Christmas Goodies!

It’s Christmas! I think it’s finally safe to say… and as such, I have been making Christmas themed goodies! All hand made by yours truly. Check out my Etsy Shop!

Christmas Tree decorations! Two for £5. Two designs in four colours:

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Snowflake Vases (20cm tall) £20 each!

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And a load of other lovely things including bowls, vases and mugs!

PS xx

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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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Emma Bridgewater Factory Tour

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In the summer Beloved and I were back in the midlands and decided at quite short notice, to visit the Emma Bridgewater Factory!

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The Factory offers Experience Days, Factory Tours, a cafe and decorating studio! We tried to book onto the Experience Day (£30 pp) which included the tour, afternoon tea and a half pint jug for decorating, however we were booking at short notice and there was not enough room for two of us. So, instead we went for the Factory Tour (£2.50 per adult, under 16s free) and booked a slot shortly after in the Decorating Studio.

The tour was one hour and led by a lovely knowledgable lady who took us through from the mixing machines where the special slip is prepared, through the slip casting room, drying areas, kilns and finally the large decorating area! It was wonderful to see everyone working together and seemingly having a great time – there was a real sense of community and pride in the work they were producing.

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Following the tour and the sneak peak at the new christmas range – Beloved and I headed to the decorating studio, where people are able to use the left over sponges used in the original designs, to decorate all kinds of pots, mugs and plates! We chose two espresso mugs and two plates. Beloved had a great time decorating a little espresso mug for Little One (she isn’t a coffee drinker – YET – but she loves dinosaurs), whereas I decided to have a go at making Little One some colourful plates. Getting an even sponge print is harder than it looks!

The decorating studio was wonderful and for £5 you can post as much as you want to anywhere in the UK! And three weeks later, what a lovely delivery to receive.

Overall we really enjoyed the visit – even Beloved recognised Emma Bridgewater pieces. The Factory Tour was extremely reasonable and the decorating studio was well equipped and reasonably priced. And there were vouchers all over the tickets and bookings for both the seconds shop and the gift shop, so you really could grab yourself a bargain!

If you find yourself in Stoke or the midlands, it’s definitely worth a visit, even at short notice!

PS xx

p.s. Apologies, I wrote a post on this months ago, but somewhere between uploading the photos on my phone and writing the blog post on my laptop, it disappeared?! So As you can see from the date on the plates, we visited in Factory in August, not November!

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

Two Glazes:One pot!

Earlier this year I wanted to make some high contrast pots. I invested in some Amaco Potters Choice glazes. However my lighter colour choice, toasted sage, came out more grey than white.

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I decided that the Amaco Celadons, which can be used with the Potters Choice looked a lot like the Mayco Foundations glazes I have and thought I might try out a combination piece! I did two layers of Mayco and two of Amaco and fired at the higher Amaco glaze temperature and I’m really happy with the results!

One little bowl and two espresso cups

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The glazes are Mayco Milk Bottle White, Amaco Seaweed (green) and Indigo Float (blue).

This was the contrast effect I was looking for with the bowl and mugs I made for my work colleagues – but at least now I know for the future how to get the glaze effect I want!

PS xx

Second glazing

Following on from my single firing post – where the glazed greenware came out in one piece, but the glaze hadn’t been quite as dynamic as I had hoped… I re-glazed everything and fired again!

In order for the glaze to take well I heated the mugs/bowls etc using a hair dryer and added thin layers of extra glaze, two extra coats in total. I also added an extra stripe of green or blue as the best interaction was between the indigo float and seaweed.

I don’t think the toasted sage Amaco Potters Choice glaze is a great one for encouraging movement and interaction between the two glazes, in the same way the tenmoku glaze is, but nonetheless I am much happier with the results so I thought I’d share a couple of before and after photos!

Here is an example of the mug, with an added stripe of blue:

And this is the bowl!

I like the green seaweed and the indigo float, but I want to find a better base for the two of them. The range seems to focus on darker under coats, which wasn’t what I was after. The only other lighter colour seems to be oatmeal which is quite yellow-y from the picture.

Actually the toasted sage comes out quite grey as the photos show, which in of itself is a lovely tone but wasn’t as light as I’d hoped it to be. But at least now I know I have a nice grey glaze – so every cloud has a silver (toasted sage!) lining!

A couple more things using this glaze combination and tenmoku in my etsy shop – check it out!

PS xx