Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More of the Morrie Minor And Puketapu Tea Pots

Some of you said that you enjoyed seeing the photo of the Blue Morris Minor in my previous post. To give you a real treat, here are four photos of our friend James the Chairmaker departing for his home in Lawrence aboard the his trusty Mildred, his blue pride and joy.

Quite some time ago I was commissioned to make a very special tea pot for someone. The real challenge was that the teapot had to in some way depict a hill that is near Palmerston. The hill is called Puketapu, which means sacred hill in Maori. Palmerston is a village that is about a ten minute drive North of us.

Puketapu taken through our messy windscreen one evening.

Puketapu, the hill, is conical, and has a monument on top. The monument is not commemorating something from Maori history, but is a memorial to Sir John McKenzie, a politician who died in 1901, you can read all about him if you follow the link.

I have taken ages to really get started on this commission, the challenge of depicting Puketapu has meant that I have known that it would take a lot of time to sort out, and my time has been rather broken up and pressured over the last considerable while. Now that my studio is organized enough to actually be a place of work again, I have thrown my efforts into getting the teapot done.

On Sunday I made about one dozen teapot bodies of various shapes and sizes. It was a hard slog at first, and I nearly gave up at 4pm due to tiredness and lack of success.

It is difficult working with ideas that don't quite reveal themselves. You just have to keep on and on and on in the hope that something will become clear.

These were some of the things that didn't work out, and trimmings from things that did.

It is a grand looking sculpture, and I should have fired it, rather than reclaiming it.

I kept going, and my last two hours at the wheel, after 4pm, were the most profitable of the day. On Monday I made spouts and lids. On Tuesday I put the handles on.

Teapot with rather scorpion like thrown handle! A bit scary this! Basalt dust is sieved onto the wet slip.

For much of the first day, I had been chasing a wide bottomed teapot shape, with the thought that I could give a feeling of the hill with its monument on top in the profile of the pot.

Teapot with powdered schist rock and copper carbonate over wet slip. Handle looks a bit apologetic. Maybe it would be better turned into an aeroplane rudder!

I got fairly close sometimes, but had problems as soon as a handle was brought into the equation. The handle, which had to make the teapot usable, often destroyed the hill form.

Teapot with schist rock and copper carbonate powder over slip. I quite like the handle on this one.

I even tried a basic slip decoration depiction of the hill on the side of a pot.

Humm, a bit like the circus has come to town! Puketapu shown as slip decoration. Might be OK when glazed over.

Happily, the one that worked best when I threw it on the wheel, also turned out to be the one that my client really liked when she saw it. I was so pleased by this, as I really like the pot too. It is unfussy and the little handle up front that supplements the main handle should make it reasonably easy to use.

I really like this one, it is a simple unadorned shape, that does feel a bit like the hill.

Once we had sorted out the teapot for the commission, I decorated the rest of the pots without thought of Puketapu, and just enjoyed myself.

The reddish brown is powdered schist rock.

Sadly, this teapot developed cracks some time after slipping it near where the upper part of the handle joins the body. The handle couldn't stand the amount expansion that the water from the slip caused. The handle was probably too dry for the slip. Hope the other ones don't follow suit tonight!

I hope to make some more pots tomorrow like the one that my client wants. These will be insurance, as there are still many things that can go wrong between now and the time the pot comes out of the kiln.

Here are the two pots that I showed in the last post. Now both have a coat of slip on. Glaze will go on top of this.

We had a pleasant visit from my parents on Monday and on Tuesday as they were passing by our door. It was good to catch up.

Notice how spring like things are looking in the photo of mum and dad. The photo was taken on the first day of spring. Snow to low levels is forecast for tonight, and it feels like it out there now too!

Ah well, time for bed, lots more work to do tomorrow!


Arkansas Patti said...

Thanks Peter for the Morris visit. I really had a lot of fun in that little car.
Boy, I can't imagine the pressure to try to reach inside a customer's mind to please them. Think you did a wonderful job and love all those that you or they rejected, even the circus pot.
I must say, I really did like your refuse pile as a sculpture. That needs to be fired if not too late.
So glad you had a nice visit with your parents. I see Ginger has become part of the family gatherings.

Angie said...

Loved your tea pots but I think the commision one was the most practical and it would be great keeping warm on a range but I would have loved to see some sort of slip work on it. I agree about the 'sculpture' ... could have called it Potters Lot !!

Pat - Arkansas said...

You really got creative while working on the commission. All lovely. Sorry the handle cracked on the one. The agreed upon design is truly lovely.

Thanks for the update photo on your 20" vase. I'll be looking for a photo of the end result.

Linda Starr said...

Your teapots are all so beautiful. I am not sure I could pick one, but I think the last does fit the commission best. I like what you are doing sprinkling basalt into the slip. What effect does he basalt dust do?

I am curious - why do you slip and then cover with a glaze over the top of the slip?

I agree the sculpture would have been wonderful fired.

I rather like the scorpion teapot and the one following the scorpion teapot. the latter has an almost Asian feel to it. I really like the last pot too, very fluid with the style and the deco.

You do wonderful work Peter. Your parents look sweet posing there with Ginger.

Peter said...

Hi Patti,
Glad you enjoyed the Morris photos, I thought you might. It is a very interesting process trying to make a commissioned piece of work for someone. Every situation is unique, as are people, and some more stressful than others. I am happy to report that the person I am making the teapot for is absolutely delightful, and the time with them is very special. The best commissions are ones where the process is like a shared treasure hunt, with both the client and myself making discoveries. Sadly I foolishly recycled the clay from the refuse pile. I'm kicking myself, as it did look great!

Hello Angie, lovely to hear from you. I agree though that it would be nice to do a teapot like that with slip, and..., the good news is that I will! I have been making the necessary parts on the wheel today to make some more teapots to a similar design, partly as insurance in case something goes wrong with the commissioned one, but also because it is nice to further explore the form and find other ways to decorate it. So slip will be one option. The teapot that my client wants that has no slip on it will have a shino glaze. The shino glaze that I use can be really exciting in the wood fired kiln as it picks up the mark of the flame on it, and gets freckles from the wood ash, and iron spots from iron oxide migrating through the glaze surface from the clay underneath.

Hello Pat,
There is nothing like a bit of pressure and a looming deadline to make one creative! I find myself working towards two kiln firings now, one for the stoneware teapots and what ever 'friends' I can come up with for them, and the other firing for my earthenware pots, such as the 20 inch one. Hope I have enough wood!

Hi Linda,
I am experimenting with the slip and basalt. I am hoping that the basalt will speckle through the glaze that will go over the top of it.

Good question about why slip then cover with glaze over the top! The clay I use will be quite a toasty colour fired in reduction, and fairly dark, putting a white slip over will give quite a lot of tonal variation between slipped and unslipped areas. The slip will also change the amount of iron that will migrate through the glaze. The net result should be that the glaze over the top of all that should vary in tone to some degree, depending on how translucent it is. Where I have sprinkled basalt, schist rock, or copper into the slip, this should have a more dramatic effect on what ever goes over the top of it..... We shall have to see!

The scorpion pot has possibilities. I think it would look better with the handle (tail) just a bit slimmer. It is one of the teapots that I think I should do more of in order to refine the form more, and also make sure that it is a practical design to use.

Thank you all for your comments and questions, I really appreciate them. Off to bed now, a big day tomorrow throwing lids, spouts, and assembling more teapots. Also an open studio weekend to prepare for!

Angie said...

Just poped back to say thanks for visiting my blog ...your comment about the TV made me smile as ,prior to Blogging ,I was addicted to TV Soaps.

I once had a go at potting about 40 years ago so I understand some of what you talk about. I did it for 6 months but I just could not get to grips with the wheel good at centering. So enjoy seeing your work.

Peter said...

Thanks for that Angie. How interesting that you have had a go at potting. It is sad about the centering problem though, I think there are a lot of people out there with similar off putting experiences regarding that. Some time I would like to post a series of photos showing centering, as I think so many people find it difficult and it need not be with the right technique. It would be nice to be able to help people over that hurdle. Maybe we could encourage you back to the wheel again!

Anonymous said...

Cool post. Love the tea pots, not sure I would do that commission but the process was fasinating. Can;t wait to see glazes pieces! Love the tall vase that looks girly with a statement!

Peter said...

Hi MTN Mama,
Really nice to hear from you, glad you enjoyed the post. I've had a good day today assembling 8 more teapots. I do enjoy doing them, and the commission has been a good motivator to get me started on more of them. I should be glaze firing them in two to three weeks time.