Monday, May 20, 2019

Message in a Bottle!

It seems a bit strange to be writing the blog after such a long absence, but I thought I would hammer away on the keyboard on this rather chilly evening launch a message in a bottle like a shipwrecked sailor of old to say that we are still here!

I have taken lots of photos over the last few months with the thought of being organized enough to regularly upload them to the blog, but never quite got that far! However, it is interesting to look through them and to see the record they contain of the passing of the season through summer, to autumn and then on to the beginnings of winter. Some feature the vegetable garden with potatoes from planting, to flowering, and then to harvest, and others show the rapid growth of a pumpkin plant, through to the gathering of about a dozen pumpkins!

There are, of course, many of the flowers that Laura grew through the year, with tulips, gladiolus, and lilies, being particularly memorable. 

There are also photos of some of the spontaneous things that happen in the garden too, such as the arrival of fungi in autumn, or lichen on tree trunks.

Photos of pots and of the studio are not as numerous as in previous years, but the flow of producing them did not completely dry up, and good things did happen from time to time. I really have been working at a very different pace due to the level of fatigue I often have, and I usually have to be content with achieving one thing in a day out of the list of things to do. There are many steps to making a pot, and each takes time!

Here are some bowls and vases out of my most recent firing. 

Bowl with layered glazes, 7 7/8 x 2 7/8 inches (200 x 72mm)

detail of bowl above

Green bowl with a blue swirl. 7 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches (190 x 70mm)

Bowl with mirror glaze. 7 x 2 1/2 inches (180 x 65mm)

Vase with layered glazes. 8 3/4 x 7 inches (220 x 180mm)

detail of vase above

I also had some tiles in the firing, they average about 5 inches square (127mm) The pale green and mid green worked well. I pushed leaves into the tiles when the clay was still soft, and put a black under glaze into the line work after the tiles had been bisque fired.

I recently took delivery of half a tonne of clay from Waikato Ceramics who are situated fairly near Hamilton in the North Island of New Zealand. My early tests with the clay have been very promising and exciting. I actually feel rejuvenated using it, and my creative ideas are starting to bubble up again!

I ordered Whitestone, Classic White, Buff Stoneware - all high fired stoneware bodies - and Brick Red which is a lovely earthenware clay, very suitable for making planters and outdoor pots as well as for traditional majolica decorated domestic ware. Once I have glaze fired all of them I hope to write some reviews of each one, but for now it suffices to say that I am really delighted with how they perform.

Buff Stoneware was a particular favorite when I threw some test pieces on the wheel, but Whitestone is marvelous for hand building due in part to the 50 mesh grog that it has, but it is also surprisingly good the wheel, and the coarseness of the grog adds real character that can be exploited by wiping back with a sponge, or cutting with wire, or scraping with a metal tool. 

The tiles above were in Whitestone, and making them was a helpful way of calculating shrinkage, which was a fraction over 11 percent from wet to fired when fired at about 1280 C (Cone 10).

I spent a happy hour or so throwing cylinders out of Whitestone, then turned them into sculpture over the next three days. The sculpture was inspired by in turn by a cat, Notre Dame Cathedral, and a dog. I had fun joining and cutting cylinders of clay and "went with the flow" as they say! The result was rather odd, but very interesting to do, and I look forward to making something else soon.

This clay can range from buttery smooth to gritty and abrasive, depending on how it is finished. It is fun to play with texture.

Once the sculpture is fully dry I will probably fire it in the wood fired kiln and let the flames do the decorating.

Oh well, time to put this message in its bottle, pop in a cork, and float it out to sea!


Barbara Rogers said...

Hi Peter...great to read your latest here. I'm halfway around the world, and just woke up. Got a dental appointment in about an hour! That's why I'm up early. Glad to see you here, and read all about your clay, garden and such. Glad you're doing sculptures, it's a great demonstration of how you can use clay to express emotions. Keep on blogging. You never know who will be out there reading!

smartcat said...

Great to read that you are alive and kicking. The pots look interesting; toes cross you keep us posted on their progress.
We are just beginning our spring, which has taken its own sweet time coming. Daffodils came and went in what appeared to be spring. It was just a flirting tease as the weather turned cold again for several weeks..I don’t know why I am surprised; this is fairly typical weather for this area.
Love the garden shots.

Linda Starr said...

don't think I've ever seen a gladiola the color of the first one; love the blue bowl and I see the dog in your sculpture.

Michèle Hastings said...

Good to hear from you! The flowers, pumpkins, and pots are all wonderful.

gz said...

Hi,I was wondering how you were! Thankyou for bringing memories of your garden back,as we met "in the round".
Love that bowl with a swirl

Mark Lloyd said...

That sculpture looks interesting Peter, hope to see it finished when we get back.

Peter said...

Dear Barbara, Smartcat, Linda, Michèle, Gwynneth and Mark,

Thanks so much for finding my "message in a bottle" and writing in. I haven't done anything with the blog for such a long time that I wondered if people wouldn't be following it now. Anyway, it is very nice to hear from you, and your comments are much appreciated. Hopefully I will visit all of your blogs over the next few days and catch up with what you are up to again.

Thanks for the encouragement,

Kind Thoughts from us all at the Old Post Office,

Peter, Laura, Nigella Stopit and Mr Smaug

Xưởng Gốm Việt said...

Xưởng gốm việt like it very much

Xưởng Gốm Việt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Rohrer said...

Very nice. Enjoyed the variety of pictures.

Peter said...

Hi Xưởng gốm việt,
Thank you for your encouragement, glad you like it.
I removed the second comment you sent as it contained lots of links to a web site, and I don't usually publish those.

Hi Melissa,
Lovely to hear from you. :-)

Anna said...

Hi Peter
I've been out of the country so missed your latest post. I look forward to seeing your sculpture fired and your other makings with the new clays.

Peter said...

Hi Anna,
Lovely to hear from you. "Out of the country" sounds interesting, I must have a look at your blog and see where you traveled to!

I'm slowly glazing my way through a backlog of bisque fired work, with the thought of having a wood firing in the next 2 weeks. Very overdue for such an event, and it will be good to reclaim some space on my drying shelves for new work!

All the Best,


PP said...

Hello Peter
I wish I was still able to get reminders when new articles are added to my RSS feed - I lost that when I changed computer.
It's lovely to read that you're ordering and testing clay again. I hope that means you're feeling better and managing to work around health issues and energy levels.
I was very interested to see the tiles you've been making. I've just postponed an MA in ceramics for the second time (health issues) and now that I have another year at my disposal, I'm thinking of making some tiles for the house we are restoring. Your idea to take things from the garden and press them into clay tiles is very attractive - I've already been pressing flowers from the garden and it seems a logical step. Just researching into the best way to make tiles when there's no slab roller to hand.
It's always lovely to come back to your blog and discover what you've been doing - especially when you're being so productive.
All the best

Peter said...

Hello PP,
Lovely to hear from you. Sadly I haven't a clue about RSS feeds and how such things are generated, someone will know though!

Health still remains a "work in progress", so getting things done in the studio tends to be in shortish sessions and not every day... however, new things do get made, and the kiln has some exercise from time to time, just to keep it on its toes!

Sorry that you also have to battle with the health side of life, but creating your own "MA" programme at home maybe something to consider (even if it doesn't give an official piece of paper from a university at the end of it). When I started potting somewhat late in life I faced a bit of a choice as to enrolling at art school and doing ceramics (which was what "everyone" seemed to do at a cost of several thousand dollars a year), or spending some of that money setting up a workshop and buying my second hand electric kiln and wheel, then later building wood fired kilns and then really throwing myself into learning what I could by hands on practical experience and reading lots and lots of books, magazines, and information on line. I found it helpful psychologically to think of my first 3 or 4 years working at home in the studio as being my "university years" where I could try things and make lots of mistakes, and not feel to upset about if things sold or not. Of course it was nice, and very helpful, when stuff sold, but internally I liked to maintain a feeling of being a student.

Sorry, that was a bit of an unexpected "rave"... but I'll not delete it in case someone finds it encouraging!

Regarding tile making, I have a collection of wooden rolling pins, and find them very handy for rolling out clay for tiles. You can use a couple of pieces of wood for thickness guides and run the rolling pin along them (rather like a train on rails), but I have made a little machine or gadget that I use for this, and it does make life easier. I could post something about tile making on the blog if you would find it helpful.

Lovely idea to press flowers and leaves from the garden into the clay, it does provide a unique record of what was flowering and growing in the garden at the time the tiles were made. In 1000 years time, think what a treasure the tiles would be to botanists when they are discovered!! :-)

You should find a few more recent posts on my blog after this one.

Best Wishes,


PP said...

Hello Peter

I do so get it about pacing yourself and working around illness. It's frustrating, but much better than not getting anything done at all. I don't know about you, but I find it also gives permission to really take time to look at what's happening out there in the natural world - the tiny, incremental stages of each season, things I might have missed before.

I also get what you're saying about not needing to go to a university to get where you want to go with clay. Sounds like your four years really worked for you. I certainly benefit from not feeling the need to sell at the moment, and allowing myself to think of everything I do as an experiment. But I also know myself, and I know that I do a lot better when I have creative interaction with others in a clay context. I have also spent my whole life with words, and I would like a visual education - I have this idea that the MA would help me translate from one to the other. Maybe a mentor would be perfect, but I've yet to find one who feels right or is available. Fussy, I know!

If you do decide to write a post about tile making, I for one would love it. Having started to think more about it I realise there are so many elements - the best clay, the right temp to fire to, whether to slot or not to slot, thickness.....and then there's the glazes (still my achilles heel). I've found some lovely ones out there on the internet, with gorgeous translucent glazes. Guy Mitchell's are good

All the best Peter - I hope Spring there is shaping up well. Meanwhile, here in the UK, I'm loving the first red leaves, and berries starting to appear everywhere.