Inspired

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Each year we head to the Outer Isles for a family holiday. Whatever the weather we always have the best of times, and this year was no exception. Most days were spent on the beach, with my husband and girls investigating rock pools, the dog going mad in the sand and me soaking up as much of it as I can.

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I sketch and photograph whenever possible whilst I’m on North Uist. It’s my way of unwinding. There is so much to inspire and motivate – the colours and textures of the sea, shore, lochs and hills. Everywhere you look there’s something…

I also finally remembered to bring some pots with me to shoot amongst the landscape that inspired them…

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Make a thing a day #2

I promised to show you the finished pots from my makeathingaday week over on Instagram

Over the last week they have all been biscuit fired, sanded, washed, waxed and glazed. They came out of their second firing yesterday and were packed up and put in the post to their winners today. I’m so relieved they have all survived as I really forced the making process to get the projects finished in the allotted time. I’m afraid the teapot is not a good pourer (not surprising considering it was my first), but I see real potential in all these pieces. I’m looking forward to progressing some of them from this prototype stage in the near future.

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Make a thing a day

Last week I took part in makeathingaday on Instagram

‘a generous process laboratory where makers make a thing a day to giveaway. It was started in January 2015 by George Winks of Temper Studio to kick start his creative year, as a way of testing new ideas, and as a personal challenge to make something new each day for a week.’

Take a look at the website to see other makers projects… there is some beautiful work there.

It was a fantastic experience and an opportunity to experiment with concepts that I have had stored away in sketchbooks for some time. I thought it would be good to make an archive of my week’s work. Click on an image for details of the day’s process…

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the week’s work set aside to dry. They are now in the kiln being biscuit fired and hopefully they will be glazed by the end of the week. I’ll post finished images before I send them off to their already selected winners.

True colours

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Any of you who have been following me for a while might know that I am a contemporary slipware potter… I use coloured slips (liquid clay with added pigment) to decorate my pieces rather than glazes. To date my work has been inspired by the breathtaking turquoise blue that I see each summer on North Uist’s shell beaches. However the sea can be a multitude of colours from blue, to grey, to green and for some time I’ve wanted to expand my colour range to allow for these.

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Until now I have been using ready-made slips but I’m finding this both limiting and expensive. To make my own there are two alternatives: to buy manufactured stains, or to blend my own combinations of oxides. One day I hope to do the latter but for the meantime I’m going down the stain route. I’ve been prevaricating about this for ages… Why is it that the things you think are going to be tricky end up being pretty straight forward? Maybe it is as a result of thinking about it for so long that I’d worked out most of what I needed to do in my head before starting.

First I made a series of test tiles out of clay slabs – each one with seven impressed areas to apply the different combinations of colour. Then I made endless pots of slip using measured amounts of dried waste clay, water and stain. These were left to slake overnight and then passed through a fine sieve to ensure a smooth consistency and proper mixing of the pigment. With each colour I did three tests –

Dilute: where incremental amounts of water were added to the slip to thin the colour
Lighten: where additional quantities of white slip were added to fade the original colour
Blend: fading one colour into another to create other colours

126 combinations in all.

There are some results that I really like, and some that need a little finer testing before I achieve what I’m after… but all-in-all not a bad first attempt.

Surface

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I’m just back from another amazing Scottish Potters Association weekend at Kindrogan. When I was wending my way there through the stunning Perthshire countryside I was thinking that there was no way that it could be as good as last year’s. How wrong could I be – not only were there excellent demonstrators once again, but as I was no longer a novice I knew more folk and I relaxed and enjoyed it far more this time.

The workshops were given by Patricia Shone, David Roberts and Ronnie Fulton. I spent most of my time flitting between Patricia and David’s rooms. Patricia gave us an insight into how she makes her incredible textured pieces both by using the wheel and through hand building techniques. She is inspired by the landscape of the Isle of Skye and as a result I feel a real kinship with her, although the style of our work is poles apart. David is a raku potter whose large-scale work I have admired for a long time. It was a treat to discover more about his process. He very kindly let us bring pieces to fire over the weekend, using his own barrier slip and glazes with some great end results. I’m now inspired to try further raku firings of this type in the summer.

I came away with a wealth of ideas relating to surface… burnishing for raku firing; adding terra sigillata for a fine patina; using unusual tools to create strata, roughness and waves, applying sodium silicate to obtain coarse volcanic structures; stretching and moulding to achieve organic character… more scribbles in my sketchbook. I wonder when I’ll have a chance to try them out. Until then here are a few tastes of what I saw…

Sun rise

We’re past the winter solstice now and slowly our days are getting longer. This far north we’re lucky to have seven hours daylight during December, but the sun being so low in the sky does give a fantastic light – I can see why artists and photographers like it here. I’ve been spending the last few days gearing myself up to get throwing again and, come Monday I’ll be back in the studio… but today I spent a few hours at Aberdeen docks and beach searching for sunshine and inspiration.

 

Studio

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A fortnight ago I was lucky enough to spend the weekend on Speyside. We were spoiled with spectacular weather and I managed to squeeze in something that I’ve been wanting to do for some time… To pay a visit to Thomas Gough at the Speyside Pottery. Thomas has very kindly agreed to let me witness one of his wood firings. So far I’ve been unable to take him up on it, but it was a treat to finally meet him in person after a few months of exchanged emails.

Once a Chemistry teacher, Thomas was taught pottery in Argyll, by Joe Finch. It was fascinating to be shown round his gallery, studio and kiln room; and to learn about his process. Thomas single fires his pots, a process believed to give a greater depth to glazes, but often it carries more risk. It is amazing how in spending a relatively short time with another potter you can learn so much. From simple tips to do with wiring off thrown pieces from the bat, to ideas on clay storage (an old freezer), and mixing (an ancient industrial dough mixer) – just brilliant. Things that could take a lifetime to work out, but take seconds to pass on.

I’m becoming increasingly intrigued by different potters’ studios and workshops, maybe because I am dreaming of working in my new one soon.

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Thomas Gough’s studio

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Ludie Rie’s studio (photo: Wikimedia Commons, by Andreas Praefcke)

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The Leach Pottery (photo: Wikimedia Commons, by Jordanhill School D&T Dept)