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

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

Merry Mayco Christmas!

Ho Ho Ho! Meeeeeeerry Christmas!

I spent a good few hours last week making Christmas decorations and mugs in preparation for my first biscuit firing at home – and I’m happy to say it worked great! The kiln fired perfectly at home and the results were fab.

With a loads of Christmas tree decorations, trinket boxes and mugs to glaze, I got going with my new Mayco foundation glazes. It recommended 2-3 coats, so I applied 3 on pretty much everything. I also did a few testers indicating 1, 2 and 3 coats. The blue, grey, green and white came out well with 3 coats, although I’d go as far as to say go for 4 coats if you wanted a more bold colour. The ‘coral’ pink colour was quite washed out at 3 coats, so I’d definitely do 4 coats or even more if possible to try and get a bolder colour.

Having biscuit fired one day I was able to get the items glazed and fully dry by the weekend and fire for glazing! This was really exciting as I’d pack the kiln to the absolute brim, balancing stars on kiln accessories just to try and squeeze everything into the one firing. I even use the bottom of the kiln and tripods to add an extra layer. I don’t know if you should use the bottom of a kiln, but I did and it worked out fine. This isa  photo of the kiln lid being opened after my first low temp glaze firing!

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And here are a few more pictures of what came out. You can see I used a designer liner to highlight some of the snow flake pattern and on one of the stars I used a blue glaze over a white glaze, which gave a nice effect for the snowflake.

And here they are hanging in the tree! Lots of friends and family will be getting these little stars for Christmas!

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And then mid-week I was able to get back to SB’s to pick up some things that had been glazed a few weeks ago! She’s shut for Christmas now, but I was happy to pick up a few items as they were made as presents for people as well.

First is a little cup I threw on the wheel and added a pulled handle. I twisted it slightly and then glazed on an angle too – I really love this little mug, although if the twist had gone the other way, it would be comfier to hold. But it isn’t bad! And the new glazes SB has got are great – the colours are vibrant and overlap really well!

These were a pair of mugs I made, using lace to add detail to the clay and then highlighting the lace area with the pink/purple glaze and the rest of the mug with the blue/brown and a white glaze inside. I really like them and I know they’ve gone to a great home!

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And finally a tea jar to go with my coffee jar and two little vases I made! The tea jar came out great, although the lid slightly curled up.

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And the two vases were inspired by my Phnom Penh vase – I used the techniques from the larger vase to develop these little pieces – there is a 3rd but it needs more work so these were glazed in anticipation first!!

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It was my birthday recently and beloved got me a spot on a glaze making class in the spring, which is so exciting! Didn’t he do well? And I got a few ceramics books and bits and pieces from friends and family. I’m one lucky Potter Girl.

So there we are! Christmas eve is a week away and I can’t wait for some time off work to spend with loved ones! Clay is all wrapped up for now but no doubt I’ll be back on it again over the Christmas holidays – much remains to be made.

Wishing everyone a fantastic festive period and a happy and healthy 2017! Take care of yourselves

PG X

Dad to the kiln rescue! 

If you’re lucky like me, you have a Dad or someone  (male or female!) in your life who is that go to person for advice for anything from buying a pair of glasses to fixing a kiln.

As avid readers of this blog will recall, my kiln died the first time I tried to use it. Being an old second hand kiln and having done basic checks on the kiln, I was baffled and assumed something must be seriously wrong, or so wrong that I as an amateur potter should best leave it alone before I do myself  (or worse, the kiln) some damage. I rang the local recommended ‘kiln guy’ but he was busy for a few weeks. Needless to say the kiln sat unloved… until this week.

This week SB emailed to say her kiln has called it a day! Not only is the kiln not working, she has closed the studio as she can’t store the volume of items that would be made. 

I was facing the prospect of no ceramics until the new year. 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Pottery keeps me sane. Genuinely. After a crap day at work and once Little One is in bed, pottery allows me to forget the stresses of the day and focus on something I have the power to change, shape and make. I love thinking up projects during my lunch hour or during my commute. As I’m sure it is for many of you out there, it’s become an important part of my life.
Therefore facing weeks without being able to make something, particularly at this festive time and me with friends and relatives expecting a little ceramic something.. it just wasn’t going to do.

Cue Dad! Dad overhears me telling Beloved that SB’s kiln has ceased to function and what does he do? Volunteers to take a look at it for me. 

And in less than 24hrs, my kiln is fixed!!

Turns out kiln was fine, my extension cable was to blame. Idiot here didn’t know you have to unravel the entire cable to prevent overheating within the extension cable frame when using the cable for prolonged periods of time. Little kiln was fine all along!! It was the extension cable that hadn’t cut the mustard. D’oh!?

Well. WELL. To celebrate, what did I just gone and do? Bought 4 more little pots of glaze that’s what! With SB’s studio closed for the time being I only have the the two pots of Botz glaze I bought for the first (failed) firing. I have used them both but with very mixed results.

I bought two more Botz glazes, a grey and a white, and two Spectrum glazes, a blue and a white. I also bought some cone 6s as the Botz glazes fire at a higher temperatures than the spectrum glaze. I bought all these (and a few more bits) from Bath Potters as their prices were better than Scarva and they had a 10% off for first online orders. Once they arrive I’ll do a proper review. Promise.

I’ll also build a few bits and bobs at home, try a bisque firing and a glaze firing – how exciting!! Lots to blog about. Although we’re away the next few weekends (tis almost the season to be jolly) but I’ll get to it as soon as possible!

So in summary:

  • SB’s studio is closed – Boo! 
  • My kiln works – Yay!
  • My Dad is awesome – Love ya Pops! 
  • Some new glazes to try out – Yay!

Happy days. 

On a different note. The political world had been turned upside down recently. Brexit.. Trump.. Whatever your political leaning, be kind to each other.

Love PG x

First Bisque Firing… Uh Oh.

 

Last night I tried my first biscuit firing. I had made a few small egg cups, a mug and some tester discs for my glazes. Everything seemed ok and I was set for a 7 hour firing, including an extra hour on the dial. I was home and started the kiln low then ramped up slowly every hour at first then two hours. However when I went to check on the kiln at the 5th hour, the light was off and I couldn’t hear anything. It was still hot but I didn’t think it was working. I left it another hour and when I cam back the handle was cool enough to touch. Something had gone wrong!

I tried to turn the kiln on and off but nothing was responding. I checked the cone and it hadn’t bent at all, so it hadn’t gotten anywhere near 1000 oC. I’m guessing it’s something electrical.

It’s frustrating. I’m away this weekend and I’m not sure what to do. I could open it up, but I’m not sure what I’m looking for. SB said she has a good kiln guy, perhaps I’ll call him and see if he can diagnose whats wrong.

If anyone has any tips or knows of online resources to help diagnose kiln problems please let me know! The stumbling block I’ve come across is that it is an old kiln and most things online are far more modern. Mine doesn’t even have a programmer!

Frustrating! But the price you pay for a cheap second hand kiln I guess.

PG x

Not one but TWO kilns!

Well hello! Avid readers will remember that very recently I was looking at the pros and cons of secondhand kilns. Well let me tell you this past weekend I found myself buying not one kiln but two!?

Top loading electric kilns regularly sell on eBay for £250-800 depending on the size, make, condition and accessories etc. On Gumtree they sell for a similar amount. Being the dedicated bargain hunter that I am (albeit an impatient one at times!) I regularly checked both sites for good condition kilns for sale.

You can imagine my excitement then, when I saw a Cromartie kiln listed for £100! I looked at the timing of the posting on Gumtree and new I was in for a chance – it had only been up an hour or two. I immediately messaged the seller and we arranged collection for the coming weekend – woohoo!

Beloved and I dropped Little One off with her Granny and drove on over to checkout the kiln. I must add that in the week leading up to this, I read as much as I could find online about kilns, firing and buying kilns secondhand, so as to avoid buying a complete doozy.

As it happened the seller was clearing a house and had an entire potters shed to clear with not one, but TWO kilns, tons of kiln furniture and literally hundreds of porcelain moulds. He wanted £100 for each kiln and would throw in the kiln furniture for free. It was such a bargain I could hardly contain myself! Even Beloved got excited!

One of the kilns was the advertised Cromartie kiln:

And the second was a smaller, but in better condition Olympic kiln:

We shook hands on the deal, money was exchanged and the kilns were loaded into the car. I was unsure which kiln to keep but I was certainly keeping one of them and I knew for a fact that I could sell on one of the kilns and make my money back instantly.

I took a look at the kiln furniture and had a good think about storage and use etc. As I don’t have a studio I’d need to find a space not only safe to store the kiln but to fire it too. As it happens we have an outdoor toilet in the garden that has turned out to be the perfect space for both storage and firing!

After taking all of this into consideration I decided on keeping the Olympic kiln. I took a few photos of the Cromartie kiln and popped it on Gumtree for £300. My experience with Gumtree is that people will negotiate down considerably and so I priced the item high, but it wasn’t up there an hour before someone offered to pay full price and pick it up the next morning! And sure enough, they did! Not only did I cover the cost of my kilns but I made £100 which I shall be using to buy cones to fire the kiln and a couple of pots of glaze.

It goes to show, it’s well worth waiting for a bargain!

Now I just need to get to grips with kiln firing… If anyone has any links or tips, do let me know!

PGx