Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sheds, Beginnings, Leaf Impressions, Good-bye Limpy... Hello Ginger!

I have spent a merry day or two in my new shed making tiles.  It is hard to put into words just how nice it is to be working again..., and out there!  There were times when I was building the shed when I wished that I wasn't, and wondered if it all had been a costly mistake, but the shed is a grand place to be and it takes me back to my first enjoyable days of potting where I went on an almost daily basis to a friend of mine, Peter Watson, who was potting in an old stable.

The Stable that became a Potting Shed.  
A water colour that I did at a time when my parents owned the property.

The stable had one of those lovely doors that was in two parts (a stable door in fact!), and you could open just the top half and have a lovely view into the garden where vegetables and flowers grew in profusion under a leafy canopy provided by a large ash tree.  Peter and Judy kept an eccentric gaggle of hens, that were several sizes and colours.  One of them, Grace, was a pretty bantam hen who made up for her diminutive size by having a larger than life personality.  I was amused one day to see her head peering over the side of a largish pottery bowl that was on a top shelf in the stable.  How she managed to get up there I don't know, but she decided the bowl was her nest, and her skill in getting there was the poultry equivalent of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's conquest of  Everest in 1953.  Base camp was the wedging table, a perilous hop may have taken her to Peter's wheel, and then there was the final push, without oxygen, to the shelf many feet above it!

Peter Watson, my teacher and friend.

Potting in the stables was one of those little parts of life that seem for ever bathed in warm sunshine.  My contact with clay and a slow turning wheel was a healing one and brought me some peace and balance in my life, and there was something about that stable and the garden that was part of the magic.  So now I have my own shed, and it is in our garden, and I made tiles for the last two days with the shed doors open wide, and the sunny and chilly clean winter's air bringing with it a feeling of renewal and life. 

I have been making tiles, and using autumn leaves to decorate the tile surface.

Tiles and Autumn Leaves

The level of detail that can be left by the imprint of a leaf is simply staggering.  To really appreciate it, here is an enlargement of part of the tile on the right hand side of the photo above.  I have reversed the tones in the photo so that you can see the detail more clearly, and almost in relief.

Oak Leaves

I find that it is easy to make an impression from a leaf into leather hard clay. 

Hoheria leaves all from the same tree. I could be wrong, but I think that this one is Hoheria Lyallii

I make sure that the clay surface is nice and smooth, and if necessary smooth it with a rubber kidney (that is what the grey thing is in the top part of the photo).  I arrange the leaves on the tile and carefully place a board over the top and push it down with my hands.

I roll over the board with a small roller, this helps attach the leaves to the clay.

After that I remove the board and roll over the clay and the leaves directly with the roller.  This pushes the leaves into the surface of the clay.

If you wish to re-use the leaves on another tile, then you can carefully lift them.  If you don't need the leaves any more they can stay on the clay and they will burn away in the firing.  I like to use a kebab stick to hook under a leaf or stem just to get the lifting started.

I have been adding a simple decorative boarder to these tiles by pressing the kebab stick gently into the clay.  A nice translucent glaze should pool in the lines and go a deeper colour. 

To help the tiles dry flat, I have been putting them in between squares of gib board (plaster board) so that the moisture is removed from the clay evenly from both sides at once.

 Good-bye Mr Limpy!

The good news of the day is that Ginger the cat is very much better.  We were still worried enough about him to make a return visit to the vet today.  He had been hardly using his painful front leg, and the whole sorry saga had been dragging on for two weeks or so.  The vet, who is lovely and very good with him, gave him a very thorough examination, and really tested all the joints of both his front legs and shoulders.  His little legs were rotated through their full movement, and the foot of his bad leg checked one pad and claw at a time. His damaged leg was considerably weaker than his good one, but it was very reassuring to see him quite definitely improved from the visit before where he was almost unmanageable at times due to the pain. 

A little later in the day we saw him trotting comfortably on all four legs again, and he has been right ever since.  I think all the rotating and moving of his joints may have popped something back into place, or freed something up.  It is wonderful to have seen the departure of Mr Limpy, and the return of our old friend Ginger!


cookingwithgas said...

hello tomorrow!
I two use the sandwich method of drying tiles. I have many different sizes of the plaster board. Although I am not giving up my slab roller.
I think if I had to hand roll all the tiles I might give it up.
Love the leaves and it is HOT here!
from, yesterday.

Peter said...

Hi Meredith,
According to Google... it's about 6.20AM in your part of the world and it is... um,... today, I think??? I find all this date line thing soooo confusing! It is about 10.20PM here so it is time to attempt a few hours of sleep.. Not easy to do with a restless Nigella Stopit who had the funny idea last night at 3AM that it was time for running up and down and up and down chasing things and playing games! Anyway, lovely to hear from you and it is interesting that you are using plaster board too. This is the first time I have used it, and it seems to be going really well thus far..
Hope you have a lovely day, and it is a little less HOT!
P :)

Arkansas Patti said...

I really liked your painting of the stable where it all started. I too love those types of doors.
Had to laugh about the chicken in the bowl.
Wonderful news about Ginger. Cats have amazing healing powers.

Linda Starr said...

That's a super water color Peter, perhaps you'll have a show one day with your pots in front of some of your paintings, I'd love to see them combined somehow. I use my leaves in much the same way as you, pressing them in and if some stems are too thick I cut them out. I love the hoheria, it's fun to use unusual leaves I think.

Tracey Broome said...

I wish you lived closer, I would PAY you to give me water color classes!!!
Again, I have to ask, why aren't you writing and illustrating books. I could just see you as a famous children's book writer!! Enjoyed this post so much, I was almost there :)

Angie said...

I love that leaf patern idea brilliant ...but I was wondering if you could use the stamps we crafters use ...or would the tile distort as one pressed in the stamp . I used them on Fymo once and it very slightly did ...but then I'm heavey handed lol ...cant wait to see them all fired and glazed. xx

Armelle said...

Nice post Peter, it seems very nice for you to work in your shed, and to remember your teacher and friend. Have you got some time to paint, yet ? You should, I should, Catherine White makes both painting, drawing, potting, just a link to her website :
It's a good idea to use plaster on both side of the tiles, thank you for the tutoring.
Glad to know Ginger is better, I come from the market place, few sales for everyone, outside air is tiring, I have to unload my bisque from the kiln.
Best wishes to all

ang walford said...

sounds like the shed is working a treat peter you've been so productive!!

John said...

Hey! That's OUR painting, Peter! One of our cherished favorites too.
It hangs on the wall opposite our easy chairs, and - yes, it does bring back memories of living in an 1890's home, with its tranquil atmosphere.
I guess you need as many lives as a cat to fully explore all your multifarious talents, so it's appropriate that you have two owning you!

Peter said...

Dear All,
Thank you very much for your comments which I have enjoyed reading, as always it is really nice to hear from you. Sorry not to reply sooner, but have spent today (Saturday) upended in my glaze bucket... doing glaze tests for a firing that I'll get on the way tomorrow. It is now just after 10pm, so I am going to have to cut this a bit short and not reply individually to everyone as it will be another busy day tomorrow.

Regarding my painting, thanks for the kind comments, I haven't really done any painting for a few years now, potting has taken over. Why that has happened is quite complicated..., time and the organization of it, is part of it, but there are other deeper things involved too...

Angie, regarding Stamping and stamps for clay. Clay is wonderful stuff! Clay starts off very squishy, and then it gets progressively firmer as it dries! The nice thing about this is that there are times when it will let you do all sorts of things to it if you pick the right moment! I am sure that the stamps that are used for stamping would be usable at some stage in the process, and the tile can be well supported, or even pushed back into shape if it gets distorted when pressing things into it.

Peter said...

I just had a look at some old posts on Tracey's site, and came across this lovely poem ... I think it does speak to me of some of the choices and changes in direction that I have taken in life... so here it is. Thanks Tracey, and thanks Robert Frost!
P :)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Hannah said...

Hey Peter,
Your new shed looks just the ticket. I like the tiles they will be great with a runny glaze as you say.
best wishes,

Peter said...

Hi Hannah,
I'm getting quite fond of the new shed, it seems much warmer than our brick built home.... even without heating, so we may end up camping in my little hut through the worst of the winter like explorers in Scott Base! I've bisque fired the tiles overnight so hope to glaze some towards the end of the week..... "the proof of the pudding" and all that! P :)