Rain, wind, storms, what a winter we’re having! Sadly I’m struggling to get the base of the new studio completed. First of all the builder miscalculated the size and the amount of materials, bricks and stone he’d need. The reason being the slope of the garden made it deceptive and the back wall of the base is some two and a half feet high but level at the front.
So in desperation on Friday my son Sam, Bryan the builder and I shifted 6.6 metric tonnes of stone and gravel and it’s still not full! It still needs compacting and a topping of concrete. The cabin comes on Tuesday. Oh dear!
In the meantime the studio is filling up with pots waiting for their final Raku firing. Yes the weather’s to blame again.
Here are some birds all lined up ready.
Progress on new things like these striped bowls is progressing slowly and they’re keeping me cheerful. I love playing with new ideas and at least here, rain cannot stop my play!
Fingers crossed for better weather soon!
Work has started on the Studio/Cabin! OK so there’s not a lot to show yet but I feel pretty happy. This is just the base which has to be level and as you can see our garden is on a slope. I hope I can show you more next week.
I haven’t fired anything this week, it’s been a bitty week. Forging on albeit slowly!
I have been doing all three –
Learning – I have been listening to recorded webinars from The Design Trust. I met the Director, Patricia van den Akker at a Design Factory meeting and she came across as a very knowledgeable, enthusiastic person with a lot of very valuable advice. At the time I was too busy making to top up my business and marketing knowledge but this time of year is the perfect time. The great thing about the webinars is that I can listen as I work and I can stop the recording to make notes and have thinking time. It’s been great, a real eye or should I say mind opener!
Thinking – yes a lot of thinking is going on. Thanks to The Design Trust topics I am starting to focus on certain aspects of the business plus I am experimenting with different products and designs. Things are starting to come together.
Planning – I would rather not be caught on the hop the way I was last year. So I have already ordered the studio (work starts on Monday) and I’m looking at kilns now. I’ve been looking at shows too but I’m having trouble deciding……back to the learning and thinking I suppose! Who said it would be straight forward. 😉
The only other piece to come out of the studio this week (apart from the experiments – see top) has been a commission. This customer wanted a bowl redesigned as a tree-form bowl. It came out rather well I think. I hope she likes it.
Hearts for Valentine’s Day
Happy New Year and let’s hope that it will be a happy, energetic and successful one for everyone.
I had a particularly hectic run up to Christmas and to be honest I ran out of steam a little bit towards the end but I’m happy to say I think I managed about 95% of the work I needed to finish by that time. I am hoping that I will have a couple of quieter months to regroup, plan and prepare for the year ahead.
What a year it’s going to be too! First and foremost a new studio. I need the space. I am falling over myself in my converted garage so I have put a deposit down on a log cabin and we take delivery in a couple of weeks or so. Oh I can’t wait. Next will be a bigger kiln. I love my little workhorse but it has limitations. I would like a controller, mine has a kiln-sitter and secondly capacity, it’s just too small. I will keep it though as it’s very useful for drying pots and warming them up prior to Raku firing.
I have been working on new shapes and designs. The first few are coming through the studio now. This is a small bowl. I have deliberately left off a foot ring.
These are the first couple I’ve taken through to Raku firing.
My first two Raku firings of the year have been taken up by Hearts for Valentine’s Day (see the top) and already the time is starting to accelerate. Hold on to your hats everyone!
Having set myself the project of following one particular Ash tree through the year I discovered that I find the idea of following the seasons really motivating and something that I am getting quite excited about.
I mentioned in my last blog post that I had noticed some crows in the first stages of nest-building. I think they were probably looking over old nests to see whether they could be repaired and used for the coming season. There’s definitely a bit of activity going on. So I decided to go on a bird’s nest hunt. I wanted to get some shots while there are no leaves on the trees to obscure the view. So while out and about I’ve been scouring the tree line for a sight of those tell-tale clumps of twigs. Here are a few shots I managed to get. Sadly no birds in sight.
I also had a look on the web for photos and came across this gem of a site that I feel worth sharing – Peter Lovelock Photography. Lovely photographs and drawings, well worth a look! Enjoy!
Here are a couple of Peter’s photographs of Rookeries. I particularly like the way that the branches are coming into bud.
I feel another Tree-form bowl coming on! In the meantime I decided to dust off my long forgotten throwing skills. I bought an electic wheel from a friend before Christmas but I just haven’t had the time to do any throwing at all. I need to practice! I have thrown a few bowls which I intend to turn in to ‘Bird Nest’ bowls. I found a bowl at the back of a shelf and will Raku fire it next time. Here it is with its slip decoration already applied. I can’t wait to get out there for the firing.
The whole purpose of starting a blog is not only to share my creative inspirations and the progression from idea to finished piece but also to act as a spur to actually getting some designing done. I find it all too easy to be lazy and not pick up a sketchbook and put down my ideas. Ideas are constantly buzzing around in my head but very few are actually used and without the external discipline of an assignment most are just forgotten. So I have decided to set myself a project.
I have always found trees a huge source of interest and inspiration. A few months ago as I was coming home on a particularly cold and foggy day I passed this tree…
I think it’s an Ash Tree. A very common species in the UK but also under serious threat from a fungus that causes dieback. Potentially we could lose most of our Ash trees in this country.
I have decided to follow this tree through the year. Photographing it regularly in all seasons. I also thought it would help me with my designing, keeping me on track especially with my ‘Tree Series’ of pots.
Here’s today’s entry :-
We’re still in winter, no new leaves on the tree it’s a bit dull and very cold. There’s a little bit of colour from the ivy on the trunk but that is all. Here’s a little bit of work on my ‘Winter Tree’
And a finished piece, it’s not perfect yet but I’m getting there.
I am hoping that next month there will be a bit more interest. I notice that the birds are starting to construct their nests. I will be out looking for rookeries to photograph – now that will be an interesting subject!
It’s been such a relief to see the first signs that Winter is in retreat and that milder weather is on its way. This year has been the first I’ve tried to do Raku firing in Winter. At times it’s been fairly grim sheltering behind my shed and warming myself next to the kiln in sub-zero temperatures and with several inches of snow on the ground.
It had to be done though and I have learned a lot. You could say I learn something new every time I do a firing. There are so many variables that can affect the result. Some are down to the temperature, wind and humidity on the day. Some are due to the size, quality and composition of the sawdust and organic material I am using to produce the smoke. No two firings are the same and smoked pots can vary in colour from pale greys though light browns to dark brown and black. Some pots have all shades and colours depending on the way they sit on the sawdust. A sudden gust of wind as I’m placing the heated pot on the sawdust can whip it up into a flame in a second. Even the size of the container I use to contain the smoke, the smoke chamber if you like, has an effect. I suppose this for me is the appeal. I enjoy the hands-on aspect of Raku but also battling the elements and trying hard to predict and obtain the results I’m after. This is quite apart from whether the pot will withstand the rigors of the Raku process itself. The rapid expansion and contraction during the heating and smoking puts extraordinary stresses on the pots. The vast majority survive but I’ve had many disappointments too.
This is a bowl I fired yesterday. One of the paler ones. It forms part of a series of pots that I’m calling the ‘Tree Form’ Series. All based on trees and leaves and most with tall pedestal bases (the ‘trunk’). On the whole I’m quite happy with the way it’s turned out in spite of the colour variation. I’m getting used to it now – the vagaries of Raku!