Thank you II

HEARTURCHINSjulietmacleod2013Heart urchins found on Wester Ross beaches

Last week I reached 500 likes, which feels like a big milestone for me. Once again I want to say thank you to all of my followers who have taken the time to read my blog over the last five months. Your constructive and supportive comments are much appreciated.

Magpie {18}

DUNCANjulietmacleod2013  DUNCAN2julietmacleod2013
Handbuilt stoneware pod with slip and sgraffito decoration, by Hilary Duncan

I’ve been meaning to go and see Hilary Duncan since I started out at this. She only lives a few miles down the River Dee from me, but you know how it is… time flies. Last week I had no excuse as it was the second week of NEOS 2013 and the turn of the Central region’s exhibitors. I drove deep into the Blackhall forest to find her and discovered not only a breathtaking location but work to more than match it.

Spark: eighteen

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

ravilious
Eric Ravilious; South Coast Beach, 1939-1942, watercolour

We’ve been away for a long weekend – hence the lack of posts. The last four days have been spent campervanning along the north Aberdeen and Moray coasts – just wonderful.
I saw these WWII coastal defences along Burghead beach and they reminded me of two things… firstly the ‘tank stoppers’ that used to be on the beach where I grew up; and secondly of this picture by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942). I’ve long been an admirer of his work and I was pleasantly surprised to see some of his pieces in the Aberdeen Art Gallery on my first visit after we moved here. I’ve been there again this morning for another peek.

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Magpie {17}

KG7©julietmacleod2013
Oval form decorated with natural ochres and raku/smokefired, by Kerstin Gren

All around me at the moment there are hundreds of makers, artists and galleries opening their studios for NEOS 2013. This is the second week of the three week extravaganza and I’m busily planning my next road trip, for Wednesday. A week ago I ventured up to the Banffshire coast to visit four potters. One of these was Kerstin Gren, who is originally from Helsingborg, Sweden. Her studio and gallery are in an idyllic part of Aberdeenshire, and as soon as I entered the building I knew I wasn’t going to be able to leave without one of her pieces. Everywhere I looked deceptively simple forms decorated with locally sourced pigments stared back at me. The trouble I had was in choosing which one.

KG1©julietmacleod2013 KG3©julietmacleod2013 KG2©julietmacleod2013

Hopefully by next year I’ll be good enough to exhibit alongside this year’s 322 participants.

Steady as she goes

detail©julietmacleod2013

I mentioned earlier in the week that I was starting another biscuit firing. This was followed by a glaze firing starting on Wednesday at crack of sparrows and finishing the following morning at 1.30am. I opened the kiln later that afternoon and was really pleased with the results. I feel like I’ve been making real headway and, although these pieces are not right yet, I’m hoping that it won’t be long now before I’m ready to start selling. A few things need to be improved… I’ve already started tackling the fineness of my throwing, I’ve loads of decoration ideas, but now it’s the kiln that needs sorting. Ruby has done me proud and I’ve learned so much from borrowing her, but now I need something newer, bigger, more efficient.

To the potters amongst you, I’d love to know what experience you have with kilns. Any thoughts or advice on what I should upgrade to would be very gratefully accepted.

Spark: seventeen

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

ardizzone
Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone (detail from book cover)

One of the things I remember most strongly from my childhood are the books that I read and were read to me. There were many favorites, in particular the books illustrated by Edward Ardizzone RA (1900-1979). The stories of Nurse Matilda, Stig of the Dump and Little Tim were fantastic, exciting and imaginative but what really captivated me were his drawings. Deceptively simple they immediately convey the energy of the situations described on the pages. Even as a child I recognised that there was something very special about them.

Improve

A couple of weeks ago I spent a strangely enjoyable morning with a hammer, smashing all the pieces I have finished so far. For one reason or another I didn’t feel they were good enough to keep. One thing that became clear to me, as I was looking at the broken pieces, was that there was too much clay at the base of the walls of each pot. I feel strongly about not selling anything until I feel my pots are technically correct. So today’s task was to try and work out how to rectify this problem.

I repeatedly threw a similar form trying different approaches. After finishing I sliced each one in half vertically to check the wall thickness. Every time I could see a tiny improvement, but then I had a eureka moment… It was how I was opening the clay that was causing my problem. I had been starting with a low, disc-shaped piece of clay after centring. I always found opening this out and retaining it’s integrity to be difficult. So I tried a different tack – by having a slightly taller, more cone-like shape as a starting point (still with the same base circumference) I began to find it easier to open a flatter base and create an inside profile that better mirrored the outside.

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First pot (l), twenty pots later (r)