Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy New Year!

Detail of a stoneware bowl that I fired last week.

It is possible that summer was here, the flowers in the garden thought so, and the grass grew, and so did the trees, but we hardly saw the sun. In desperation, after several days of rain, I looked at a 10 day weather forecast for this area, only to find that the met service only predicted one sunny day a head of us. It is inevitable that a sense of time and season passing blurs and flexes when there is no obvious rising and falling of the sun, and every glance into the heavens is rewarded by a view of lactating udder shaped clouds;

however I seem to remember this all started in December - early December - at the time that it was reported in the media that rivers in our area were so low for that time of  year that farmers were going to have to take steps to conserve water. 

Some could say that the rain was just what we needed, and nature has been generous! Now farmers are anxious about how to cut silage and hay for winter feed.

I got soaked seconds after taking this photo!
It hasn't just rained a lot, but it has also been windy. We have had some dramatic, and vaguely apocalyptic, gales ripping through the country. Mostly these have been from the South, tumbling and spiraling in from above wastes of frigid water. Antarctica exhaling. One day last week we were promised rain and a maximum daytime temperature of 13 degrees Celsius and a dusting of snow to Southland high country. This is not far removed from normal winter temperatures.

Like Noah and Mrs Noah, our little home is a shelter for us, and our lives continue within its walls. We have the company of animals, ship's cat Nigella Stopit, the various mice, lizards, and small rats that she catches outside and releases inside...., and we have a new visitor, one that I am currently calling Winnie.

Winnie is addicted to sunflower seeds, and hangs out on and around our back door step waiting for her next fix. Nigella watches her through the cat flap.

We call the cat flap “cat TV”, as Nigella seems to waste a lot of time staring at the images she sees on its blurry screen.

Why “Winnie”? Think of A. A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh. Think, copious sunflower seeds. Short and simple avian digestive tract. Rapid bowl transit time. Our back door step. A slight change of spelling to Pooh, and there you have it!!

I do enjoy having Winnie around the place. There is something rather nice about seeing a hen scratching up the ground under a tree or a shrub. They are pretty when the sun peeps out, and have a simplicity that is cheering and good for the soul!

Nigella Stopit does not approve of Winnie, but probably enjoys herding her from time to time.

"Attacking" (decorating) a leather hard earthenware pot with a wooden tool!
I have been attempting to complete orders for people. Things built up last year when I was unable to work at pottery, and some people that ordered, have added to their original order.

Um..., that's right, it is a rabbit!
It always seems to take me quite a while to get used to a new clay when I work at the potter's wheel. Porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware clays have a unique personality and require quite an adjustment of touch, and it seems inevitable that some orders are for stoneware, others are for earthenware, and others are for porcelain. Recently I had a great deal of difficulty adjusting to earthenware and took about a week to complete something that should have taken less than a day to do. I persevered and got the job done in the end, but it was very frustrating having medium sized pots collapse as I tried to throw them and to see precious time go by with little to show for it. It was all down to basic technical things..., a little too much pressure here, maybe not enough wetting of the fingers there, but such basic things can be the difference between a pot that grows enthusiastically like a weed on the wheel, or one that twists and falls into a sad heap. Each collapse was another 3.5 kilograms of clay to be recycled, and I am fairly limited physically as to how much clay I can process in a day.

Earthenware pots drying on the kilns. Some have white slip over them.
I am achieving a lot more than I was, but still have to walk a fairly fine line between getting pots made, and overdoing it. I am also doing my best to build up some fitness, and do a daily walk. I and now manage 3 kilometres at a fairly brisk pace, which is a great improvement on how things were a few months back, and I am trying to increase the time and distance.

We have had some enjoyable visitors to our studio and gallery. Recently someone from the UK, who had discovered this blog whilst researching something else, got in touch, and arranged for his son and his son's partner who live in NZ, to visit us to chose a Christmas present. This was great fun for all, as the couple had first to solve a most ingenious coded message in order to locate where their Christmas present might be. There was a brief mix up with a small winery, but they found us eventually, and it was delightful for us to meet them, and wonderful that they found something here that they liked.

Peter, the seal making potter, was here off and on for a couple of months or so working in my studio, and also firing his little gas powered raku kiln under some shelter out the back. He has now headed South to a place near the sea. It was really great having him here, and we certainly will keep in touch.

Today I have to get my hands back into porcelain, I have a great many small bowls and mugs to make, so I have to at least make a start at them.

A small porcelain bowl with runny glaze.

11 inch (380mm) Stoneware bowl.
Also I need to be glazing some large stoneware bowls, and to do some under glaze tests on earthenware.

Under glaze...., I think exciting things are about to happen with that..... watch this space!

Happy New Year!


Sandy miller said...

Peter! What beautiful pictures! Nice to see running water and green, currently we are in a polar blast, winter wonderland. Pots look amazing........ As usual! Beautiful glaze on the platter.

Happy New Year to you too!

Sandy miller said...

Oh, that small porcelain bowl.... Reminiscent of Lucie Rie :)

gz said...

Good to see you working well-despite the weather!!
At the other end of the Globe, we seem to be having similar weather....the wettest December since I don't know when, lots of rainy, but not all rain, days...sudden showers like yours!...and stormy weather. We haven't had too much of the Arctic blasts...but there is plenty of time yet!!

smartcat said...

I am suffering from climate envy. We are getting snow and another polar express over the next few days.
Great that you can work again, even if you do have to limit things. That little bowl is wonderful!
Winnie looks the way Nigella Stopit looks at kitty tv!

Pat - Arkansas said...

Lovely pots and vases, Peter. I VERY MUCH like that rabbit you inscribed!
Mother Nature is not taking kindly to many of us these days. I am glad that your farmers got some rain; I'm sure they were glad to have the water table adjusted upward. Our rice/wheat farmers in Arkansas could commiserate with them about harvest. It can rain too much at one time.
Happy New Year to you and yours, also!

Arkansas Patti said...

Oh,I do love your visiting chicken and am glad Nigella is enjoying it for entertainment rather than dinner.
So glad you have so much work but know it must be an difficult to keep up. So glad however that you seem to have improved quite a bit.
I liked that bunny also.

Melissa Rohrer said...

Great story about the person from the U.K. finding your blog and arranging a Christmas present!

srgb said...

Hi Peter
Compliments of the season, belated.
Its good to see you are hard at it, I don't see why I should be the only one, it is good that the body is letting you get along again just be sure to enjoy those walks and the getting wet can be enjoyed too.
Please cancel that weather patten mid February as we head down your way on the 10th to take my son and friend to cycle the Otago rail trail for 5 days, we fly in and out again so as much as I would like to catch up with you I will have to keep reading your entertaining blogs.
Is anyone missing a chuck? in this day and age of marriage it probably now has a partner, nice to see them getting on together?????

cookingwithgas said...

Happy New year!
Cold here, no snow.
Cat tv..... good chuckle for the day.

Michèle Hastings said...

Love those photos of Nigella, the hen, and the cat flap.
Very nice grouping of jars as well.

Peter said...

Thank you everyone for your comments, lovely to hear from you all!

Hi Sandy,
Thank you for your encouraging words regarding the glazes. The "Lucy Rie" one is a combination that I am playing with at the moment. It came first by accident a few firings back, when I tested the dark brown outer glaze on a small pot that I had glazed (but not fired) the inside of months before with something that I could no longer remember the identity of! What transpired to be a cone 6 inner glaze was very happy at cone 10 with the outer glaze running down it!

Hello Gwynneth,
Ha, ha... they call Dunedin "the Edinburgh of the South", and I see that we share the same weather as Scotland too! Maybe the globe needs lots of water falling at both ends in order to keep from tipping up!

Hi Smartcat,
Your weather arrives by railroad (polar express!).. The snow and cold that parts of your country have endured sound horrendous. I must admit that our grey, soggy summer, is far more enjoyable! Winnie seen through the cat flap is hilarious. She shows as much stubborn patience in waiting for sunflower seeds, as Nigella shows when glaring at her from the other side of the flap! Cat TV is very entertaining!

Happy New Year Pat,
Lovely to see both Pat and Pattie from Arkansas again in the comments. Ah, the rabbit.... and it has a matching pot, also with a rabbit, to go with it. Can't say much more at this stage as it is a commission, but it has been quite a process!

Hi Patti,
I think that Nigella's "entertainment" is mostly centered around visualising Winnie as dinner.... She can probably has just not solved the problem of shredding, cooking, and canning as yet, after all, chicken comes ready prepared in little cans doesn't it?!!
Thank goodness for ready prepared cat food, that's what I say!!

Hi Melissa,
It is always exciting when a reader of the blog "materialises" into real life! We have had several visitors over the years that have come as a result of finding the blog. It was delightful to be the solution to a Christmas present puzzle arranged by a reader in the UK!

Hi Bob,
Happy New Year to you too! I wonder if you are flying into Dunedin or to Queenstown??? There may be a chance of a quick catch up with you at the Dunedin end of your trip if you are arriving/departing there??? Hopefully we will have run out of rain for 5 days mid February..... !

Hi Meredith,
Happy New Year to you! What.., no snow, just cold! That sounds wonderful!!!!
Cat TV is great, and no subscription needed!

Hi Michèle,
Good to hear from you. I think there could be a story in Nigella, the hen, and the cat flap. I actually took almost enough photos of them to make a short animation. It looks funny playing the photos back quickly with the hen bobbing around on the other side of the flap! Ah.... the jars! Looking forward to glazing those.

srgb said...

Hi Peter
We fly into Dunedin on the 10th Feb at 9.20am and stay at the Leviathan Hotel for the night, so we have a chance to get to your collective gallery on the 10th or the 11th as we bus out to Clyde on the 11th at 1.55pm.
We get back into Dunedin on the Taieri train at 6.30pm on the 16th and have 2 nights at Kingsgate hotel flying out at 8.50pm on the 18th Feb so that is 2 day to see Dunedin and yourselves if that is possible.

Peter said...

Hi Bob,
Delighted that you will be in Dunedin. It should be easy enough to arrange to catch up when you are there. At this moment, it looks like Monday 17th Feb would be the most likely day for us. Anyway, we'll keep in touch. You can always Email me at opogallery AT gmail DOT com for fine tuning arrangements.
Best Wishes, P

Linda Starr said...

so glad to hear you're doing better, we had a similar summer here this year with almost all rain and hardly a sunny day, love the photos of you with the pot and the small bowl is a winner.

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
Good to hear from you. Interesting that you also had a similar rainy summer, I can imagine it doing a world tour! It is nice to be putting more work through the kiln again... another firing is going on as I write! Kind Thoughts from all of us down here, P

Amy said...

Happy New Year, Peter! Snow here in North Carolina and I'm catching up on reading blogs. Need to write on mine too… So good to hear that you're still back at the wheel. Beautiful forms!