Magpie {22}

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Woodfired stoneware Limpet bowl by Edinbane Pottery (dia 16cm approx)

This is one of the first pots I bought from Edinbane Pottery on the Isle of Skye, so I think I have had it for twenty years plus. It was made by Julie Whatley. It’s been a while since I’ve visited them as we always seem to be in a rush to catch the ferry for North Uist. Fingers crossed I can drop in next year, by which time I hope their new building work will be finished. There was a terrible fire at the pottery last year which spread through all the back rooms. Luckily the shop and house were not damaged and no one was hurt.

See other pieces by Edinbane Pottery:
Magpie {14}
Magpie {7}

Size matters

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After more than two weeks away it’s been great to get back to the wheel. I’m trying to consolidate a few things that I have learned over the last few months… finer throwing, thinner bases and repeat throwing. Today I decided to use a throwing gauge to help with my accuracy. I don’t have anything fancy, just a wooden kebab stick anchored to my wheel tray with a blob of clay. After making a few clumsy mistakes when taking the pot off the wheel, I got into a good rhythm. Twenty-two pots later I feel like I’ve made real progress. There are still a few odd ones, but I think that when I go back and check them tomorrow the majority will be very similar. I don’t want them to be exactly the same mind you, as they would lose their handmade quality, but I’m aiming for pots that will work nicely together as groups.

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Spark: twenty

A series about people that have influenced my creative path

Brockmann
Joseph Müller-Brockmann, poster for Zurich Town Hall, 1955

“…the leading practitioner and theorist of Swiss Style, which sought a universal graphic expression through a grid-based design purged of extraneous illustration and subjective feeling.” Eye Magazine

I’ve always admired Joseph Müller-Brockmann’s (1914-1996) minimalist design. When it comes to graphics I think that a pared-down direction often works best. I wish I could apply the same approach to the rest of my life.

Magpie {21}

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Slipcast porcelain milk jug with cobalt blue transfer, by Hanne Rysgaard

I bought this Hanne Rysgaard milk jug and a smaller version as presents about five years ago. I love the elegant transformation of something usually regarded as so ordinary. Typically, I managed to convince myself to keep the large one. It reminds me of the Blue Willow pattern china that my grandmother had.

By the way the history of the Willow pattern is fascinating. Take a read of Porcelain, The Willow Pattern, and Chinoiserie” by Joseph J Portanova, New York University if you are curious.

Post

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It’s been a strange week – filled with long distance road trips, holidays, beaches, family, friends and sick children. Mostly it’s been great, but there’s been little time for posting or making. The Tattie holidays* go on till the end of next week and I’m itching to get back to throwing. Until then here is a different kind of post… another lovely piece of mail art turned up from Claudia McGill the other day. I’m calling him Grumpy Bird.

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*The October holidays in many parts of Scotland are known as the ‘Tattie’ holidays. This is because in the past children used to be released from school to help bring the potato harvest in.

Magpie {20}

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Small stoneware bowl by Brian Cook Shand

As I mentioned earlier we recently spent a weekend campervanning along the north Aberdeen and Moray coasts. I think my family are soon going to learn some better ways of distracting me whenever we drive past a sign that says ‘Pottery’, as I am unable to resist them. One day we stopped in at Watergaw Ceramics, and with my children happily bribed with chocolate buttons I snuck into the beautiful, former Methodist church for a very quick look.

Brian Cook Shand works just a little further along the coast at Portsoy, but was exhibiting at Watergaw. I had already seen some of his remarkable large pieces at the Aberdeen Artists Society’s exhibition at the Aberdeen Art Gallery earlier this year. He’s been throwing for over 40 years and it clearly shows when you pick up one of his pots… they’re light, simple and beautifully finished (note the double turned foot ring above).

Learn

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It’s now the day after my first raku firing with my homemade kiln. It took just over two and a half hours to reach temperature, a bit longer than I was expecting, but I was a little nervous about going too fast. Once it looked as if the glaze had matured I turned off the gas; took off the lid; carefully removed each piece with tongs and transferred them to the reduction chamber. At this point I heard a lot of nasty pinging sounds. As I am discovering with this whole journey, there is some good, closely followed by some bad…

The good bits:
– It wasn’t nearly as daunting as I thought it would be
– The kiln worked really well
– The glaze worked well on most pieces

The bad bits:
– Everything cracked!
– The glaze came out too dark (just as I thought it might)
– The glaze on the topmost piece didn’t mature properly
– The glaze wasn’t applied consistently enough in a few places

What I have learned:
– I need to trust my instincts
– I need to use my pyrometer
– I need to try a clay with more grog in it that is more resistant to thermal shock
– I need to apply the glaze more thickly

These are the results. The small black crackles are part of the nature of the process and glaze. The big black cracks are not.

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