the plaster that covered the interior walls. The demolition people hauled out a pile of it on Friday, and said I was to pick it up if I wanted any. Just two trailer loads was a big job on my own, as the hundreds of lengths of thin timber had to be pulled off the other timber they were joined to and stacked in the trailer, then unloaded and stacked here. There was still a lot more that I could have taken, but the end of the day got there first! So, Saturday came and went, and other days in the week had similar pressing things that kept me mostly from my workshop.

I did manage a few earthenware jugs, and was getting them taller for a given amount of clay than in my last post, and the walls are now an even thickness of a quarter of an inch thick for a 9 to13 inch high jug. I have been playing with throwing and then adding a coil of clay to the taller jugs, which does seem to make them slightly lighter than if I had thrown a 12 or 13 inch jug in one. It does slow the making of them down a lot though.

I made up a quantity of slip and have poured it on three of the leather hard jugs, and brushed it on a fourth. In the past my basic slip has been a 50/50 mix of ball clay and china clay. This time I have done 90 percent ball clay and 10 percent frit 4125. I'm interested to see if the frit will improve the bond between body, slip, and glaze at earthenware temperatures.

I am also trying predominantly ball clay in the hope that it will improve the fit of the slip to the body. My 50/50 brew has worked when brushed on and relatively thin, but has sometimes cracked or fallen off where thicker.

I have been trying finger wipes and also drawing in the wet slip with a stick. I think I prefer the softer look of the finger, but it will all look different again when glazed.

For those of you who are not sure what slip is, it is just clay that has been thinned down with water to a creamy consistency. I have put a white slip over clay that will be a reddish brown colour when it is fired in the kiln.

Thank you to those of you who are following this blog and welcome to Jesse Spaeth, who I see has recently joined up.

I have “discovered” Mark Titchiner recently, having seen photos of his work on the Doug Fitch's “A Devonshire Pottery” blog , he is a wonderful potter who works away in Suffolk in England. I have added a link to Mark Titchiner's web site in my list of potter's web sites that is just below Followers.
Gas Kimishima was another delightful “discovery”. He is a Japanese potter who lives and works in England. Gas has a website called “Anagama”, and I have also placed a link to it near Mark Titchiner's.

It is now nearly 7 in the morning, so I will have to send this off on its journey into the land of blogs. I am without a proof reader this time, and my silly brain has no spell checker...


Linda Starr said...

Hi Peter, the photos of your visiting cats are so wonderful, so sad to see them go. If you are lacking in the cat department, we have just had a barn sale and found a mother and four hungry kittens sequestered away in our barn and ready for new homes. We are now in the process of putting a little fluff on their poor meager bones. I just love the photos of your jug sitting alone in the studio as if an old master still life painted as it sits just so. The slip deco looks relaxed and I will look foward to how they turn out. Hope Laura has a nice visit, the walk to the plane would have been something to see. Hope you make good use of all the lumber you harvested at such a labor to yourself. I am off to check the websites of the potters your referenced. Have a nice potting time to yourself.

Kitty Shepherd said...

Gosh Peter those jugs are beautiful, I look forward to seeing them when fired. The 4 jugs on the drying shelf would make a good post card, no one ever has postcards of pots in progress.

Hannah said...

Shame the cats are off. I know a man with loads if you want some more and so small you could fit them in an envelope and post them from Devon to you quite easily.
e big cat will need his thick fur with that icy wind coming in at Dunedin.

Peter said...

Hi Linda, good to hear from you. Just an update since I wrote the blog this morning. Big Puss and Little Puss have gone to their home in town now, but... their lovely owner has left Ginger with us as she thinks that he will be happier out here. It was a brave thing for her to do, as I know that she is really fond of Ginger, but it is lovely for us. Hopefully Ginger's real mum will make regular visits here and keep in touch with us all. Good for you taking care of the mother cat and her four kittens. Quite a task I should think when they are all hungry like that. Not sure what NZ Immigration would make of 4 kittens and their mum!
There is something "old Masterish" about the photo of the single jug in the studio. The room gets nice late afternoon light in it given by a sleepy sun, its days toil almost done!
I'm hoping that some of the demolition timber that I picked up will go towards firing the jugs. I'm short of good timber at the moment, and I think this might encourage what I have got to manage the final few hundred degrees.

Kitty that is sweet of you. I wish I had your decorating skills to finish off the jugs. I'm one of those hopeless fellows that enjoys getting my hands in the clay, and making the jolly thing, but tends to run out of puff when it comes to that really important bit at the end! I'm hoping that slip decoration and some raw glazing might help. I've never raw glazed a jug of any size yet, but I'm going to have a go. I like the thought of the making and the decorating being all part of a simple fluid process and avoiding being confronted with an army of weary looking bisqued pots to glaze.

We occasionally have made cards of some of the pottery photos, but not sure if I have done one yet of work in progress. It is a great idea. Must do it (I should send you 10 percent of sales for coming up with the idea!).

Hello Hannah, lovely to hear from you. Funny thing was that your name came up in a conversation I had a few days ago with one of the potters in Dunedin that is part of the same Co-op as me. Apparently you visited Riki at his studio in Caversham, Dunedin, when you were in NZ a couple of years or so ago. Anyway, he was really impressed with your work, and enjoyed the visit. The man with loads of cats in Devon wouldn't be Doug would it?! The NZ postal regulations say not to post cash or valuables, but they say nothing about small cats! So it might be all right! By the sound of it I could have a United Nations of cats, Californian Cats, English Cats... where next?

Big Puss had a happy sleep in the sun today. Yes..., we actually saw the sun and, even better, it was warm! Spring is here, plum blossom is out, and spring bulbs are popping up. Yippeeee!

Hannah said...

Ha ha yes I did indeed visit Riki, small world isn't it. I was talking today to a customer of mine who is coming to Christchurch to see the Busking festival next year and we were raving about the wonders of NZ. Hmm, when can I get back I wonder?
The cat man would indeed me Mr F, his catt just had three or four I think, that's to add to the sister of the mother and the mothers first kitten from last year if that makes sense.
They'll be fine in a Jiffy Bag, customs won;t have a clue

Pat - Arkansas said...

I am sorry that Big and Little Puss have left you, especially as Big Puss was really warming up to you, but very happy that Ginger will remain with you. What are artists' studios without a cat???

I greatly admire your pitchers and found the discussion of slip and decorating of much interest.

Peter said...

Hello Hannah,
By all accounts the Busking festival was a fantastic event this year, and I keep hoping to get up there myself to have a look. I guess there will be no mice left in Mr F's part of Devon!

Hello Pat,
Good to hear from you. I often think of you, Arkansas Patti, and Jewels (also from your part of the globe).
It was a bit sad that Big Puss and Little Puss had to leave for their new home in town. Big Puss, as well as being a dear old thing in his own right, also reminded me of a lovely old cat that we had for a while here that was a chocolate coloured Persian.

I had a nice Email to say that Little Puss was happily sitting on a lap in town and making himself at home. Big Puss was still adjusting to the move at that stage, but hopefully will be happy soon.

About an hour before Big Puss and Little Puss went to town, all three cats came to me to sit with me on a seat outside in the sun. Big Puss snuggled right up, Little Puss sat on the arm of the chair, and Ginger pressed up close to me on my other side. It was a really nice moment.

Ginger is enjoying life here, very playful and pleased to be the center of attention. My only concern is to keep his weight under control, as he has been putting it on rather.

I will continue to experiment with pitchers, I love the essential form that they have and the challenges they present.

Christine H S said...

I really enjoyed the puss descriptions, (One of our cats has wheels in the winter and is a skinny minny in the summer) .... and the Dutch Masters jug portrait.

Peter said...

Hello Christine, good to hear from you. I'm starting to wonder if most potters have cats!

I love the image of the cat who has winter wheels and is a "skinny minny" in the summer. I would have thought a pair of skis would be more use in winter though, do you not get snow in Scotland any more with all this global warming!

I did some slip decoration today on the "Dutch Masters Jug". Hope it survives my attempts to further adorn it. It was OK when I last dared to look!