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

Throw Down is over.. But clay lives on!

The Great Pottery Throw Down is over… What is there to look forward too on TV each week now? Will they make us wait another 12-18months for the next series (assuming there is a next series). I’m not going to lie, Robot Wars keeps me happy on a Sunday night (yes, I admitted it. I like Robot Wars) but it’s nothing compared to the delights of clay!

And as anyone reading this blog, probably also follows The Great Pottery Throw Down, what did you think of Ryan winning? I guess he was pretty much up there from the first episode, it was nice to have Clover come into her own by the end of the series. I had a bit of a marmite relationship with Richard, I’m not going to lie. He made me roll my eyes probably 5-8 times an episode, with his 17th century flower pattern and subtle homophobia/misogyny (‘eww a kiss from KBJ… Throwing is mens work…!!?) but he was a big softy really.

I think from the beginning people would probably have put Elaine, Freya and Ryan (and Nam if there was a 4th space) up for the final. Their skills were clearly superior, but then it comes down to design fluency and the luck of the kiln firing. Some people were shocked Cait made it so far, but then she held her own, stuck to brief and was realistic about her abilities (although clearly needed bit of help with timing).

Overall I really enjoyed the series and it’s great to have more people talking about clay and ceramics! When we visited Godshill Pottery they commented how much more business and inquiries they had for classes and pots since the series had been on TV, which can only be a positive thing.

Over at SB’s studio we’ve all agreed to have a go at some of the main makes from the show. The first one we’ve tried is from an early episode, where the contestants made clocks. I decided to go for an art deco mantle clock and although the construction changed a little when I saw the depth of the clock mechanism, I was able to stick to my design and I’m generally really happy with it!

I rolled out two slabs, one I kept smooth and one I rolled with my wave pattern. I used various measuring devices and card templates to get the proportions right and then cut the pieces, let them dry a little, scored and slipped them together, let them dry a little more, and then it was fired facing down in order to keep the face as flat as possible. I also have a little support at the back that you can’t see. The lower semi circle projects back about 5cm and creates a sturdy base. I used my Mayco grey and green glazes for the colours, although in SB’s kiln she fired them high (at my request) and so the colour is less animated and deeper. The mechanism is gold and black, which doesn’t come across in the photo so well.

I can honestly say I’m really happy with my clock! It actually came out as I had imagined. Which is often not the case with ceramics..

Onto the next task! I’d love to make something for the garden (I’ve been playing with the idea of making a large rabbit, as Little One loves rabbits, although she loves pigs and frogs too…), a dinner set I might skip as we don’t have the space, and we have no need for an extra toilet… Perhaps we can do some raku and pit firing over the summer!!

So there you have it. The series may have finished, but the love for clay lives on.

Happy potting

PS xx

 

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

Glazing goodies!

They’re here!! How quick is that?!

Two parcels arrived for me today: one from Bath Potters and one from Potclays. 

Sadly another of the glazes from Bath Potters was not available. When I rang up to follow up, they were very nice and apologetic saying that they’d had a school order in which had cleared the shelves! I don’t find getting angry or upset in these situations helps as many pottery and ceramic businesses are small family firms and need our support. And as they had apologised genuinely and promised to forward on the glaze asap, what more could you ask for? Plus with the 10% off at purchase and refund for the other glazes, I’m still happy with the prices I paid and the delivery was very quick! 

At the same time my delivery from Potclays arrived! This was one I was very excited about as the glazes look beautiful and I’m hoping to experiment with them. I tweeted this picture:

The guys at Potclays replied saying they noticed that freebies had been left out and would send them on separately. How nice is that? I don’t know many people who’d turn down a freebie but to go to the trouble really is lovely. I’ve found Potclays to be very approachable and forthcoming with advice and tips.

In fact everyone I’ve meet in the potting community has been very genuine, open and more than happy to talk pots and clay and all things ceramic. It’s wonderful and heart warming especially in the times we find ourselves in politically, that something as simple as clay can bring people together.

Well as I said before sadly we’re away this weekend otherwise I’d be wedging clay as we speak.. So it’ll be a few days before I get to make anything and longer before I get to  (fingers crossed) fire anything.

 But I can’t wait to get started! 

Love 

PG x

Brush on Stoneware Glaze (part 1)

I originally bought Botz glazes from Ceramatech in Tottenham (Steve at Ceramatech is genuinely lovely guy and very helpful should you ever contact them) as the bulk of the brush on glazes at SB’s studio are Botz and they are a short drive from where I live. The two first glazes I bought were Blue/Black 29883 and a white/blue speckled glaze called Ice Crystal 29898. The blue/black glaze came out well on my coffee jar:

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but inconsistently swamped another piece with more delicate detail:

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Whereas the Ice Crystal didn’t come out speckled blue at all, it came out more… dusty yellow? And again, didn’t do much for the detail with uneven coverage.

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These two initial pots of glaze were to give me something to work with at home for firing, however their versatility seems to be limited (..or perhaps it isn’t? Tips and ideas welcome!)

I mentioned in the previous post last night that I had put in an order for a few brush on glazes with Bath Potters. These were for two pots of Spectrum stoneware mid temp glaze (no. 1118 and 1115 if you’re interested!) and a grey and white Botz glaze. I had liked the look of the Spectrum glazes and was keen to try something new. Sadly they got in touch to tell me the Spectrum glazes I had ordered were out of stock, which is obviously a shame, but they were quick to offer either an exchange or refund (I opted for refund). I’m looking forward to getting the Botz glazes and will review them when they arrive. They fire at a high temperature and I hope to get creative, combining the two new Botz glazes with the two ones I have.

However I am still keen to get a few ‘base’ glazes, or staples.. Does that make sense? Block colours.. but versatile colours that I can use, layer, mix… something that gives me a little more to work with. For want of a better word, a ‘starter pack’ or something similar?

After putting my glaze dilemma out to Twitter (Started firing stoneware@ home – what brush on glazes to start with? Or try coloured slip? Thank you!), Mayco came back as the recommended option. Potclays even offered to throw in a few goodies if I ordered with them!

(I went for brush on glaze as I just don’t have the space to keep dipping glazes.. as I’ve said previously, all my pottery equipment needs to be packed away into the two large plastic tubs I keep in the outside loo! Yes we have an outside loo. No it doesn’t work. Yes I have converted it into my kiln space / pottery storage)

Which leads me to the present. I have just placed an order with Potclays for blue, white, green, grey and coral ‘Mayco Foundations Sheer’ glazes and a couple of designer liners which will allow me to ‘draw’ with glaze. Apparently these glazes don’t run very much and are forgiving in terms of coverage. I’m hoping to make a good few things for Christmas and I think these colours will be just the ticket!

One good thing about working full time now is having a few extra pennies at the end of the month to spend on things like this! Although I am still a dedicated bargain hunter. I don’t part with my hard earned money easily.

One day when I have my dream shed/permanent designated pottery space, I’d love to have a go with dipping glazes. I know you can buy them pretty much ready made, but it’d be fascinating to actually make a glaze from scratch and tinker with it. One day.. A girl can dream.

Fingers crossed the glazes arrive ok.. I better get to work so I have something to glaze!

Lots to look forward too… Christmas is coming early!

Stay tuned for part 2

PG xx