Rabbits! The finished pieces

Hello all,

Just to update you on the status of the rabbits! They were glazed with an iron wash and then had a matr white glaze poured on – SB’s own recipe. I had tried for a little more colour variation but overall I’m happy with them! What do you think?

The rabbit sitting up has cobalt eyes and the rabbit sitting down has a glossy amaco brown glaze on the eyes.

More posts to come shortly.. Watch this space!

PS xx

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Underglazes, Dipping Glazes, Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit

Morning all,

Apologies for things going quiet on the blog – 2018 has thus far been a challenging year. Which gives me all the more reason to enjoy and celebrate clay when I get the chance.

A few weeks back SB’s studio opened up again on Tuesday nights and I popped down. I made two little dishes for mothers day for my mum and mum-in-law and a couple of bowls. My intention was to start playing with underglazes and try to understand dipping/spraying glazes more rather than just brush on.

The underglazes were ok to use, but to be vibrant they were low fired and so not suitable for food SB said. But as the dishes were more like little trinket dishes this was fine. The underglazes were fine, one colour must have been a little thick or not happy as it bubbled and burst away, but I had more issues with the clear glaze I had to brush ontop that got a bit claggy (is that a word?). I think SB has a clear crackle I can use next time that was more light and less err.. claggy.

The green glaze I sprayed on gave a lovely coverage but a blue cobalt I used came out much more strongly that I had anticipated – a bit garish. And the tags yard I used under the spray on glaze burnt away mostly, so was barely visible at all. Overall I really didn’t like either of the green bowls I made at all. Last night I worked to re-glaze them and see if they could be salvaged. I don’t like discarding things – I don’t like to be wasteful. So I’m hoping they look a little better with a second firing..

I also poured on a blue dipping glaze. I think I need to get much better with my pouring or perhaps some glazes are more forgiving than others – because the coverage was really uneven, especially on the sides of the dishes. Likewise I used a blue cobalt and tags yard to try and bring out some detail in the bowl, but again the blue as garish and the tags yard virtually burnt away. Hopefully next in two weeks or so I’ll be able to get them back in a better condition. Regardless I will post the results as its useful to share failures as well as successes!!

And so apart from battling with glazes, I decided to make a rabbit last night! Well, a hare. I had seen an article in Clay Craft where they used two small pinch pots to make a basic rabbit shape. I have wanted to make Little One a rabbit for the garden since I began working with pottery again – but I was intimidated by sculpture. Handbuilding is such a different skill to throwing, and I have never had much luck with coiling and pinch pots. But my mind was restless with other things and I just started, regardless. I think seeing the Clay Craft article gave me confidence. I joined two large pinch pots and used a third smaller pinch pot for the head. And from there I pushed, added, scrapped, moulded and prodded the clay into a hare standing on its back legs. I worked a little from an image of a real hare on my phone, but as you can imagine the phone kept shutting down, so it was largely from eye and memory. I wasn’t going either for ‘animated’ nor ‘real life’ but something in between I guess. I battled with memory vs a picture, as a hare has quite long front legs, which looked strange to me when I made them in clay, but the proportions were roughly correct from the photo of the hare.

The plan is to use oxides and underglazes to glaze him but keep it quite low key. I’ll definitely be doing a few test tiles before jumping in and glazing him – that much those awful bowls have taught me!!

I’d like to have a go making more animals – mostly for the garden and for my Little One to enjoy. It was a really different building experience to throwing or slab, and I’m glad I finally made a rabbit (hare), just in time for spring! As ever, I’ll do my best to keep you posted

PS xx

Here’s to 2018! A vintage year for Ceramics?

Hello All,

I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are well recovered from festivities and/or dry Jan or Vegan Jan or other. Can you believe it’s February already? I honestly can’t. I think our experience of time changes as we get older… but that’s for a different post and perhaps different blog all together!

Just to let you all know that I am alive and still here! We’re all recovering from this rotten flu-stomach bug-cold that’s been going around here like the plague! But we’re slowly returning to form.

There will hopefully be some big changes in the Stratford household this year. I have plans. And they include a shed. Oh yes. Big pottery related shed plans. But let’s see how things turn out.

Looking forward to keeping this blog alive and well with some more posts and pottery related adventures! I bought a galvanised steel bin incinerator a few months ago now to do some smoke firing! I’ve been collecting paper from the shredder and looking up how to get different effects, all I need now are some bisque pots and some dry weather. I’m also playing around with designs to create a ‘range’ of some kind. And I’ve been inspired by the incredible work of The Key West Pottery – their ceramic totem poles, vibrant colours and playful pieces make me want to create something just as bright and fun for my home..

So! Lots of pottery adventures to come.

I’ve had some great comments back recently from old posts – if anyone has any tips, bargains or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Best wishes as ever,

PS xx

Cast Munchkin Pumpkins!

Yes, Halloween is long gone. But since writing a post about making plaster casts, I have been busy making as many munchkin pumpkins as I can! And I love the results! As you can see I’m channelling my inner Kate Malone.

Unless specified otherwise these pumpkins were glazed using Botz glazes. As you’ll see below some are wild pinks, blues and metallic! Whereas others are more natural looking with greens, browns and white.

Some of these pumpkins have already been picked up by family but I will make sure I get a few on etsy asap!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Love

PS xxIMG_20171219_231645_667.jpg

(Above: pink and blue pumpkin is glazed in Amaco Potters Choice)

(Below: metallic pumpkin is Amaco glaze Palldium)

 

(Brown and blue pumpkin below is Amaco Potters Choice glazes)

Lisa Hammond (Maze Hill) Open Studio! 2/3 Dec

The wonderful Lisa Hammond of Maze Hill Pottery also has an open studio this weekend! 2nd – 3rd December, down in Greenwich 10am – 6pm. They have a particularly fun part to the weekend – a kiln opening! Saturday at 11am. Alongside Lisa, Darren Ellis and Dominic Upson have their work for sale.

I’ve never been to Maze Hill, to be honest I just assumed Lisa Hammond worked in Stoke. However it looks like an incredible space, a former ticket office not far from the UNESCO Maritime Greenwich area.

I met Lisa at Ceramic Art London this year, and she was so friendly and approachable. She talked about the way in which they achieved the glaze effect on their mugs.

I’m going to do my best to get to both Kate Malone’s studio and Maze Hill. If you’re going along too do say hello!

PS xx

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Kate Malone Open Studios 2017!

It’s Christmas in just over four weeks. Leaving that mad thought aside for a moment, one fantastic thing about the coming festive period is OPEN STUDIOS!

As any avid reader of my blog knows, I’m a huge Kate Malone fan and I have every intention of heading down to her beautiful studio again this December! It’s very soon – 2nd and 3rd December from 11am – 7pm and will have the wonderful  Anna Barlow (lovely melty icecreams!), Miray Mehmet Fontanelli, Erika Albrecht and the one and only Richard Miller of Froyle Tiles (and throw down fame).

It’s a little tricky to find, in that her studio is a mews and so behind the main street, but that makes it all the more wonderful! A little piece of secret, ceramics heaven hidden away. I went there last year via Highbury and Islington and took a bus a short way, but Dalston Junction is also just around the corner. But lets face it, who doesn’t have Google Maps or something else to help get about? (Postcode N1 4DX).

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I went on the second day last year and bagged myself the most luscious pumpkin from her Waddesdon Mannor collection, but from what I can see this year from Kate’s Instagram she is making some pieces especially for the weekend and to support the Clay College in Stoke, of which she is a patron! I’d recommend going as early as possible on the first day, not to miss out on any goodies you might want to pick up. Not only are there little goodies, Kate also has a pretty large selection of bigger magma and vegetable/organic items available. (I’m kicking myself for not buying the most amazing pair of magma candle holders last year. I think I’ll be regretting that till my last day. Anyway). Or go along at any time you can make! It’s genuinely an incredible experience to be allowed into an artist’s workspace, to meet her and to see her work and creative environment.

What I really, really loved about going last year was the fact that Kate is there happily chatting away to everyone, handing out mince pieces and drinks like she’s known everyone for years! She’s an incredibly warm lady and her enthusiasm for clay is absolutely infectious. Where else, in what other community, can someone so iconic be so down to earth and wonderful? I bloody love clay.

So. I guess I’ll see you all soon!

PS xx

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Mold Making!

Inspired by the recent factory tours in Stoke I have done this year and my love of Kate Malone’s work (her Instagram #Kate_Malone_Ceramics is great by the way! I bought one of her famous pumpkins that featured in her Waddesdon Manner exhibition this year during her open studio – photos on my Instgram #pstratfordceramics) I have long wanted to make my own mold. But it looks messy and a little complicated. And messy it is, but complicated less so, as I found out!

Until this weekend despite my desire to make a plaster mold, I hadn’t actually found something I wanted to create and repeat multiple times. More often than not the same thing can be hand built to the same dimensions using the same templates and tools. However this weekend I came across my first Munchkin pumpkin! Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t the first time I’d ever seen one, but they aren’t usually for sale in the local supermarket and if they are they’re priced at something ridiculous. However these ones were just £1! And were beautiful. Sumptuous, perfectly shaped and a gorgeous deep orange colour. I had to have one! (Two. I bought two).

Now that I had an object of desire I wanted to reproduce (channelling my inner Malone) I needed some plaster. As you may have read in earlier posts, I’m used to working with plaster to make wedging boards and my local art shop, which is usually quite pricey, sells 2.5kg buckets of plaster of paris for £7.95. Which isn’t too bad – online it can be a little cheaper but postage usually brings it to around £10 or so. Plus the wait. And impatient I certainly am! So I ran down to the art shop to purchase my plaster – but they were out of stock! They only had 1kg bag left. After a little friendly chat and explanation of what I was doing, they very kindly said they had a couple of kilos in the warehouse which they could bring in the next day and even more kindly said that because of the wait, I could have 3kg for the price of 2.5kg – woo hoo!

I headed back home one happy potter. The next stage was a little tricky however.

I knew I needed to cast the pumpkin in a container, as I don’t have the wooden molds that you see in the videos online or blogs. Hmm. I also knew I needed to re-use the mold in order to get the same shape for both sides, or have two disposable molds. HMMMM. After a lot of thinking and trying out of cardboard, chopping boards, emptying food and trying to find matching shapes, I came across a bucket container I had from a previous batt wash purchase. The bucket was perfect in shape, not too big and not too small, and tall enough to fit the clay, the munchkin and the plaster. Sorted!

In order to make extraction possible, I lined the container with a plastic bag before putting in a clay base, then building up clay around my munchkin. It was tricker than I had thought to get a nice smooth, even surface. I had previously marked the halfway point of the pumpkin with black marker, so that I knew where to bring the clay up to. It also occurred to me it’d be incredibly difficult to remove once set due to the air vacuum, so I poked a hole down one side. This could also serve as a marker so I knew which way to line up the molds when casting. I read about needing to ‘soap’ the item as well, to make sure it released easily from the plaster. I wasn’t sure what ‘soaping’ was, I understood the concept and read about people using some specialist kind of soap or oil… I just went for the fairy liquid, diluted just a tiny bit, and tried to be careful to keep the bubbles to a minimum.

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Evertyhing was working out wonderfully! Until..

I mixed up half the plaster (500g) with approx half a pint of water. It immediately went into little rocks. CRAP. I hurredly tried to add more water… didn’t work… pass it through a sieve… didn’t work… perhaps it would be fine?! I poured it over the munchkin.

3 hours later it still had not set.

I scrapped the custard like mix out and started again. This time, I thought, I’ll sieve the plaster before it goes in the water and I’ll be really accurate with my measurements.

For a second time in just a few hours, the plaster was slopped off the top and thrown in the bin. I was annoyed. I’ve used plaster many times before. What was I doing wrong? It hadn’t behaved like nay plaster I’d used before.

The next morning I wandered down to the art shop to collect my two extra kilos. I wasn’t looking forward to this – what if the plaster behaved exactly like the last attempts? I spoke to the store manager and he said, helpfully, to follow the instructions. I couldn’t be mad I felt, because they’d given me 0.5kg plaster for free. But it didn’t matter how much I paid, if the product didn’t work. On the way home I did some googling and read that if the plaster was damp it can create these pebble like beads and is essentially unusable. I think this must be what had happened – it described the condition of the plaster accurately. Perhaps this last bag had been sat on the shelf for a long time in damp conditions. Who knows.

Nonetheless I persevered on, determined to cast my Munchkin.

This time I went for the full kilo and one pint of water.. straight away, the plaster felt different in my hand as I mixed it, and I knew I was on to a winner! I poured the plaster over my munchkin and it set beautifully in less than 10mins. WHOOOPPEEEEEEEEEE!!

The plastic bag trick worked well and I was able to remove my clay and plaster easily. I turned it upside down and pulled the clay off – and out came the munchkin! OH NO. OUT CAME THE MUNCHKIN. I knew if I wanted make the second cast, I’d need to try and line up the pumpkin. Arse.

I used the shape of the stalk of the munchkin to line up the second clay setting as best I could. The fairy liquid seemed to have worked well last time, so I repeated that process by painting on a few layers of soap and letting them dry. The final kilo of plaster worked perfectly as well, and before I knew it – I had made my first casts!

The edges were a little untidy and the two surfaces a little uneven, so I used the grater tool (that’s definitely not its proper name) to neaten up the edges and smooth out the top surfaces.

 

 

I let the plaster molds dry a little more and in the afternoon I had a go at making my first munchkin!

I made two discs of clay and pressed them into the mold. I added a little extra for the stalk side, evened out the edges, scored, slipped, stuck the two together and smoothed out the join. As you can see the clay munchkin is a little smaller than the real one, but I was really happy with how it turned out! I think it might be smaller because I trimmed down the edges before putting the two halves together. It seemed to have lost some of the volume of the original munchkin.

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This morning I had another go at making a munchkin. I did the same work with two even discs of clay but this time, I worked up the edges a little – in the photo below, the first munchkin is on the left and the second is on the right. I’m really happy with both to be honest!

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The biggest problems I experienced were with the plaster (but I think I know why now) and finding a suitable reusable mold shape.

Of course before they’re fired they’ll need a hole poked in the bottom of them, and they’re a little late to be ready in time for halloween, but overall I’m really happy with how they went and I’ll happily make as many munchkins as I can over the next few weeks! I’m thinking I can cut out some faces or use underglaze to paint them different colours and spooky designs. Of course I’ll post the results when they’re finished!

Now I just need to find something else worth casting..

Happy Halloween!

PS xx