I took my camera for a walk along the hedgerow this week. Here’s a random selection of berries ready for the birds. No wonder my bird table has been abandoned!
I’ve been playing with a new design over the last few weeks. I’m calling it ‘Berry Tree’ – so appropriate for this time of year don’t you think? As I look out of my studio windows I see all the hawthorn trees covered in bright red berries, so beautiful! I’ve decorated 3 or 4 of these bowls now and each time I add more berries and I think I’ll be adding yet more as the season progresses.
Having shown you around my rather messy studio here is my equally messy Raku area.
My set up is pretty compact and is on the base of an old greenhouse. Everything (gas, kiln, tools etc.) are all stored in the bin at the back and it takes me approximately 5 minutes to get everything out and going. As you can see my Raku kiln is one of those do-it-yourself jobs and suits me just fine. The disadvantage is that it is fairly small and does restrict the size and the number of pieces I can fire at any one time. On the other hand to fire too many pieces in one go would be difficult to handle as you need to transfer the work to the sawdust fairly quickly in order to get the best results. I put up the gazebo in the early summer to shield me from rain showers. It’s fine for spots of rain but I can’t work in heavy persistent wind and rain. I still have to keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan my week accordingly.
That’s how I feel at the moment! I have been working hard but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. There’s such a lot going on.
First of all a quick update on the studio. It’s up, yay, thanks to my hardworking husband!
The electrics are due to be put in within the next couple of weeks (I hope!) Actually moving in and better still working in it seem to be a few weeks away. Patience!
Meanwhile in the studio …….. trials and experiments are over and now I have to move to ‘make’ mode. Here are some of my favourites.
I will be showing at BCTF (British Craft Trade Fair) in just over a weeks time. I am looking forward to getting some feedback. Fingers crossed for a good show!
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!
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!
It’s nine weeks until Christmas Day – I just checked. I’m looking forward to it because if I get there in one piece I will have survived my second year as a maker and boy what a year it has been.
Things took off in April when I rather bravely as it seems to me now, took a stand at BCTF (British Craft Trade Fair) in Harrogate. To be honest I went for the experience, to get some feedback and to make contacts with other makers and galleries. I ended up with a sheaf of orders enough to keep me working through the Summer and Autumn. I drove home after the three days slightly shell shocked, I had not expected the level of interest let alone the amount of orders I received.
Sooooo since April I have been hard at it. Full time, most weekends too and apart from a week away no breaks either. Talk about a baptism of fire! I have learned so so much. In all areas and aspects of the business. Just handling clay day in day out has made me very sensitive to the material and I believe enabling me to get a better finish and ultimately a better result.
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!