Phnom Penh Market Vase!

It’s great to get something finally finished! This was a vase I hand built, inspired by the markets of Phnom Penh. It was my first time using under glazes and I think the results are mixed… some very patchy, some uneven, some look ok, some look great! Some areas were painted with different types of glaze, which seem to be more effective and consistent than the under glazes. I think on close inspection the glaze reveals the inconsistencies, but the overall effect is better!



Inspired by the techniques of this vase, I used the circular decorations on two thrown items, a bowl and a vase. I think the glaze for these will be much simpler, perhaps a glaze that changes colour with different textures.

I’ll put up the results when they’re ready!

PG x

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? 

Some success! Some learning opportunities..

It’s been busy here let me tell you! I’ve been building a vase inspired by the markets in Phnom Penh, Cambodia all week and then last night I got to pick up a few items and glaze some more!

This is the vase and the sketchpad drawings – you can see how the reality of putting ideas into clay changes things, but I’m happy for this process to take place. I rolled out a slab and used a cordial bottle to get the initial shape and structure. Thereafter I began rolling smaller slabs, cutting out pieces, layering, etching, shaping.. It was so much fun! It’s drying at the moment and will hopefully be fired this week. Then the next step will be glazing. I’m realising that this is an entirely different skill to hand building, and one I certainly haven’t gotten the hang of!! But I am really happy with my vase so far. I’m hoping it’ll be bright and beautiful once finished.

I got back a couple of pieces from SB last night! These were the pieces initially fired at a high temp, which limited the glazes I could use to low temp glazes. I began with this black/metallic glaze on my chess pieces and then used this for the underside of my dishes and bowls. The inside of the bowls were glazed with a clear glaze to show the internal patterning and contrast with the harsh black.

I’m really happy with how the chess pieces turned out! But the glaze on all the pieces ran. The smaller dish broke entirely and the other dishes all melted onto the sand on the shelf below, so I have had to file them down and neaten them up. The glaze also bubbled in some areas, I don’t know why. Obviously all of these are a little extra-ordinary as they are fired the ‘wrong’ way around, but its all a learning process.

Last night I glazed the other chess pieces with clear glaze for a second firing and will be applying a lacquer to make them pearly white. The lacquer will require a third firing. I also glazed the three small bowls, pen holders and my box. I really need to write down what glazes I used.

I’m pretty much out of clay too – I have been collecting my scraps and will be attempting to slake the clay down and reclaim it! But that’s a story for another post..

This week is about getting together more ideas, sketching and glazing ideas!

I’ve been using Instagram a lot and keeping that updated more quickly than the blog so feel free to follow me on that – @pmstrat

PG x



Ideas, doodles & drawings

I have a few projects I would very much like to begin, but from experience, I now know it is worth waiting for the rolling sticks to arrive before I try to hand roll out big slabs of clay.

So, dear internet, I thought I’d share with you some sketches from my book.

This is a selection of photos I’ve taken from Cambodia and I’ve been using these as initial ideas for shapes and colours.


As I’ve mentioned, I want to make a Khmer inspired tea set and for this I’ve been thinking a lot about the shape of the body of the pot. Spherical or more cubic.. I would very much like it to have an ‘edge’ connecting the handle to the spout. Although in sketches this looks great on the spherical pot, I think practically speaking a more square pot might be in order – or not square, but cube… four sided, but two sides much thinner than the two main walls. I don’t really intend this set to be used (it would be great if it could) but really it’s the aesthetic that I’m interested in and capturing the essence and the colours.

This is the page in my sketch book of the first two jugs I made. They’re with SB at the moment so hopefully when I go back they’ll be biscuit fired and ready for glazing! But of course, the adornment broke when I took them with me to the studio in the car. Gah. But if they work out, I’ll make another.


I’ve also been thinking about the markets in Phnom Penh and how wonderfully full and seemingly chaotic they are to initial observation, but upon closer look the stalls selling cloth, trinkets, bowls, cups and saucers etc. are actually highly organised. Some images from can give you a good idea of what I mean, if you haven’t experienced markets in SE Asia yourself! A few from the sit are below.

I have tried to capture the fullness and variety of shapes and textures. (I really need to learn which way to hold my camera – wordpress edit doesn’t let me rotate the image, but just to be clear, it’s a vase…)


Part of the inspiration for this drawing came from looking at Kate Malone’s recent work for Waddesdon Mannor. Her pieces made specifically for this event but as always, are incredibly vibrant and sumptuous. At times her pieces are sparse in detail and therefore allowing the colour to trigger the imagination and at other times, her pots and vessels are visual feasts, every inch of surface covered! The intricacy of her work genuinely astounds me. As a home potter, I am in awe of the detail and skill that goes in to her work. I really hope we get up to Waddesdon Mannor to see the exhibition – hopefully beloved, little one and I can make a weekend of it.

In my mind, but not yet sketched out, is a similar pot but one depicting the overcrowded, informal housing (I wont call them slums, if you want to read my doctoral thesis you can find out why) but the infamous White Building in Phnom Penh and the areas around Boeung Tra Bek etc. would make for a fascinating project.

And finally, a project I’ve had in mind for probably 9 months or more – is to make a chess set! I have a particular recipient in mind, but I have put it off for now, as I want to have a really beautiful finish on the pieces. But hopefully with my new rolling guides etc. I will be able to create a set I’m happy with. I have gone for minimal, simple shapes, as this I think, would be what the person receiving it would like. The glaze for this will be important too. And I’ll have to think of a way to store them delicately enough so they don’t chip. My sewing machine will no doubt be coming out for that!


So, Ta Dah! It’s certainly a little intimidating sharing a sketch book. I have no idea if my ideas will work well in clay, they will no doubt change and be modified as pratical necessity dictates. But it’s exciting nonetheless!

PG x

Dr Potter Girl: Cambodia

Throughout my journey of learning and experimentation with clay, my love of Cambodia, Khmer culture, language, art and architecture will be an ever present influence.

This is because I recently completed my doctorate in Development Studies for which I spent a lot of time in Cambodia. My research focused on urban poverty, urban poor livelihoods and urban poor housing issues in Phnom Penh. (Hence my Khmer inspired tea set!)

I didn’t want to simply make my own tacky Khmer souvenir, one I could have bought in the Russian Market for 400KHR! Nor am I trying to appropriate Khmer culture, that isn’t my intention at all. My Khmer tea set will show a very clear connection to Khmer colours and shapes whereas future projects will be more subtle and abstract. Hopefully it demonstrates my genuine love and awe of Khmer history and culture in a sensitive way. Whilst the tea set is my first project taking inspiration from Cambodia, I hope to create many more projects drawing from my experiences of Cambodia, Cambodia’s stunning environment, Khmer history, art and architecture as well as contemporary urbanisation and urban development.

I don’t intend to draw only from my love of all things Khmer, not at all, but I thought I’d explain why Cambodia in particular is important to me.

Dr PGx

A fresh start

And thus, having been reintroduced to the medium of clay, I decided to part from the lovely but clearly uninterested first artist and find myself somewhere/someone who might be more inclined to mentor me in the ways of clay and such things.

I found SB online after a little google searching and contacted her. After a brief exchange of emails I popped over one evening about a month ago and we went from there! Her studio was the exact opposite of the environment of the first artist, clean for one thing, but orderly, bright and well equipped. The kiln and drying shelves are to one end followed by dipping glazes, a slab roller and then two long large worktops running the length of the studio. Underneath said worktops can be found brushes and tools, stamps, sticks and all sorts of goodies. Above the worktops are examples of her work, other studio-goers work and at the far end, pots of paint on glazes, glaze charts and finally a potters wheel.

The first evening I dropped by to meet SB she encouraged me to stay while we talked about my experience and what I wanted to gain from coming to the studio. There were three other potters in the studio, all of whom were much older than I but all were extremely welcoming. We talked about the type of clay we were using – white stoneware – and she showed me pictures of hand built ceramics from a few books to give me ideas. From a precursory understanding, I imagined pottery to mostly take place on a potters wheel, but this SB was not really the case and beautiful, sophisticated pieces could be made from hand-building. In fact, she said normally an apprentice wouldn’t get onto throwing clay for around 2years as a person needs to develop an understanding of the material and the process of turning clay into ceramic before getting to throwing.

I instantly liked SB. She’s warm, but direct, easy going but to the point. I confirmed that I would like to become a regular and SB said she would be happy to show me the ropes!

The first evening stayed and made a pinch pot. Really I should have let it dry, the pot collapsed a little in the middle, but I tried to incorporate this as a feature, textured it with a paddle and a stamp, and cut out a little lid with a dip so it would be easy to put on correctly. The following week, my first full session with SB and the other potters in the studio I glazed my pinch pot with a reddy/orange under stain and a white glaze on top.


The little pot came out ok, I think the red stain was put on too thick as it has come out patchy and completely hidden the stamp work underneath. It’s largely imperfect, but I quite like it nonetheless.

imageSB showed me how to use the slab roller and how to make a cylinder. I decided to roll lace over the top of my clay to make a pattern in it. It was quite a large cylinder and the pattern leant itself to, what I thought, would be a nice castle for my wee one to play with (it was far too broad to be a vase). After attaching a base, I cut out four windows and a door.

SB gave me a small lump of clay to take home so that I could make a makers mark stamp – I was genuinely so excited – my own makers mark! I worked on the stamp at home experimenting a bit but eventually I found a large embroidery needle to be the most accurate for small detailed work. Having started a sketch pad the week before, I also made a decorative stamp, which I’ll put a picture up of when I can.

My second week with SB I tidied up the bottom of my ‘castle’ and slab rolled out larger pieces of clay to construct a box, under SB’s guidance. As one of the other potters was making bowls, SB suggested I make one too – it was remarkably quick and relatively easy – simply roll out a piece of clay and lay over an existing bowl of your desired shape. I hadn’t thought about making the bowl or what I would do with it, so I did a simple linear texture around the outer edge and in the centre. Some of the edges were left quite sharp and the uneven surface of the bowl probably means that it won’t be practical to use, but I feel that at the moment I am still just experimenting.


SB gave me a larger lump of clay (stoneware with grog added) to take home my second week and I decided to really try and make something more coherent. A few years ago I spent a significant amount of time in Cambodia and I have always wanted to make something inspired by my time there. I had printed off some photos, stuck them in a sketch book and started doing some drawings and decided upon a jug design with a decorative edge opposite the pouring lip. The first pot I made using half a pinch pot and the spout with a coil. This photo is of the pot at a mid stage, before the it was shaped and tidied up. The adornment was raised more vertical, the lip of the jug cleaned and a rim cut into the neck using an embroidery needle.

The second jug I made I used two pinch pots to create the bulbous body of the jug, cut a hole and used a large single coil to make the spout and adornment. I used my embroidery needle to etch in a pattern, but I found the grog to be quite lumpy and make creating clean lines (like when I made the makers mark stamp) more difficult. However as I understand it grog should strengthen the clay and make it more resilient. The two jugs were roughly the same shape but were slightly uneven, however I was happy with them once I had worked on them for a fair amount of time. I knew they weren’t perfect, but that was fine.

Finally last night, when I went to SBs for the third session, both the adornments on my pots broke. I can’t tell you how upset I was!! I had let them dry out at home, wrapped them in bubblewrap and tried to get them to SB in one piece. I had failed, massively. And because they had dried out, there was no way I could reattach the adornments. Mega p*ssed off!! But. Lesson learnt. SB told me how to wrap them and that it’s better to travel with them leather-hard rather than dried out.

Instead I got on and glazed my castle and plate and worked on trimming my box slabs and decorating them with the decorative stamp I had made. I wish I had some more photos to put up of my pieces so far, but they’re with SB now and she’s away for two weeks and then I’m away.. so it’s around a month or so before I’m back in the studio.

HOWEVER! Have no fear! I bought a bag of clay and will be continuing to work on bits and pieces from home, experimenting and seeing what I can create.

Although I’m looking forward to getting back to SB’s to see how my castle and bowl look once they’re out of the kiln… exciting!

PG x