Quick pots update 

I just wanted to share with you two pots I have been working on! They are a thrown vase and bowl decorated with handmade pieces. The inspiration came from my Phnom Penh market vase, which is entirely covered and layered in textures and shapes to resemble the variety and colour of Phnom Penh’s market stalls. For these pieces I have taken one technique and developed this design that is more simplistic but (I think!) effective.

Any comments or glaze ideas always welcome! 

PG x

P.S. Kate Malone influence obvious too? 

Home Potter!?

As I was throwing this morning I started thinking about studio/home pottery. From the beginning I have always referred to myself as a home potter. When I first began to work with clay I didn’t know the history or significance of ‘studio pottery’ and it is something I am still learning about.

I looked up studio pottery on wikipedia:

Studio pottery is pottery made by professional and amateur artists or artisans working alone or in small groups, making unique items or short runs. Typically, all stages of manufacture are carried out by the artists themselves.[1] Studio pottery includes functional wares such as tableware, cookware and non-functional wares such as sculpture. Studio potters can be referred to as ceramic artists, ceramists, ceramicists or as an artist who uses clay as a medium.

But what then is the difference between a studio potter and what I have called a ‘home potter’?

Yes I work alone and complete all stages of production myself and my items are usually unique or very short runs. Am I a studio potter then? I guess the biggest difference is the fact that I do not have a permanent studio space. I work almost entirely from home, in short and often sporadic bursts, and have to clear up and tidy away everything!

The photo below is a typical scene when I’m working at home – vinyl fabric down to catch slurry splashes, an old ikea shelf for holding wedged clay and vessels drying, newspaper, an old milk carton for water, my tabletop Shimpo on a stool and normal life paraphernalia in the background – in this case, namely the pram!!

20160815_102506.jpg

Perhaps I am a studio potter, but I feel the term ‘home potter’ better reflects my work environment. When I finally get my dream shed with kiln, drying space, work surfaces, glazes… when I finally reach that dream, then and only then will I call myself a studio potter!

PG x

 

Throwing for the first time!

This weekend just gone I went for a one day throwing class. A few weeks ago I bought a Shimpo Aspire table top (with foot pedal) wheel and I was basically getting no where, having real trouble centring clay and even less luck throwing a vessel. I had been hunting down a one on one session or throwing day but the 2hr one on one sessions within a 30-45min drive were £60+ and the throwing days were even further and started around £100 per day, not including the items you threw or lunch or whatever.

But as luck would have it, the initial pottery instructor I had a course with back in the winter was running a single day, 10am-4pm class for £70. Much more reasonable.

I went along to the studio and met some really lovely people. Although I knew in theory what I should be doing, I’ve never had the clay in abundance or continuity of time to really bring theory and practice together – and this is what the throwing day offered. It was a little bit of a slow start but after a while I got the hang of things! Centring is still very difficult and can take a while, but I slowly got the hang of making cylinders and bowls (bowls are much easier!). Another person on the course gave me the tip of closing my eyes for centring and I really found this helped. Keeping elbows in and my hand slightly raised from the wheel also helped immensely.

I also discovered, as with many things, I am ambidextrous with the wheel’s turning direction. I am right handed but I find with most things I actually lead with my left hand (or foot is we’re talking about surfing or snowboarding). And so I had the wheel turning both anti clockwise and clockwise, depending on what I was doing. It wasn’t intentional, it just felt more natural.

The only frustrating part of the day was the fact that because we hung around and wedged clay for the first hour or so, by the time we had thrown a few cylinders or bowls, they weren’t dry enough by the afternoon to turn. This was pretty frustrating as it was taken for granted you could just pop back another time and finish them off – when my circumstances don’t lend themselves to this. Also, as I found previously, the studio is so dusty I get a blocked nose and sinus after spending a few hours there. I’ve read how dangerous breathing in clay dust is, and I’m sure the instructor knows this as well, but it made me long for the cleanliness of SB’s studio.

I’m afraid I don’t have any photos of the items I produced on the throwing day but if I am able to go back to turn them, have them fired and glazed, I will certainly post the pictures on here and instagram (pmstrat).

To keep the momentum going I spent this morning on my little shimpo at home! It was certainly different to the larger pottery wheel at the studio and the clay I Was throwing was my reclaimed clay which has grog in it, but I divided my clay into five 300,400 and 500g or so lumps and had a go! I was able to throw bowls and cylinders which made me very happy and I also managed to throw a few egg cups off the hump! I even pulled my own handle to attach to a mug. I left a few items to dry out in the sun and had a go at turning this lunch time – that was trickier than I had imagined! Just getting the item centred was a pain. As a result a few items were scrapped, but as always, I’m happy to do this as it’s all a learning process! Three things made it out alive, two bowls and an egg cup.

I’m going to start watching a few turning tutorials, I need tips for centring items and I’m not sure I’m holding the tools correctly to make a foot.

I’m over to SB’s studio tomorrow to pick up things and no doubt glaze the last few items. I’ve run out of clay pretty much now too (I’m in the process of drying the scraps from today). I’ll take over my thrown things as well. Although I don’t know if she’ll be happy with me – she said people should work with clay for 2yrs handbuilding before throwing…!! She doesn’t know I have a wheel either. EEK. Don’t be mad SB!

…The adventures with clay continue!

PG x

p.s. Art in Clay this weekend! And the latest copy of Ceramic Review arrived today. A great pottery day.

Clay reclaiming complete! 

After leaving the clay to slake down for 24hrs and then laying it out about an inch or so thick over my home made wedging board, I left the clay to dry for 48hrs. I checked on the clay every few hours and I think somewhere between 36-48hrs is probably sufficient although I initially dried the clay outside and then under a lamp for a while. When I got up this morning the clay was a good viscosity in that it wasn’t wet to touch but wasn’t close to leather hard. I’d say it was damp to touch and my thumb left an impression easily in the clay without my thumb getting stuck or covered in clay! I hope that makes sense. 

I scraped the clay off the wedging board – this time I laid it on the canvas side but next time I think I’ll lay it out on the plaster side. The clay stuck to the canvas a little and from what I’ve seen on YouTube it should be able to come off in one piece on the plaster side. I wedged the clay a little on the plaster side and it stayed in one piece.

Overall from a 12.5kg bag or so of clay, I was able to reclaim 2kg! I’m really happy. Yes it’s a bit of work, but it’s part of the best thing about working with clay – you can reuse it! 

I am going to a throwing class tomorrow with the studio owner I first had a few classes with about 8-9months ago. He holds a throwing day, 10am-5pm in his studio for £70 which is much more reasonable than the 2hr one-to-one class for £60 I was considering in Hitchin! Other people were charging £100+ for a day. It’s madness.

Anyway I will write a post about throwing tomorrow after I’ve been to the studio! I will also get to work using the reclaimed clay this afternoon while Little One sleeps and see how that goes.

PG over and out x

Beautiful bowls but running glaze issues

I got my three little pinch pots back last night! I was very happy with them until I turned them over – two had stuck to the mount: one badly, one not so bad. SB took a chisel and hammer to the one that had stuck the most and ended up taking a huge chip out if the bottom. I should have just tried to file it down myself perhaps. 

It’s all a learning process and for this I’m grateful… but. But. It still sucks. So close but yet so far!

I also got my box back!

 I began making this maybe the second session I was it SB? It’s far from perfect but I made the stamp design myself and the lid fits! So those are good things. I love the blue glaze but it’s a little uneven. More lessons to be learned!

PG x

Reclaiming clay tips!

I’ve just come across this site and post about recycling / reclaiming clay

http://www.potterymakinginfo.com/news/recycle-clay/

This page talks about lots of different ways to recycle clay – ultimately it’s as I described in an earlier post – drying clay out (optional), soaking it down and then drying it out before wedging. People have lots of different ways to help the process along although I like the idea of putting the clay scraps in an old pillowcase before putting it in the bucket. That way once it’s slaked down you can easily remove it and hang it out to dry to get rid of excess water and assist in the drying process before laying it out on a porous surface.

My clay has slaked down quickly! Just a few hours – probably because it was a small quantity. A before and after shot!

But, I will leave it over night just to be sure. All good so far!

PG x

Potter Girl. The Beginning.

Hello,

I’m Potter Girl. I thought I’d start this blog as a place to collect ideas and document my experiences and adventures with all things ceramic!

I’m not a 100% newbie to clay. I did art and design A-Level and this included a clay component (although admittedly this was over 10 years ago – which also raises the question of the use of the word ‘girl’ instead of… Lady? Woman? 30 yr old female? Ergh). Anyway. I had some experience, albeit limited, with hand building over a decade ago. Last year my husband bought me a pottery course for Christmas and in doing so ignited what has quickly become an obsession with clay/pottery/ceramics.

This pottery course wasn’t so much a course (there was little tuition, if any) as time spent in a pottery studio, however it gave me a taste of hand building, throwing, glazing and raku. Me being me however, I like to start at the beginning and really get to know something. I feel that, particularly with clay, if you don’t understand what you’re working with, you won’t be able to move forward productively.

I made a few things – none of which I was particularly happy with, mostly because I hadn’t put any thought into the pieces, as I had imagined we might be given some guidance as to what we could do. This wasn’t the case and so I randomly made a couple of things for the garden (!?), which I will post photos of later!

Once the course was over I decided to look for another pottery mentor and came across a wonderful ceramic artist locally – one of the perks of living in London, you’re never that far away from what you’re looking for.

I went along to her home studio and was met with a beautiful, orderly space full of books, pots, glazed tiles, all kinds of tools etc etc. What I would give to have a space like that at home! Needless to say I immediately signed up to go once a week and the artist (lets call her SB) has also agreed to give me some tuition, which is so generous of her.

And so this virtual space will serve as a place for me to document my progress with clay, the good things and the bad!

I have lots of things to write already as I’ve been going to SB’s for 3 weeks now, but sadly as she’s away on holiday it’ll be a month before I have another class. I have however bought a bag of clay to work with at home, so that will suffice for now.

I’ll post again tomorrow,

night night!

PG x