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.

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Good return #2

I promised to post a picture of the finished pots from the workshop in Copenhagen. They arrived safely the other day and I’m really happy with the bottles… the rounded jar still needs glazing. As soon as the holidays are over (and I can warm up the studio) I’m going to get working on some tall shapes. I think it’s going to take a bit of practise to get them as thin as I’d like, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

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Good return

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Me finishing the rim of a tall piece (photo by Line Klein)

In the summer I was delighted to find out that I had received an artist’s bursary from Made in Aberdeen. The award was to help me with two things, the first of which was to get some much needed tuition. I’m mostly self taught, which brings its own unique challenges. There are some things that I can work out for myself… rightly or wrongly. There are others for which the internet is an invaluable resource, but there are certain issues which can only be solved by talking to, and working with a potter with more experience.

My main obstacle has always been throwing tall pieces. This takes a combination of skill and confidence that I just don’t seem to have. The maximum height I can throw is about 20 centimetres, and the pot is always wide and heavy.

About a year ago I started following the Instagram feed of Eric Landon from Tortus Copenhagen. He is a master potter, with 25 years experience and specialises in tall decorative pieces. So last month, using some of my bursary money I boarded a plane to Denmark to take part in a week-long workshop at his studio in the centre of Copenhagen.

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Nyhavn, in the centre of Copenhagen, touristy but beautiful

It was an wonderful week on many levels. There’s something about being in a different studio, away from the usual day-to-day which I found invigorating. There were times of affirmation where I discovered I hadn’t been doing things incorrectly… however it was amazing how seemingly small adjustments to do with clay preparation; hand and body position; and wheel speed resulted in significant improvement. Thanks to Eric’s help by the end of the week I was making pots that were much taller, and were narrow and shapely. Now I am back home with a head full of ideas for new work. I still need to work on getting the walls thinner, but that will come with practise and I have set aside the next few weeks for just that. As I write this my finished pots are on their way to me from Copenhagen. I’ll post a picture if they arrive safely.

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Day one: Progress from right to left, getting taller but a bit clunky
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Day two: Eureka! The tallest piece I had thrown to date – 30cm
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Day three: Trying to go out as well as up
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Day four: Something a little more shapely, as well as 32cm high
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Day five: Taking stock of the week’s progress
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Day six: Glazing, using Eric’s particular process of layering different recipes

Copenhagen is a breathtakingly beautiful city, and I was lucky to find a place to stay that was so central. I walked everywhere, however the days were short so I didn’t get to see as much of the city as I would have liked. A good excuse to visit again! The other participants in the workshop were wonderful – from Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK and Australia! Thanks to you all and to Eric and Tasja for making my week away such a memorable and rewarding one.

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From left to right: Line Klein (Denmark), Eric’s assistant Tasja Pulawska (Poland), Silvia Woudt (Netherlands), Ashley Feijoo (Australia), Katherine Lees (UK) and me.

Earlier I mentioned that my bursary was to help me with two things. The second is to fund my application for a London show in 2016, something that would normally be beyond my means. I’ll let you know if I succeed.

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Inspirational

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This weekend I went to Kindrogan, in Perthshire, for my first SPA Weekend Workshop. I became a member last year and I’ve managed to miss various events up until now…

What a great few days. It was a treat to meet so many like minded individuals. I’ve bought a few new tools; some samples of clay; discussed anything and everything pot related; and learned a great deal too. The workshop demonstrators were Lisa HammondChristine Hester Smith and Simon Griffiths. The highlight for me was spending the best part of two days watching and listening to Lisa. Throwing and then altering pots big and small, she showed us how to take a more fluid and free approach, using the techniques learned from her time spent in Japan working with Rizu Takahashi.

I’m looking forward to experimenting – when’s that shed arriving?

Big

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This week I’ve been having another go at throwing larger pieces using a range of 1.5 to 2.5 kg of clay. Armed with a bit more experience it has been much better, although I did manage to break two when turning some yesterday… ahem.

The biggest challenge for me has been pulling out the clay to a large enough base size whilst keeping it centred and the base even. With small pots once you get a rhythm going you can centre, open and pull up relatively quickly. I have come to realise with large things you really have to take your time and repeat things like centring and compressing the base over and over again. Here Hsinchuen Lin makes it look easy. I’m chuffed though, as I’ve finished with seven dishes ranging from 25 to over 32cm in diameter… Now let’s see if I can manage to get them safely through decorating and the biscuit and glaze firings.

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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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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)