Thursday, September 19, 2013


A 1.5 kg porcelain vase.
I have been having short sessions on the wheel over the last few weeks. The first time I tried to work in the studio, I realised that it was too soon, as I found clay preparation, even of a 2 kg lump of clay, was simply too much to ask of my back. That was a hard thing to learn at the time, and I just had to ignore the studio for a further couple of weeks. I tried again when I felt stronger, and found I could manage a one hour session in the studio, where I prepared a small quantity of clay and threw one or two very small pots on the wheel. Since then I have slowly been able to increase the quantity of clay that I work with, and the time that I spend in the studio. I now can comfortably throw a 1.5 kg lump of clay on the wheel, and make 3 or 4 things in a session, before needing a long break, or to do something else for the rest of the day.

Small pots drying. Below the pots a crop of pyrometric cones all prepared and waiting for future firings.

It was difficult coming back to clay work after such a long time away, and a lot of my initial attempts ended up as scrap. Being limited to making so few pots at a time also was a problem, as it is much easier to sort out technical issues by working on a series of a dozen or so pots, than having to stop after two pots and come back a day or two later, but after a few weeks of this, it was nice to find a growing collection of new pots on my drying shelves. 

My first attempts were in stoneware, but then I moved to porcelain. I find that porcelain is easier to throw than my stoneware, and I can throw thinner, and make pots that are probably 20 percent larger out of the same weight of clay. The porcelain will also suite my crystalline glazed work.

Most of my work has been with just 1 kg of clay, but I have been able to increase this to 1.5 kg the last two sessions that I worked in the studio, and this makes a pot of a much better size for me.

I tried throwing standing up at the electric wheel, but it felt like I was creating other stresses in my spine working that way, and I have found that the Leach style kick wheel is more comfortable. The seat on the Leach wheel is slightly higher at the back than at the front, and this does make it easier to keep a better posture when working. Sitting on a flat seat, there is a great tendency (in this potter) to slouch over the wheel. The Leach wheel has a certain dignity about it, and I always think that I should wear a cloth cap, tweed jacket and tie when working on it!

A potter from Israel at the Leach style wheel.

Speaking of the Leach wheel reminds me that we had a delightful visit to our gallery from a potter and his family from Israel recently. The potter's eyes lit up at the sight of my Leach style wheel, and he had a try of it, evidently he had always wanted to try one, but had never had the chance before. It was lovely to see the great pleasure that he had working on it.

A pair of welcome swallows are on the dead branch of wood in the foreground,  

I went for a walk to the lagoon yesterday, and took some photos. I had not taken the camera there for a few weeks, and I noticed a difference almost straight away. The birds had Spring Fever! Most were in pairs, and some were quite noisy and aggressive to interlopers. A bit far away I know, but I was pleased to photograph a pair of welcome swallows as mostly these birds are on the wing moving at speed.

A yellowhammer, playing injured!
I had walked a short way down the track when I saw a little bird hopping along in front of me. When I stopped, the bird would stop. And when I moved, it would make a point of waiting for a second or two for me to get closer, then it would dart away again, safely out of reach, but near enough to attract my attention. I realised that the brave little thing was trying to divert me from discovering its nest.

The lagoon water was glassy and almost still. I say "glassy", but it had a silvery look to it that was probably closer to light on certain kinds of polythene or plastic ("glassy" sounds more romantic somehow!). Anyway, that silvery look reminded me of a series of paintings that the French Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley made of a flood at Port Marly. You might like to track down Sisley's Port Marly paintings with a Google search if you have not seen them before. (Here is a link to Alfred Sisley on Wikipedia. There is one of his Port Marly paintings on the wiki page). I think Sisley would have made a splendid job of painting the lagoon.

As I said, the birds had "Spring Fever". This was OK if they were paired off, but became a problem if a third bird had "intentions".

I was really pleased to capture these pied stilts having an altercation. Every time pied stilt number 3 would move in on the pair, there would be a sudden burst of activity that was over in about 2 seconds. After this had happened a few times, I waited with my finger poised over the camera button, and was really pleased with the result!

A black swan was keeping guard over its nest. I liked the "decoration" of feathers on the bush beside it.

Paradise Shelducks in the foreground.

The headland was a fine sight yesterday. The tide was almost full, and the sea ruffled with a breeze.

I met a friend and her dog out when I was walking. This is a 6 year old greyhound. Retired from racing, but still possessing a most impressive turn of speed.

Spring is here at last, and Laura took this photo of one of the beautiful daffodils that is out in bloom at the moment. The yellow against the blue sky looks full of hope and promise!


srgb said...

Hi Peter
The photos of your local area always make me want to pack up in Auckland and move south, we had a few days in Whakatane recently and wanted to move there too.
Yes our city fathers have plans and say we will be ready, now what about Russell Coults coming back to Team NZ.
Good to see you are getting back to the wheel, do you feel a lifting of spirit?

Anna said...

it must be hard to take little steps but happy for you to be getting there. Nice to have some spring here in NSW too.

smartcat said...

Welcome back to the world of clay! Even though your time is limited, it must feel so good to have your hands in clay again.

Here summer is winding down....hopefully with a long Indian Summer!

Melissa Rohrer said...

So glad to hear of your progress! Still enjoying your photos- some of those birds look like they're dancing in air.

Michèle Hastings said...

Yay for Clay!

Arkansas Patti said...

Yea!!!! You are back at the wheel even if it is for a limited amount of time. Progress is progress and must be applauded.
I so miss seeing your crystalline glazes.
Those brave birds that offer themselves to divert danger from their nest are amazing.
LOVED the face on shot of the greyhound. I used to have one and they are marvelous dogs. They do like cats however--as snacks.

Peter said...

Hello Bob,
Good to hear from you. Do I detect a desire to leave the city and head for the hills or the wide open spaces?! I don't really know Whakatane, but I am quietly in love with the landscape and the coastal environment down here. I particularly like it here in Spring and Autumn. Lovely quality to the light, and a freshness to the air.

Mmmm, our Russell may be job hunting soon!

Getting back to the wheel again does definitely lift the spirit. Even short times there are of great benefit.

Hi Anna,
Glad that spring has reached you in NSW.
I am starting to realise the value of "little steps". Sometimes they can seem frustrating, but being able to achieve a series of small victories adds up to a giant stride for the self esteem!

Hi Suzi,
Definitely good to have the hands in clay again and a cause for some celebration!

Hi Melissa,
Glad you are enjoying the photos. I know what you mean about the birds "dancing in air". The action was happening so quickly that it was hard to see what was going on when the birds were suddenly rising into the air. It was very exciting to put the photos on the computer and see what the camera had captured. The images make me think about ways of representing them in sculpture.

Hi Michèle,
Yay indeed! :))) (extra big smile!!)

Hi Patti,
I'm hoping to do a crystalline glaze firing next week, so more crystals should appear on my pages soon!

Birds are so brave around nesting time. I almost began to feel sorry for our cat one year, as some birds took to dive bombing it and swearing at it in most disgusting bird language, when ever they saw the cat trying to have a peaceful sunbathe. They thought the cat had evil thoughts about their nest, but the cat just wanted peace and quiet!

Mmmm... beware of snacking greyhounds, if you are a cat! Quite a thought!

Christine said...

Great news Peter! It's been a while, but Spring and a fresh start does sound like they are round the corner round the corner. That photo of the black stilts having a fluttering fight is wonderful. Here we are well into Autumn with the biggest crop of wild fruit, brambles and the like I have ever seen.

Peter said...

Hello Christine,
Good to hear from you. Ahh, Autumn harvest! My grandmother made wonderful blackberry and apple pie at that season of the year, and I have fond memories of picking blackberries with her! I never tire of watching the black stilts at the lagoon.

angela walford said...

be well seems we take our time to create for granted,. I have certainly taken great joy over the last week having studio time, it is such a pleasure and a joy to emerse into the clay space : )

smartcat said...

P.S. I think a photo of you in suit (with waistcoat please) tie (I think a bow tie would be appropriate) and cap at the Leach Wheel would be great for publicity, and such!

Peter said...

Gidday Angela,
Lovely to hear from you. It is easy to take things for granted until there is a shake up of some kind. I certainly have more joy now working with clay, than I did just prior to the accident! I guess that we should be thankful for every day that we have.., and not just with clay. Hard to remember though when under pressure and worrying about deadlines!

Ha, ha, Suzi Smartcat, I will see what I can do! I wonder if there is a society of Ancient Leaches somewhere? Dressed up like that, I would fit in really nicely!

Amy said...

Haven't checked the blog in a week or so and I've been missing out. SO HAPPY for you that you're back at the wheel, making gorgeous pots, as usual. That is just simply wonderful. Now, I need to go create a post! Thanks for sharing the wonderful news, Peter.

Peter said...

Lovely to hear from you Amy. I celebrated Saturday morning by making another pot first thing in the day. Really fun to be back making things again!

Armelle Léon said...

How nice you are able to go back to the wheel, Peter. Your post is very nice, and the photos of the birds are stunning. I took a glimpse to the link about Sisley, his paintings are really nice, I lived very near the places he paints, Louveciennes, Marly, La Celle-St-Cloud, memories. I will have another suregry soon, a big calcium stone in my shoulder will be throw away, yeah, so I could be able to go back to the clay :-)
Best wishes to all

cookingwithgas said...

Oh it's good to see that you are back to clay.
I love your pictures.
Spring, and here we are staring at fall.

Peter said...

Bonjour Armelle,
Good to hear from you. How interesting that you lived near where Sisley painted, I wonder how much the landscape has changed since he was painting there?

I am pleased that you are able to get surgery for your shoulder, and I do hope that you recover quickly and are able to work with clay again. It will be so good to be free from pain!

Best Wishes to you and Yves, P L & NS

Hi Meredith,
Good to hear from you. It is at this time of year that we do feel at opposite ends of the world! With us "springing" and you "falling", I am reminded of the see-saws that I played on as a child, with one end going up as the other goes down!

Sue said...

Hi Peter,
Aahh spring. Its the best.
I'm loving the photos of the birds, how amazing to catch them in the air like that! They're beautiful.

And its grand to know you're able to 'throw some clay' and make some pots.
We'll be down your way on October 2nd for a couple of days, then away to Gore and back again to Waikouaiti for another couple of days the following week.
I look forward to seeing you and Laura. I believe Rhonda has something planned to get us all together. See you then.


Peter said...

Hello There Sue,
It will be fun to get together with everyone in October, I suspect that karaoke will be part of what is planned.., start warming those vocal chords!! Tra, laa, laaa, tiddle-deeeee!

Rhonda said...

Yes Peter ,a musical evening it will be. Have you told your blog followers, you play the ukelele? It is great to see you back potting ,after the back injury. I must say, what lovely comments from your fellow bloggers from so far away. Rhonda.

Peter said...

Helloooo Rhonda,
Good to hear from you. We live so close we should invest in two tin cans and a long length of string to assist communication!
I am really thankful for my blogging friends!

Sue said...

Yes ukelele by request, please.

Peter said...

Sue, how could I refuse... I'm Tuning up... ! :) P.

Sue said...

Yay! If you happened to watch 'NZ's got talent' on Sunday evening you would've seen a young boy with much talent playing a uke in a way I've not heard one being played before. It was truly brilliant.
You may be able to watch it on demand. Such entertainment.

See you Thursday.