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!
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.
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!
I decided it was about time that I took courage and applied to exhibit my work in a dedicated ceramics exhibition. Until now I have exhibited my work alongside a mix of craft disciplines – jewellery, textiles, glass, you name it – everything, a real mix. There were two objectives I had in mind, I wanted to see how my work looked alongside more experienced potters and secondly I wanted to gauge how my prices compared. I am sure I’m not alone in finding pricing one of the most difficult areas to tackle. From my observations newcomers fall into one of two categories – far too high having rigidly followed a given formula from college or far too low due to inexperience coupled with a slight feeling of lack of self-worth. I have come to the conclusion that I fall into the latter!
I was delighted and very much encouraged to be selected at my first try. There are very many highly experienced potters/ceramic artists in Northern Potters and of the names I recognise there are many whose work I greatly admire. I was asked to submit 12 pieces for the exhibition that runs for 5 weeks.
The New Schoolhouse Gallery is situated in a lovely space right next to the Quilt Museum in York. Outside there’s a garden with paved walks, it must be fabulous in Summer! The building itself is single storey and as its name suggests, a former school. The main gallery has a high ceiling and tall windows along one side.
I arrived early for the opening and my first impression was of a room full of work, lots of plinths and with every surface used to advantage. I managed to get a couple of photographs before the room filled.
Work by Ian Howie. The piece on the left entitled ‘Fishpheasantturtle’ was my husband’s favourite and I must admit I thought it pretty stunning too!
As for my work –
I was initially disappointed that only a few of the pieces I’d sent were on show but it was explained that as pieces sold they would be replaced! That showed a certain amount of confidence on the part of the organisers then! The room soon got quite busy and as none of the makers wore any name badges I hadn’t got a clue who was who. Such a shame as I would have loved to have chatted to other makers. As a rule we’re all fairly isolated and it’s only at these sort of events that we crawl out of our studios, dust ourselves off and get to meet and chat to others. A lost opportunity in my opinion!
Here are a couple pieces still in the backroom and hopefully they’ll see light of day if this first lot sells!
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.