Ceramic Review vs Clay Craft

Look what the postman delivered this week!

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There is a new clay loving magazine on the shelves this month – Clay Craft!

Whilst the shelves have been dominated by Ceramic Review for years now, there is a fresh face on the block, riding the wave of The Great Pottery Thrown Down, Etsy and all things crafty.

But how do they compare as publications? Where should you be spending your hard earned money? They’re both about clay, so what’s the difference?

Yes the focus of the two publications is clay and ceramics, but I would say strictly speaking, the two publications aren’t necessarily addressing the same audience. Ceramic Review is a high quality, bi-monthly international publication mainly focusing on the work of experienced and innovative potters around the world and sharing stories and events (retailing at £9.90 per issue). Clay Craft is monthly publication, more ‘magazine’ than ‘review’, aimed at everyone from beginners to professionals. The first edition is full of project ideas, a glossary of terms, a review of aprons, short articles with lots of images a directory of events (retailing at £4.99 per issue). I managed to register early and get my first copy for free due to a promotion! The first issue also came with a free kidney tool worth apparently £3 (I wouldn’t have paid £3 for it but it was certainly a pleasant surprise when it fell out of the packaging!).

I’ve been receiving Ceramic Review for almost a year now and the quality of the publication and the writing is evident from the thickness of the page, clarity of colour and style of image as well as the artists interviewed. It really is a joy to hold and read. Every issue has a ‘how to’ section where an artist will demonstrate the steps in a process and the international theme is present throughout the content and events covered. I believe it’s very clear that Ceramic Review targets artists and art lovers alike. What it is not, is an introduction to ceramics as a hobby.

Clay Craft however is much more orientated towards the hobbyist. Although the magazine says it appeals to all abilities – I can’t really see an established ceramic artist gaining much from the content in terms of the level pitched in the first issue – how to make a pinch pot. Now this isn’t a bad thing and perhaps future issues will be different. In fact, when I was first becoming interested in clay and ceramics, this is exactly the kind of magazine I was looking for! I needed (and often still do) a step by step process and terminology explained. I still find myself googling questions well into the night when I can’t figure out what I am supposed to do, e.g. how long to fire a kiln for and how is this different for bisque and glaze firings. Or what are the differences between a quick firing as compared to a long slow firing…?

I can’t imagine Ceramic Review really addressing these questions because the answer is probably obvious or has too many variables, but this is certainly a topic I can imagine might be covered (hopefully!) in Clay Craft.

So is one publication for the ‘Artists’ and one for the ‘Hobbyist’? Well, no. Ceramics Review offers an insight into the art of ceramics and is a visual feast. The inspiration offered by Ceramic Review is not for professionals only and I know I love reading it and my work has certainly benefited from reading it. On the other hand I can imagine a professional ceramicist using Clay Craft to get people/students interested in clay through quick projects or for going back to basics and trying a different technique.

Clay Craft feels cheaper to the touch with a glossy cover and lighter pages than Ceramic Review, but it is jam packed with imagery and full of offers, which is always great for those of us that like a bargain! Which I do. Very much. And at £4.99 per issue, you get two issues for the price of one Ceramic Review. Although it should be noted both publications have offers on for subscriptions at the moment! (Perhaps a nice Valentines gift idea for someone? *ahem*)

I think there is certainly the space in the market for both publications as they bring very different things to the pottery table. Ceramic Review has a solid base and large following, whereas Clay Craft need to establish a readership for which I think a lot will depend on their ability to come up with imaginative and easy to follow projects. However in doing that, they may neglect the intermediate/advanced potter (although freebies may keep people buying, if not reading). As with all things pottery related – time will tell!

I however, look forward to reading both!

PS xx

The Great Pottery Throw Down Series 2

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(The original GPTD line up!)

I owe the Great Pottery Throw Down a lot. If it wasn’t for the 2015 series, I would never have returned to clay as a medium for art and expression. And those of you who follow this blog or my instagram will know that I am a HUGE Kate Malone fan! I went to her Waddesdon Manor Exhibition and her open studio recently and have my very own KM pumpkin. It is genuinely one of my dearest things. And you can’t think of GPTD without Keith – it’s hard not to love that guy. Beloved uses the KBJ espresso cups I bought him last year almost daily and I’m hoping to see him throw in John Lewis on Oxford Street this week! (Now I just need to think of a good question or something intelligent to say…). And, despite him not being in the above photo – Rich Miller is an essential part of the programme, and an overall really warm and genuine guy! His cup is sat next to me at this moment, beautifully made and skillfully decorated. Finally, Sarah Cox expertly balances gentle encouragement and humour – it’d be a very different show without her!

The contestants were from all different backgrounds on the first series and all has very different strengths and levels of ability. It was great to see people learn and challenge themselves as the episodes passed but overall the sense of warmth and friendship between them all really came across, and the genuine competitiveness between the final contestants was great! They all wanted to win by doing their best and producing something wonderful.

The wait was on for series 2 of GPTD expected in 2016 but we were left hanging on tender hooks until 2nd Feb 2017. I don’t watch much TV but I hadn’t seen a single advert for the show before it started so perhaps I missed them, but it made me sad that the BBC wasn’t advertising this brilliant show more – friends hadn’t heard of it at all! A real opportunity missed. Regardless, the show started and now every Thursday I have a new installment of wonderfulness to watch on TV and repeat throughout the week on iPlayer – oooooeeee!

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(GPTD 2017 contestants)

Now. As a home potter, I have loved the warmth and sense of community that potting events and going to a studio brings. In my mind, amateur potters are working away all over the country making for the love of making.

However, maybe I’m missing something, because it strikes me that most of these potters have their own studio spaces and sell their work in volume. Am I wrong to think this blurs the line of amateur? I don’t know. I guess last year I was frustrated that the winner was a ceramics teacher – I wouldn’t have called him amateur at all because he was basically born in a ceramics studio and taught ceramics for his profession. After doing a little search on Instagram for the different contestants of 2017 this week I came across most of them and realised they virtually all were in the ceramics business in terms of mass producing and selling their wares. I guess the solidarity I felt with the people on the first season has been lost a little or perhaps it was misplaced as they were of a similar potting calibre? Cut from the same wedge? Were most of the 2015 contestants also selling en masse before they appeared on the show?

But please,don’t get me wrong – I’d love to sell my ceramics! I’d also love to be on the show. But I know my work is no where near the quality good enough to sell and I don’t have the time to mass produce. I guess I just made the assumption that an amateur potter was someone working with clay as a hobby as I do and occasionally selling at a local event rather than someone who owned a fully equipped ceramics studio and taught day to day or sold in large volumes – to me that is a professional.

The bakers on the Great British Bake Off didn’t work in bakeries and cake shops – or did they? Actually, I remembe one was a Home Economics teacher… Am I now questioning all I thought I knew? Ok, let’s not go that far.

Perhaps I’m just jealous they’re all immeasurably better at throwing than me!

Whatever the case, it’s great to have it back on the telly and I’ve even got Beloved watching it with me this time, voluntarily!! It’s great to see the different challenges and this has been giving me inspiration for my own work! Like the bubble glazing – it looked so cool and was actually relatively easy to do! I’m excited to see the different projects and learn from the show. It’s great to see the show making more of Rich’s role as well, giving his opinion and explanations for the technical side of what is happening with the clay – or might happen!

It takes a little while to get to know the contestants and I’ll save my personal opinions as to the individuals and my favourites!! They do seem a little more ‘cherry picked’ than the first series, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. And I don’t want to let anyone know any details if they haven’t watched it yet, no spoilers alert! So I’ll end it here.

All I can say is that I know the series will end too soon

PS xx

Botz Glaze Review

Bots glazes! Thick brush on glaze that can give a punchy colour, but that can also be sensitive and shift around or not come out as expected. Botz were the first glazes I used because these were the glazes SB had in her studio and they are affordable at around £5-13 depending on the supplier and size of pot.

I began by buying ‘Black Blue Speckle’ and ‘Ice Crystal’. However I used them on two pieces that had quite a lot of detail and these were ultimately swamped I felt and the overall effect did not bring out the detail in a way I had hoped. The Black Blue colour had been as expected but the Ice Crystal had given a more sandy, beige effect rather than the white/blue speckle I had been hoping for. These items were made at home and fired at SB’s studio.

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When I fired the Ice Crystal at home however, it gave a dramatically different effect! This is exactly the same glaze as the top white pot, but fired by myself to cone 9 (1260 oC).

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I used the Black Blue again on a coffee jar with a white from SB’s studio and this was much more successful I felt.

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With my confidence restored a little, I decided to buy a couple more Botz glazes from Bath Potters as they were offering 10% off for first time customers. So, I decided to buy a Basalt Grey and a satin matt white called Creme. I didn’t have time to do testers and so used the glazes on some thrown pieces I did recently, and a couple of left over stars from Christmas to be used as testers.

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Overall I was reasonably happy with out the pieces came out, however the Basalt Grey was really more brown. I was surprised as I painted it on quite thickly for two coats. I didn’t think I would be able to get a third coat on without it pulling away, however perhaps that’s just what it needed to reach that deep stoney grey colour.

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Overall I find the Botz glazes to give good coverage and depth of colour (holding judgement on Basalt Grey), however they are far less predictable than say the Mayco and you use up much more glaze per coat than the thinner applying Mayco. For example air bubbles appeared in the white and in one area it completely shifted away from the ceramic underneath – there must have been grease or something on the clay, as I’ve no idea why this would have happened. The white also showed brush strokes in some areas, which I found with the Ice Crystal and grey as well, wheres this was not the case with the Black Blue. I had hoped the colours would interact between the gray/blue and white more, but this didn’t really happen.

Overall I like Botz glazes, however I think to get the desired effect I need to spend more time with testers and experimenting with firing at different temperatures. I would definitely buy them again but they are less versatile in terms of mixing and layering. (Perhaps they aren’t, if you have a different experience please let me know!). They also obscure surface texture quite a lot due to the thick layering required, but the colours can be striking and have a depth and quality to them that I really love.

Mayco Glaze Review

I said a few months ago I would review the glazes I bought before Christmas and despite having used them and put a few posts up, I haven’t given my opinion on how they work, their colour, their versatility, or overall effect.

So this is what I am hoping to get across now! Of course these are just my opinions and I hope I have explained them properly but please feel free to comment and agree or disagree! And obviously with all ceramics, so much with the glaze depends on the application, layering and how long they are fired to and what temperature. I will explain these as I go along, in order to give you the clearest idea of my making process!

So. Where to begin. Well, before Christmas I was looking to build up a glaze collection (formerly only owning two Botz glazes – review here) with glazes that were versatile and reliable. I took to Twitter and Mayco glazes were recommended as reliable, even in coverage, less-drippy and forgiving for want of a better word.

I decided to go for the Mayco Foundations glazes, Sheer. I hoped with these glazes I would be able to intermix the colours and any stamp/texture decoration would come through. My experience from the Botz glazes, which are heavier, thicker glazes, was that the decoration was often lost. I bought 5 tubs:

  1. Milk Glass White
  2. Clearly Jade
  3. Blue Diamond
  4. Sooty Grey
  5. Crystal Coral

I also bought three ‘Designer Liners’, white, red and green.

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In one of my first firings at home I did some colour testers and following the recommendations on the bottles, did a gradient of 1-3 layers. All the colours were a little less bold than expected despite the recommended 3 layers, but overall I was happy with them apart from the Crystal Coral. The first picture here shows the Blue Diamond tester with 1-3 layers of glaze and the one below in my hand shows 4 colours (except Milk Glass White) in 4 layer stripes. The second image shows Crystal Coral on my tester and the third square image shows how Crystal Coral looks online. As you can see, it is much more pink and vibrant. In reality, the Crystal Coral even with 4 layers, was no where near this colour. In hindsight if I had wanted a more vibrant pink, perhaps I should have gone for Floral Pink. In these instances the glazes were fired to cone 04 so perhaps 06 would have made a difference, I don’t know.

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Despite being a little more ‘sheer’ than I anticipated and the coral colour being more clear/white than pink, the glazes behaved really well in the kiln! They were easy to apply, they give a thin layer which can be built up to the desired thickness which as I have said, can significantly change the depth and boldness of the colour. They are a really steady glaze to work with and were great for my Christmas decorations!

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I also used the designer liners one a few items. These are clay based glazes (or does that make them slips?) that you can use to add fine detail to something. I found that without adding a clear glaze on top (for which I just used a single layer of Milk Bottle White) they flattened and were matt against an otherwise shiny background. The flow of the green was much better than the white for some reason, but the green smudged with a thin layer of white on top – or perhaps the white did too but it wasn’t visible. Regardless you certainly need a steady hand as they don’t budge an inch! I found the green to be more successful than the white overall. The white looked a little like Tippex in my opinion… But they are definitely useful for accentuating detail.

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Finally I tried to use the glaze for the bubble effect, (inside the grey cup with the green detail). I knew it was a long shot and I was right – it didn’t really have the desired effect, but it is certainly a technique I’ll try again in the future.

Overall these glazes, for the most part, do what they say on the tin. They don’t shift or move when firing, they can be layered, are easy to apply and accentuate detail nicely. They are very much a safe option and a little goes a long way. For me, I was hoping they would be a little bolder and the colours as strong as their depictions online, but then that’s always the trouble with buying something you haven’t seen or used before online!

In terms of value for money, I bought 1 pint (472ml) pots for roughly £15 including VAT from PotClays which was pretty much a standard price across the different sites. PotClays are expensive for delivery however, starting at just under £10 (whereas Scarva for example, adjust to the weight of the item and can be as little as £2) which is a shame. The PotClays people are really lovely to deal with and quick to communicate. If their postage was cheaper I would buy more from them as their website and range is pretty great compared to other sites, but I know they are also a family business and need support and so I try to buy from them when I seem them at events.

Overall, I’d definitely buy Mayco again, but I’d explore their other glaze options before buying more of the Foundations Sheer range.

PS xx