Throwing and Kiln shelf issues!

During the week I very nearly signed up to an intensive throwing class… it was far away and expensive. But I really want to improve my throwing. However money is tight at the moment and so rather than spend the time and money going somewhere else, I thought I should try and have a good few sessions at home! I was hoping that the sun would be out and I’d be able to save the mess in the house by throwing outside… but no. It’s rained on and off all weekend.

Nonetheless! I got my little table top Shimpo out of the toilet in the garden and cut out about 8-10 chunks of 500g clay, and two 750 chunks. I wanted to throw some mugs and a couple of bowls.

Throwing, unlike previous times, went well! I’ve really tried to put into practice what I have been told and seen online on youtube and Instagram. Gus the Pothead is one of my favourites on Instagram, I’d definitely recommend checking out his throwing videos!

I managed to make eight mugs about the same shape and size. I wired them off and then let them dry a little on the bat. I think I might be going wrong here – should I be taking them off the bat straight away? Two got damaged when I was trying to take them off so I let them dry a little. Any advice on taking things off the bat would be appreciated! What works for you?

I threw two more mugs and then my bowls suffered a similar fate as the two mugs – they completely collapsed as I was trying to take them off the bat. It was so frustrating! I finally managed to throw another large bowl and keep it. But I did as I described earlier, I wired it off and let it dry out a little before moving it off the bat.

My plan is to glaze at greenware stage with Amaco Potters Choice and do a single firing. However herein lies my next issue. My kiln shelves are flaking! The bat wash flakes off and falls onto a pot. How do I stop this happening? Does bat wash come off with water or do I need to do something else to remove it all? I read perhaps a very thin coat is better than a thick one… Please! I don’t want to ruin the cups and bowl I’ve thrown this weekend. And as SB’s studio is closed I don’t have another kiln to use!

Love in advance

PS xxx

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Raku Saturday!

Raku this weekend was at the mercy of the weather. However the fire gods smiled on us Saturday morning as the rain cleared for a few hours! (Two little fire gods below!)

I had two different kinds of hand built items ready for the firing. The majority of pieces had been bisque fired and glazed with raku glazes. However I made a pair of tall narrow vases that were glazed as greenware and then bisque fired. This was because we had an extra night at SB’s studio before the firing and not enough time to bisque fire and glaze separately. The glaze on the greenware moved a lot in the bisque firing which was disappointing but I was still eager to see how they would emerge after the raku firing.

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The firing took place at SBs studio – two separate kilns to get through the volume of raku items as well as a single metal bin for a 24hr smoking.

The pieces were loaded into the kiln and fired for around 30-60 mins depending on the rate of heat. SB has decades of ceramics experience to draw from and she was able to decide when the pieces were ready.

Items were removed from the kiln using long metal tongs and placed into a variety of metal vessels including bins, billys, wheelbarrows and boxes! These were already half filled with sawdust and once the white-hot pots were placed in the sawdust, more was thrown on top of them as well as paper and other organic matter. Once the flames were covered a lid, or pre-prepared tin foil lids, was placed on top and on top of that, wet newspaper was laid.

After about 30mins or so, we removed items from the sawdust and washed them down. It was amazing to see the colours emerge from the burnt sawdust and the variation in glaze effect created by the placement in the kiln, the placement in the sawdust, the reduction and the combustable materials.

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I’m really happy with the results of the raku! I tried to get as much contrast as possible in my pieces, using both the glaze and the black of the raku.

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The two smaller vases at the front, the white orb and triangular vase, are both available  to buy on my Etsy page!

I would definitely love to do more raku! Although it takes a fair bit of equipment, something I’d need to invest in or borrow. One technique I think I will try is the smoking. Other artists created a couple of items, burnished them and had them bisque fired. These were then placed in a large garden incinerator, surrounded by sawdust, other combustibles, palm leaves and rosemary and then a few chemicals such as copper oxide and sodium chloride were sprinkled in. This was then set on fire and left to smoke over 24 hours. I haven’t seen the results, but I am aware that you can create amazing effects using this technique. All I’d need to get is a garden incinerator and a big bag of sawdust! A lot of the other things I have already. So – perhaps this is a project for the rest of the summer while SB’s studio is closed?

I’ve been busy on social media keeping my Instagram and Etsy shop updated creating a new Facebook page!

As ever, it’s great to hear from you so please feel free to comment or offer tips or advice!

Love

PS xx

Middleport Pottery 

Well! A few weeks ago   I ticked an item off my bucket list – a trip to Middleport Pottery! The home of Burleigh ware.

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Sadly, it was supposed to be for a porcelain class but a mix up meant that I did not attend (we were fully refunded and the staff were very apologetic – giving me a beautiful book to compensate!) but rather than waste the journey we went for a walk around the estate. Again unfortunately it was a weekend and so their official tours were not running but we were nonetheless able to walk around most of the exhibits and grounds and the representative Liz was extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

The beautiful Burleigh transfers

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The three stages of a teapot!

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Middleport has been producing wares since the mid 1800s non stop to present day. This is an incredible feat in of itself! The factory was the first to consider the different stages of creating ceramics and accordingly planned the building and layout to create a production line with seven bottle kilns and their own seggars on site. The site is perfectly placed next to a canal for transport of the products.

We also stopped for a spot of lunch in the cafe which was very reasonable and absolutely delicious. And then even more time taking in the beautiful show rooms!

I’d highly recommend a visit to the pottery, particularly if you are a Throw Down fan as they have a current exhibition displaying some of the most memorable pieces from the show!

P Stratford xx

 

Coiling (& Raku preparation)!

Apologies for the long delay in posts, life has gotten extremely busy. Working full time and taking care of a family doesn’t leave much time for anything else. Access to SB’s studio has been on and off as well due to similar circumstances. However the last week or so has seen some pottery action!

We are doing a raku firing in about a week, which meant making a couple of pieces early enough to have them bisque fired, glazed and dry enough in good time!

I have grown in confidence in my slab building however coiling is probably my weakest skill. Therefore I decided to take the opportunity to try and get better at coiling whilst preparing some items for a raku firing – two birds; one stone!

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to keep a coherent shape when coiling. Perhaps I’m working with the clay too wet? Should I be waiting until the clay is drier before coiling? The pot seems to sag and lose shape. Getting the sides smooth inside and out is tricky too. Perhaps my coils are too thin as well.. Any tips or advice would be great!

I read in Clay Craft about using a former to begin the piece and then to coil on top of this. This was more successful, but still not easy!

Nonetheless I created a few items – a coiled bottle, two coiled bowls using a former for the base and then an orb using two pieces shaped using the former. I shaped one of the bowls into a triangular shape just to mix things up a bit!

SB had created about six or seven glazes for the firing. I dipped items, used tape to keep parts of the clay clean, brushed on glaze and dripped it to create movement! Hopefully this will mean I get a lot of contrast between the colourful glazed areas and the naked clay, which will go black in the firing. Plunging the hot pieces into a bin of sawdust and paper will also affect the colours, so I will consider how to create as much reduction as possible before the big day!

I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of the glazed items, but we’re doing the raku firing on the 22nd July so I’ll take as many photos as possible.

SB’s studio is now closed for the summer but I bought a new bag of clay, so I’m hoping to get back to throwing and building more regularly over the next few weeks – and blogging of course!!

As ever, keep up to date with my comings and goings on Instagram and keep an eye on my etsy page for some lovely things!

P Stratford xx

Birdbath

A dear colleague at work is leaving and I wanted to say thank you in a meaningful way. So. What better than making him something! I know he loves his garden and so a flower pot or birdbath came to mind. Having made a few oblong slab built flowers pots recently, I thought a birdbath might be fun to make. 

I began with a former shape. I used a straw to poke through three holes, however I wasn’t sure what detail or design to do. I wanted I didn’t know if a country garden, traditional birdbath might be most appropriate or something a little more fun. I thought perhaps a little bird on the side but it didn’t seem very original. Something work related would be fun, perhaps? So I created a little tube train coming out of a tunnel along one side!

In my haste to glaze and fire it before he left, I read that you can use Mayco glaze on leather hard clay, meaning a single firing!

…well. Needless to say, I thought the piece was dry and after opening the kiln, my heart sank. It had cracked and broken into pieces. 

Not to be put off, I got straight back to my bag of clay and this time I rolled a slab and used a large mixing bowl to form the base. I cut a separate piece for the rim and once these were suitably dry I made the holes and stuck them together. I let the pieces dry a little more before using  my Mayco glazes and designer liners. I let the pieces dry over the weekend while we were off visiting Middleport Pottery (blog post to follow!) and I fired the pieces Sunday afternoon. 

I was so happy and relieved!! The colours came out well and most importantly it was all in one piece! I ran to a hardware store and rather than paying for expensive chain I found three sink-plug chains. These chains were perfect, 45cm long, rust resistant and they even had the little opening loops at each end!

I gave my colleague the birdbath this week and he was absolutely chuffed. It feels so good to show someone your thanks and gratitude with something you’ve invested time and effort in. I’m going to miss him at work but at least he has a little birdbath to remember us all by!

Birdbath making was fun and the actual shape is no more complicated than a dish. I’m looking forward to making the next one! I’m also really happy I can now single fire my pieces using the Mayco glaze – saves time and electricity!!!

Look out for some birdbaths on my etsy page coming soon!

PSxx

Blue – Brown! Amaco Potters Choice

A post a few months ago, Recent Work, showed a piece I had constructed in a relatively short amount of time but it has been a long time waiting to glaze. This is because I’ve found that sometimes my glaze choices have let me down! For example I love the depth of many of the Botz glazes but they’re thick and you need 2-3 coats, which means it just isn’t suitable for a finely textured piece. I’ve recently been using SB’s Amaco Potters Choice glazes which I really love! However she mostly has blues and pinks, and sometimes they merge into an almost denim colour. Which, if the desired effect is great! 

One glaze combination I’ve been enjoying is the Potters Choice combination of brown (55) and blue (pc20). Usually the blue is a Base colour you layer on top of however I’ve been putting the brown on first and using the blue to accent and it’s worked surprisingly well! 

I first used this glaze combination on a re-glazing and I liked the result. I used a dish made of scraps at the end of a studio session set in a former to try the glaze out on bisque and the depth of the brown was beautiful, particularly where it accentuated the marks underneath.

Re-glazed little vase.

I then tried the glaze in earnest on a larger piece I’ve been working on. It was built of textured strips, inspired by how urban forms and high rises begin to decay and look dated, are abandoned and sometimes find new life either through rehabitation or being reclaimed by nature. I used the blue glaze to highlight areas and wax resist to create contrast against the brown. I’m really happy with how it came out, the textures and marks are really visible. This is definitely a combination I will work with again! I want to put this piece in the garden near a crawler to let it become encapsulated by the plant. Hopefully it’ll grow in and out of the different parts and the green of the leaves will contrast with the deep brown.

PS xx

Recent work (part 1)

Hello all,

I thought I’d share a few photos some recent work. I’ve become increasingly interested in the interface of the natural and urban environments and structures.

I’ve been texturing clay, ripping, cutting and recycling the offcuts from other people’s cuttings in the studio – initially to help use up the used clay for SB, but actually using off cuts has added extra textures, shapes and forms became an interesting process in of itself. I’ve been using rollers, stamps, keys, lids, buttons and basically anything I can get my hands on to texture the clay. I try not to plan them too much but just let the pieces fit themselves together and layer them as required in order to strengthen them where needs be. Usually I have quite a fixed idea of what I want and I draw and plan it. Instead this time I’m trying out respond to the clay and not over think things.

I haven’t made the pieces into functional ware, instead I’ve been making pieces I want to glaze organically and have the pieces in the garden to become part of the natural environment again.

At the moment I’ve made two large pieces, photos of one piece below. I will add photos of their progress as I go.

Any comments or suggestions would be much appreciated!!

PS xx