Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Getting Stuff Done in time for Christmas!

Laura has been making painted wooden Christmas decorations.

We are intending to actually celebrate Christmas this year..., and hopefully, on Christmas Eve I will be transformed, from aged, tired potter into a wise, welcoming and jovial member of the human race! This happy state may only last a few hours, or even a day, but is unlikely to rival the 6 months free of wrinkles and apparent youth promised by a Botox injection!

Whilst we are still on the subject of transformation and Christmas, there is a rather lovely legend that animals talk in the middle of Christmas night. I remember hearing this when I was a child, and attempting to stay awake as long as I could, just in case the family cat, or dog, or a tadpole, or whatever we had at the time, could suddenly enter into deep and meaningful dialogue!

Some of us hardly need the magic of Christmas night to supply the ability to converse. Lately Nigella Stopit has become more talkative... rather verbose in fact, in "Cat", anyway. She is the most linguistically gifted cat that we have had so far, and has a meow for almost every occasion. She has a way of injecting emotion into this simple sound.

...There can be a most plaintive and pathetic "meee-eew", like a little kitten who has been cast adrift in a sad, sad world by a neglectful and cruel parent.

...There can be a series of  assertive, and loud "Meeows", when she finds a door shut, that really must be opened.

...And she can also manage a series of sounds that begin with "W".
For example, I once had a charming conversation with her about her taste in cat food. It was tea time, and her best pottery bowl was brought to her for her inspection. The question was put... "Would you care for some smoked salmon, or tuna?" "Waaow" was the response. "But, my dear cat, whaling is not permitted in New Zealand waters. How about some tuna?" "Waaow!"  She was most emphatic about that!

Nigella has also mastered the letter B. Several of her words begin with a B, sometimes short, and other times rolled with a Brr sound. "Brrurp", "Brrurp".... being typical of words uttered whilst rubbing the head on the leg of someone who is about to open the fridge door.

Probably her finest vocal accomplishment is operatic in its scope. No Wagnerian soprano could compete with the height, depth, volume, and courageous physicality of her performance when travelling to the vet in our van!

As parents of such a gifted 3 year old wonder-child we should be enrolling her in a special school, and putting flash cards beside her food bowl with simple sentences for her to memorise, such as pithy sayings of Nietzsche and Einstein.

I fear that little NS is getting a little round. Rather in the footsteps of a certain celebrity chef who shares her first name, Nigella is fond of a midnight snack, and one at 4am if she can arrange it. Sometimes I worry about her, as she shows signs of being a couch potato. For example..., these three photographs show the sorry extent of what our NS considers to be a vigorous workout..




Well, here we are. Christmas Eve!  I started this post yesterday, and ran out of "steam" whilst navigating my way through the subject of cat intelligence, so I will begin this part with a weather report for Christmas Eve, Waikouaiti, South Island of New Zealand, 2013. All drippy, grey, windy and wet outside today... who knows when this will end! Local Farmers are tearing their hair with frustration as they wait for several sunny days in a row to dry stuff that they want to bale for winter feed. From my own point of view it is actually rather nice to see rain. I find the sound of it on the roof quite soothing, and the swish of car tyres on the wet road sounds good too. We have our gallery open today. I am hoping that a couple of the orders that I did for people for Christmas will be picked up. It has been a tiring few weeks in the lead up to Christmas, but it has been good to have got a few commissioned pieces finished. I still have some work to do that people wanted  more than 6 months ago.. but it was one of those years!

A couple of interesting projects that I have done fairly recently included making large mortars and pestles, and some olla pots.


The mortars had to be very large, and had to be thickly potted for strength. It took me a few attempts to work out how much clay was needed. My first attempt, on the left in the photo, with about 2.5 kg of porcelain, shrunk to only 6 3/4 inches in diameter (171mm) when fired, which was too small.  I found that I needed about 3.5 kg of porcelain to give me a fired size of about  8 1/2 inches diameter (216mm).


The lovely handles for the pestles were turned for me by Barney Barton, a wonderful wood turner from Palmerston. He made a really nice job of matching the wood to the porcelain tips that I had made, following and developing their profile in a simple but elegant way.


I mixed a very small amount of stoneware clay in with the porcelain that I used to make the mortars. This gives a fine speckle that breaks the stark whiteness of the porcelain.

The olla pots are intriguing. Someone got in touch who had seen such things on the Internet, and wondered if I could make some for her. Olla pots are designed to gently leak water into a garden to irrigate it. I guess that they have Mediterranean origins. Most of the pot will be buried below the surface.


These olla pots are about 13 1/2 inches tall including the lid (343mm), they hold 3 litres of water (just over 6 pints). I made these ones in three pieces. Two bowl shapes joined rim to rim, and a doughnut of clay thrown to form a neck. I can make this size from one piece of clay, but making them out of smaller components was easier on my back, and I am having to be cunning these days when making larger pots.

Well, I had better sign off. I might even write a short Christmas letter!
Best Wishes to All of you that stumble upon this blog. Thank you for your encouraging comments and support through what was a difficult year.

Happy Christmas!

18 comments:

srgb said...

Best wishes to you and Laura, and better ones for the coming year Peter.
I'm confused to hear it is grey and wet down there but then I did hear Westland was having it a bit bleak.
Tomorrow we are off to see a short play on Takapuna Beach, each year Stephen Lovett dose a one act from Bruce Masons play End of Golden Weather, and that is just how I think of our summer grey and wet is for the other side of the world according to my brother right now.
As for the creases from your smiles botox needs to be left in last year.
Regards Bob

Peter said...

Lovely to hear from you Bob, Happy Christmas to you. I think our weather is doing its best to remember the Scottish heritage of the Dunedin area... I don't think we'll get a white Christmas as such, but the wind was quite cold! Thought the rain had finally crept away, but it came down heavily again a few minutes ago. Oh well! Nearly time for Christmas Pud and such delights!
Best Wishes, P

Michèle Hastings said...

I too love kitty conversations. Nigella is adorable.
Wishing you and Laura a very merry Christmas, along with some sunshine very soon.

Arkansas Patti said...

So enjoyed your account of Nigella's vocabulary. Can so relate here with Minnie's which has developed much more with her advancement to being the only pet.
I really love those Olla pots. What a clever and attractive idea.
Wishing you, Laura and your 4 legged ones the happiest of Christmases and hope 2014 brings you health and happiness.

smartcat said...




I love talkative animals....except perhaps in the middle of the night!
Nigella sounds like she has your house well under control.
So glad to hear that you able to enjoy getting into the studio.
Merry Christmas to you and Laura!








Amy said...

Merry Christmas! Hope that 2014 is a much better year- better than you can imagine! All the best to you and yours…

Peter said...

Thank you so much for your Christmas greetings, Michèle, Patti, Smartcat, and Amy; lovely to hear from you all. We had a lovely Christmas Day with my parents and also caught up with a friend for a cup of tea on the way there. Christmas with family and friends is how it should be! I guess that you might be just finishing your Christmas Day as I write this. Hope it went well for you. Happy Christmas and New Year from Peter, Laura, and Nigella Stopit

Tracey Broome said...

Merry Christmas Peter! I think our cats could converse, mine has the same vocabulary!

Sandy miller said...

Peter! I loved this post....... I had completely forgotten that Christmas tale, it used to be one of my favorites as a kid. And yes, trying to stay up was sooooo hard! Thanks!

I just sketched out a few olla's last week for my garden! Permaculture has embraced the old idea so thought I'd give it a try. Never thought to glaze the upper portion that sits above ground. Hmmmm now thinking on that.

Peter I hope your were transformed Christmas. A day out of the shop is pretty wonderful! All the best to a Happy Prosperous New Year!

Peter said...

Merry Christmas Tracey! Lovely to hear from you. I wonder if our NS would have a NZ accent and your cat a NC accent...? it is quite a thought! Ha, ha... someone should record cats from around the world and compare notes!

Hi Sandy,
I think I was somewhat transformed on Christmas Day! It was a lovely peaceful time, and very restorative for body and soul!

The ollas are really interesting. The person that got me to make some sent me two photos of ollas that she had seen on the Internet. One was unglazed and a bit balloon shaped with a fairly round lower part and a narrow neck. The other olla, which was more of a regular jar shape, had the glazed upper part and lid. I used both to inspire me, and came up with my own. I had fun with the lids, probably for practicality they could be of lower profile. I fired the ollas fairly slowly to a shade over what I would bisque fire this clay to if I was going to raku fire it... so as to make it strong enough, but still quite leaky. This temperature would be different for everyone, and depend on the clay used. I found quite a bit of contradictory advice regarding firing temperatures and clay bodies online, so opted to go with what my experience told me about my own clay.

I'll be interested to see what you come up with. Merry Christmas!

Armelle Léon said...

I am late to wish you a Merry Christmas, so not so late to wish you a Happy New Year. The mortar are very nice, and the Ollas (I didn't know this word before) very nice too and rather interesting. I can imagine them in a garden.
I am neglecting my blog at the moment and also, my friend's blog as you see.
It could be a good resolution for next year to forgot my foot and go back to work.

Linda Starr said...

love your new projects of the mortar and pestle and the olla pots. I used an olla in my garden in California and they work, here's the link

http://bluestarrgallery.blogspot.com/2009/05/whats-olla.html

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Pat - Arkansas said...

Sending warmest wishes for a Happy New Year. Hugs, Pat-Arkansas

Peter said...

Happy New Year Armelle,
Good to hear from you. Olla was a word I did not know before either. I only found out about it because I was asked to make some, so I had to do some research on the Internet. It is always interesting what can be discovered when doing commissions!
I hope you are able to work at your pottery this year. It is very hard when there are physical problems to overcome.
We will have to encourage each other!

Hi Linda,
Happy New Year to you. How interesting that you have used an olla when you were living in California. I am glad to hear that they work, they certainly seem like a great idea! Thank you for the link, I will be really interested to have a read.

Hello Pat,
Lovely to hear from you. Thank you for the Happy New Year warm wishes and hugs, that is really nice. Love and Peace to you this New Year, and hugs too! P, L, & NS xx

phil enright said...

Hi peter, have you got an email I can use to grt in touch?

Phil enright from the uk

Peter said...

Hi Phil,
You are welcome to get in touch with me at opogallery AT gmail DOT com (You will need to the necessary adjustments to that email address to get it to work).

Best Wishes, P

Sandy miller said...

Peter, thank you for your insights on the ollas!

And now we are past on 2014 but much happiness in the New Year to you!

Peter said...

Hi Sandy,
Ollas are still proving interesting.. I have made a few more, and they are fun to do. I am still experimenting with necks and lids.
Happy New Year to you Sandy. 2014 still new and doing well so far!