Here we go 2019!

I do realise it’s mid February but I had a few big things to finish up in Jan and so this month feels like a fresh start – in a way January often does for the majority.

This year is a year of taking the time to be kind to ourselves, in the Stratford household. Spending more time together, taking care of ourselves and doing the things we love. And I love clay.

I have been back to basics in the studio this month – coiling! There is some incredible coiled work out there – Kate Malone’s large pots for example! And it’s a staple in terms of ceramics and so I have returned to it. I did a few rubbish coil pots when I was at school I think and really, pushed the technique aside. It’s difficult to get symmetry and consistency, unless you have one of those extruders that can produce coils of a consistent width in large quantities. Rolling the clay by hand I’ve found can dry it out and you need much thicker coils that you might expect in order to blend them together. I guess what I’m saying is, its easy to learn but difficult to master!

I like coiling because it reveals the making process. You can smooth the coils together or keep them visible. I decided to use a mixture of these techniques – both visible and smoothed coils, on a pot I’m making for an anniversary present.

This pot was begun using a larger former, then once I had decided on the shape of the pot I realised the base was too wide and so it was transferred to a second former. I kept the coils visible below and worked coils above the former to create the height. This was then blended and worked to give a smoother finish – therefore showing the stages of pot formation.

I really enjoyed the coils so I took the same former, coiled the base again but this time, rolled a slab with some excess clay, to create the height and neck. I love this combination of techniques and again, it shows the making process – hinting at what it could look like polished, having come from textures and work.

These pots are drying and will be bisque fired this week. As the first will be a gift I am tempted to keep the glaze quite neutral. I did a pot last year that I loved with a studio white and yellow, with a little cobalt added in. I might do something with these colours again, perhaps blue as well. We will have to see! The great thing with the cobalt and the yellow glaze was it highlighted the texture. The white, although crystallised in some areas, is thicker and hides the texture.

Any glaze ideas welcome! I’ll certainly post the end results.

Happy 2019 to everyone!

Love

PS x

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Autumn/Winter 2018

Hi everyone,

Apologies for the absence on this blog for a few months now. This blog is very much about my experiences with pottery with a little social commentary I guess, and not a personal outpouring.

However, suffice to say 2018 has been a difficult year for my family and I, and in those circumstances family and loved ones take precedence. As such it’s been an extremely quiet year for pottery for me.

I was still making the odd piece until the summer. In particular I made a piece for a charity auction with the theme of Women – I made a large platter dish decorated with slip and a triskele (a celtic symbol for female empowerment – the maiden, mother and crone) etched in to the dish. I was really happy with it and it made a good amount for charity!

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And secondly I entered an art competition at work, for which I made a birdbath based on the London Underground, with a track for a rim and flowers and leaves making up the base. This was all hand made and cut, using a former to shape the piece. I then used underglazes and designer liners to decorate before using a clear glaze on top. Much to my surprise I won the competition! Which was really very flattering and has given me many ideas for other projects I would like to do in the future.

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However sadly, I have decided I need to take a short break. Working full time, studying part time (ceramics? I wish!! sadly not although I dream of attending Clay College one day…), trying to be a good mum, wife, sister, daughter and friend hasn’t left much room for clay at the moment. Some years throw more at you than others I guess, and I just haven’t had the time to get my hands dirty much this year.

But! whilst my pottery things have been packed up into the shed for the winter, I will certainly be back making and experimenting in the new year.

Wishing you all happy making

PS xx

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

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)

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

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