Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Demonstrating, Teaching, Cups and Fan Mail!

I have a small studio, and often have difficulty inserting my elephantine bulk into the space, however we managed to fit an entire local school into about 6 square metres of empty floor near my potters wheel when they came to visit me in the second week of the month. It is possible that some were standing on top of others, I'm not sure, but they did so without complaint or injury, and I think that we had fun!

There is a certain sound and rhythm made by the massed voices of children greeting an adult when a teacher has instructed them to say "Good Morning Mr ......". I received a collective "Goooood Moor-Ning Miss-Ter Greg-Gore-Ray" from the class before I began my demonstration, and I suspect that the sound and rhythm of children's voices greeting people in that way has not changed for many decades... I certainly remember it being like that when I was 6 or 7 years old.

One thing that does change every few years are the noises and words used to express amazement, or enjoyment.....

When I went to the wheel and centred and pulled up 2 or 3 kilograms of clay for the first time, there was a collective "WOW!" This was repeated at other significant points in the demonstration... The raising of a wall of a tall pot, finishing a pot, lifting a pot off the wheel! It was good fun for me, and for them!

I have demonstrated painting and potting to other generations of children and adults, and have received "CHOICE!", "MASSIVE!", "UNREAL!", "WICKED", and "COOL!" The word used seems to change every 4 or 5 years. Probably my favourite is "cool" because it is so inappropriate when referring to most pottery related processes. People often say "Cool!" when I tell them that I fire my kiln to 1300 Celsius (2372 F) to fire porcelain or stoneware. I sometimes correct their "cool" with "hot!" but they rarely get the joke... which is slightly sad really, because language is a funny thing, and a wonderful thing! How amazing it is that we can use organised groups of sounds to express the full array of human thought and emotion!

Anyway, the children and I had fun, and I was amazed at how quickly I could make a bowl, vase, teapot spout, lid, handle, teacup and handle, when requested to by urgent young voices!

A week later we had a visit from a local Rural Women's group. Encouraged by the fact that I fitted a school into my studio, we compacted the women into the same space, and had a wonderful afternoon without lasting injury or death by suffocation! Two French Canadian tourists who happened to visit the gallery at the same time as the Woman's group, joined in, and stayed for a cup of tea afterwards. It was delightful to meet them, I was actually quite sad to see them go! I hope they have a marvellous time touring New Zealand.

We are fairly isolated here, and I don't get to travel much at all, but we have been greatly encouraged by visitors from overseas. When they spend time with us, it is a bit like being able to travel ourselves.

I rarely take pupils, mostly due to having very limited work space here, but occasionally I do, and I am really enjoying having Becky in the studio for a few hours each week at the moment. It is lovely to be able to get someone else started with clay, and to see them taking their first steps.

I have been very busy trying to work through commissions and keeping some good stock on the shelves. I am always testing glazes and trying to find how best to use them. I made a set of 6 porcelain cups for someone recently. The cups were to be closely related, but could be a little different. The "inside" glaze for some of them, became the "outside" glaze for others.

I also made other cups at the same time, for our own stock here, and tried some other glaze combinations.

I made these tiny handless sauce jugs for someone as part of a commission. In spite of their colour, they remind me of a pair of polar bears... maybe polar bears go purple with cold!

I am doing some tests with this unusual glaze at the moment. It gives grey, orange, and oatmeal colours on porcelain, and gives iron spots on stoneware clay. It has a waxy matte surface. It is a highly alkaline glaze, and I had thought that it would yield copper blues ... however, what I have here interests me a lot and I will play further with it.

This copper green is lovely over stoneware and porcelain. It also will fire to a good copper red when fired in reduction atmospheres. The glaze is a bit expensive to make as it has 5 percent tin oxide in it, and tin oxide is a horrible price these days, but I love the subtle lustre this gives, even when it is fired in oxidation, and the tin gives the orange/red response where the glaze is thin over an iron oxide bearing stoneware clay.

Whilst many materials can be substituted in glazes, each does have its own "personality", and sometimes this makes it worth the extra expense of using the "real thing" rather than a substitute.

Well, must sign off for now, one kiln to unload, the other to fire! Then off to the wheel to make more work for orders.

...Just before I go....

I want to say a Big Thank You to people that send  "Fan Mail"!
It has been a great encouragement to me over recent weeks to receive emails and photos from people that have bought my work and then have taken the trouble to send me a photo of it in use or on display at their place. It is a really kind and thoughtful thing to do, and does help me to keep on battling away in the studio. I am very thankful to you.

Here are some photos people have sent in recently...


Melissa Rohrer said...

My goodness, you have been busy. Love the fan mail!

srgb said...

Hi Peter
Nice post you have made, its so nice that people come and see you in action, I wonder if it will have any long term effect on any of those kids, good on the teachers who make the effort to get those kids there, I wonder if the ministry of education would finance a traveling road show it would keep you busy for years and fill the gap in your traveling life, maybe not it would wear you out before your time.
And nice to see people using you products I save my cups for when I feel I need a special occasion my celebration cups.

Anna said...

How lovely to have studio visitors. I'm sure they all appreciated your time with them. Love those crystalline glazed pots!

Linda Starr said...

Great you're sharing your studio with the young students and what super fan mail you have gotten. It's all very very cool, ha.

Linda Starr said...

I meant to say something about your tea cup handles, as rather than a mug they have that tea cup look to me, I found myself wondering which fingers I would use to hold the cups.

Arkansas Patti said...

How wonderful that your are sharing your talents and also encouraging youngsters to try the craft. The small space probably makes it more intimate for the observers.
Love that "cool" is still around. That came in the 70's and never left, one of the few to survive generations.
That fan mail must really make you feel good.

Michèle Hastings said...

You have had a very full few weeks. Children are always wonderful moral boosters, almost as good as fan mail!

Peter said...

Lovely to hear from you all,
Thank you Melissa for writing in, it has been a busy time here... and I have only written about half of it! The fan mail has been a great morale boost, and I am really thankful for the many kindnesses people show us.

Hello Bob, I hope the children do remember someone making pots on a wheel, it is good to think of the craft staying alive in people's minds and dreams! Not sure what the ministry funds these days... the only news seems to be of cuts, restructuring and more money for planners and bean counters..., but you never know!!! A "road trip" like that could be a wonderful thing to do, and also a great opportunity for schools too, both for the children and the teachers. Nice to hear that the cups come out on special occasions!

Good to hear from you Anna, definitely nice for us to have a group of happy people in the studio!

Hi Linda.. Cooool, Ha!
Yes, the cups are more cup than mug, and the handles are really one finger ones. I use my first finger through the hole, and my second as support.

Hi Patti,
"Cool" has got staying power. I wonder when it was first used here? I think we were "unreal!" and "massive!" in the 70s and "cool" slipped in slightly later. For greeting people there are several options available, these are a few that I hear frequently...."How-zit-goin", "Gid-day", "Yeh-gid-day", "How-r-ya", and "Hi". I notice that "Hey" is being used a lot now also, particularly amongst the young and "cool"!

Hi Michèle,
Children and fan mail are all welcome here!

Armelle Léon said...

Hello Peter,
Nice to see the kids in your workshop, and that they say 'wow', That's the only word I know in English to express my admiration :-) Lovely 'hortensia' in your vase, I love this blue color. I don't work a lot at the moment, just back from the hospital this morning for a check up. I am rather fine, though.
Best wishes to you, Laura and Nigella Stopit

Peter said...

Good to hear from you Armelle,
"Wow" is international it would seem! It is fun that some words cross national boundaries so well! It is quite a playful word too, as it is the same if you read it right to left or left to right! It also spells "MoM" when upside down!

I love the blue flowers too, I find myself "caught up" in colours like that, a bit like listening to music.

I am pleased that the hospital check up was OK.

Nigella Sends Purrs!

gz said...

You are busy!
Lovely do make nice ones.
Just wandering around tinterweb at the moment, looking for 1230 (cone 6?) glazes without Ghastly Borate!!

Peter said...

Hi Gwynneth,
You may have already tried this cone 6 recipe, but... do give it a go if you haven't..

20 Wollastonite
20 Fritt 3134 (F 4108)
20 Potash Feldspar
20 Silica
20 China Clay

I got it from the website, and it is a very useful base glaze for cone 6. It fits various clays well, is very forgiving and will happily overfire by a few cones, and probably go down to about cone 5. I am sure it would also do well with Potclays fritts, if that is what you have in your part of the world. Just a medium soft calcium borate type fritt would do.

gz said...

Thanks Peter!