Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It is Good to Care. Happy New Year!

One bowl out of a recent firing was a treasure. Same glaze as others in the kiln, but this one was beautifully spotted.
Here is the inside of the same bowl.
Yesterday I went for a walk before I started work, it was something that I needed to do.  My head was crowded with worrying thoughts and negativities that would have sat on my shoulders and made my time in the studio a very difficult one.  Walking is good, the focus shifts from inside the head and guts, to a world outside.  A new rhythm is established by the 1-2, 1-2 of feet on footpath and road edge.  After 10 minutes or so it is possible to see again over boundaries and walls, to hills and places far away.

I like to do 3 kilometres on my morning walk.  It is not very far, but I find it sufficient to make a difference, and I can do it in about half an hour if I walk reasonably quickly, or a little longer if I look around me more.

About half way around my walk, I saw a tiny grey bump on the road, about the size of a stone.  As I neared it, I saw that the bump was in fact a small bird.  The bird was sitting in a puddle of stuff that it had excreted, and it sat at an odd angle.  I suspected that the poor thing had been killed by a car and was dead... However, it moved its head as I came near.  Knowing that it was only a matter of time before it was in fact hit by a car, I bent down and carefully surrounded it with my hands.  It was a juvenile sparrow, and very, very small as I lifted it to inspect it. The sparrow gripped my finger with one of its tiny skeletal feet, and I felt its warmth.  And life.

I examined it.  Both wings seemed OK, and there was some strength in its legs, but it was extremely messy around its vent and the bird had a disturbing tendency to lull sideways.  I looked around for a suitable place to put it so that its parents would find it, but as I looked I realised that the bird was simply not strong enough to be able to sit in a bush without falling out.  There was something definitely wrong with it.

What to do?  Well, there were three options:
(1) put it in the long grass at the side of the road and "let nature take its course",
(2) kill it cleanly and quickly (somehow!), or

... I carried it home in my hand and rather suspected that it would quietly die as I walked.  The bird seemed content with this odd form of transport, and snuggled into the warmth of my palm like it was in a centrally heated nest.

This moment of caring for a little warm bundle of feathers.  The grip of its tiny feet.  My large hands making a gentle nest for this life.

I kept the bird at home for a few hours.  After giving it peace and quiet I tried feeding it, on several occasions, but it showed no interest at all in taking food.  Carefully observing the little fellow over time, I could see that there was something badly wrong.  In the early afternoon I took the bird to the local vet to have its life ended humanely.

I think that it is good to care about something or someone.  It is also good to care about what we make with our hands. It makes life richer.  

I am really behind again with this blog.  I have been very busy since I wrote last.  We took Christmas Day as a holiday, but I was working again the next day, Boxing Day, making mugs and cups.  I have a lot of stock to make as, on January 26 and 27 I will be demonstrating potting at the Lawrence Summer Arts Festival.  I will be working at my potter's wheel, and Laura will be looking after sales.  Laura will have some of her paintings there.

A few days after Christmas, we received a parcel from Belle-Île-en-Mer, which is an island off the coast of Brittany, France.

Nigella Stopit loves parcels!
For quite some time I have been enjoying reading the blog of Armelle.  Armelle lives on the Beautiful-Island-in-the-Sea, and makes lovely pottery and also paints.  Armelle very kindly sent us two of her lovely iron red tea bowls and little chun blue tiles to rest chopsticks on.  The glazes are special to us as we have corresponded about iron reds and chun blues.  To have something that Armelle has made on her little island on the other side of the world, is a real treasure.

All the way from France, pottery by Armelle.  
How lucky we are to be able to make friends with people from all parts of the world through the blog, and how lovely it is to actually hold in our hands something that they have made!

At the same time as making new work and completing a couple of commissions, I have been doing a lot of glaze testing, and refining of glazes.  I must say that I do like cone 10 glazes.  Many potters have abandoned this high temperature of around 1280 Centigrade or 2336 Fahrenheit, in favour of cone 6 glazes that mature at a significantly cooler temperature that causes less wear and tear on kilns and lower power bills.  Very Sensible of them.... But..... there is something about cone 10!  I have made particular progress with firing iron reds at this temperature, and I have some interesting blue and green glazes coming on, and an elusive pink!

Yarn organizer with a new blue glaze.

As I make progress I will continue to add things to my High Fire Glaze page  that you will find a tab for just under the header of this blog.

Well, I must go and pull some more pots out of the kiln.  Still lots and lots to talk about... but work is calling!!

And here is a peep into the kiln that I am about to unload!

First pot from the kiln!

Best Wishes for the New Year,

Peter & Laura


Linda Starr said...

I hate to see critters suffering and do my best to care for them I am sure if you had left the little guy there you wouldn't have been able to forget about him I know I wouldn't love that first bowl, ohata kaki ? the spots are wonderful.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Oh, I do love that bowl, and what's in the kiln is most intriguing. What a splendid color for the other teapot, the soft robin's egg blue?() I, too, love meeting folks from all around the globe. Such beautiful people. I really enjoyed this post. Your story of the bird is so very touching and soulful...the potter's hands....

Love your cat's name!

cookingwithgas said...

Hi Peter and Happy New year and New thoughts. I too find it hard to worry and walk- so walking is a must for a worried mind.
I am touched by your bird story and so happy that you gave the bird some comfort. I found a poor sick kitten once while walking and took it in. It had about 10 good days before we had to have it put down. So sad but for the best.
Lovely pots there- just lovely.

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
The iron red recipe is Baileys Red, which I find works well most of the time. This time it was fantastic! I could get a bit addicted to iron reds!

Hi Teresa,
I will post some more photos of some of the other work that was in the kiln. All 3 teapots came out well, and I had some really nice cups in this firing. The "soft robin's egg blue" is really more green than blue in reality, and a bit darker than it appears in the photo of the kiln. Digital cameras in below average light are funny things!!

Happy New Year to you too Meredith, from what everyone is commenting, I suspect that potters are caring, nurturing characters! Thank you for your encouragement.

gz said...

A good New Year to you.
To be trusted by any bird is a huge honour.
That red is beautiful- I use Oldrich Asenbryl's recipe- but I'm sure it is similar, so is the glaze whether oxidised or reduced.

Hope you don't take off in these winds..we should be a little cooler tomorrow, but the sunset was just a smoggy smudge today. To think that NSW in Oz is 20 degrees hotter than us.....

Peter said...

Happy New Year Gwynneth,
Good to hear from you. I will look up the recipe that you mention.

That the glaze is similar in oxidation or reduction confirms the science behind iron red glazes, that the "important" part of the firing where the red colour is developed is in the cooling, between 900 and 980 degrees Centigrade (1652-1796 F) just before the glaze becomes solid again. (Most kilns that had been reduction firing would be oxidizing at that point.) It would seem that iron glazes such as these go into reduction by themselves at high temperatures, but re-oxidise just before they set. The lovely red, grey and green colours in this bowl show that process "frozen" at a point where it is incomplete.

Australia, seeing temperatures in some parts climb above 50 degrees C (122 F)is appalling. We can't stop thinking of the people (and wildlife) over there that are overtaken by all this. I remember two or three years ago at a similar time of year our sky down here coloured with the smoke of the Australian fires, and the sun slightly dim, even in the middle of the day.

angela walford said...

happy new year peter hope you had a lovely time over chrissy...what a walk you had,at least the sweet lilbird had your hands cradling her. you know i have tinkered with the cone 6 range but just love that cone 9-10 look and feel too, dont think I could ever move away from it..

Peter said...

Gidday Ange,
Happy New Year to you too. Thinking of you at this time with the bush fires and extreme heat. I think the only place for really high temperatures is in the kiln! Cone 9 - 10 really does have something (I know that the ardent cone 6ers would disagree passionately!!). Some parts of my wood fired kiln would get lots hotter than cone 10 when doing a cone 10 firing (probably cone 12+), and I remember a strange violet colour creeping into a Nuka glaze only when it got really hot. One thing I think is a characteristic of the hot firings is the nature of the bond that is made between glaze and the body (clay) of the pot, the clay itself merging into the glaze. Wonderful stuff!

Astrid Raats said...

What a beautiful story Peter. I had a similar experience last summer with a baby hedgehog we found baking in the sun at Victory Beach, we tried to save him but he was too soon from the nest.

Ralph and I saw some of your work yesterday at the Stuart St Potters Co-op. There is a gorgeous jug we are tempted to buy. I also loved your watercolour painting!

Happy New year Peter and Laura

Angie said...

Great post ...a little of everything to enjoy.
I have tried to help birds in the past with no success ...only once did a sparrow revive and fly off happily... I was over the moon.

Peter said...

Hi Astrid,
Lovely to hear from you, thank you for your kind words regarding my work at the Co-op. Nice that you tried to help the hedgehog, they are wonderful wee creatures (I think there is someone in this area that looks after sick and injured hedgehogs).

Hi Angie,
I like that you "were over the moon" when your sparrow revived and flew off. I have a marvellous mental image of the both of you fluttering away merrily in low earth orbit!
Mmmm, it is a bit of a gamble with birds, we have had some successes, but more have ended a little sadly! I guess that the largest bird we had quietly pass away in the comfort of our kitchen was a juvenile black backed gull that had probably eaten a plastic bag. It is good to try though.

Jill Hodgson said...

A good brisk walk does work wonders to clear the mind, I agree. Best therapy... and it's free!

It's vey interesting to get a more informative glimpse into the esoteric world of the potter. I'm always looking through windows at busy ceramicists and people sitting at wheels wherever I take classes or rent studio spaces. It seems such an absorbing occupation, so skillful and yet with an element of surprise. I like the shot inside the kiln.

I'm a bit conflicted about the bird, knowing, sadly, that I'm the sort of blighter who would be too concerned about germs to pick him up from his little puddle of excrement. Oh dear oh dear :( You're right, it's good to care. Maybe I should walk with a pair of latex gloves in my pocket from now on, just in case I'm tested and found wanting!

Peter said...

Hi Jill,

I enjoyed your comment, and quite agree that a pair of latex gloves would be a most excellent thing to have at all times... I too am not great about little puddles of unpleasant matter! However,the feel of the little fellow's feet on my finger, and how quickly he settled into my hands made me forget my squeamishness.

Potter's studios are exciting places, there is a delightful mix of engineering, art, science, physical hard work, and gentle care and coaxing, all under one roof! I like the "esoteric world" very much indeed!

Armelle Léon Bitterolf said...

Hi Petter,
All my apologies for this late comment on your post. Your Baileys red is especially beautiful and the story of this little bird very touching.
I did read your last post and I really like the beautiful creamy white on your mugs, I like these mugs. But I am so sad to know that it's was so difficult for you. Both with the warmness and the sales.
Yves and I are back home after one month holidays, with sun and hot weather, after 35 hours of travel.
It's raining since 24 hour now, what a contrast !!!
Best wishes for Laura, you and the four legs company

Peter said...

Bonjour Armelle,
Lovely to hear from you, no apologies needed. Good that you both have been able to enjoy some sunshine whilst you were away on your holiday, but the rain and winter cold of home will be a contrast!
I am about to go and sit in a tent in the sun for the day at Palmerston, so I must away now. Best wishes to you all, P L NS & G