Work space

Three years ago this summer my new shed studio was finally finished. It was two months late and I was desperate to get back to work, already having taken four months off to project manage alterations to our home. My previous work space was our tiny scullery which I shared with the boiler, sink, washing machine and fridge freezer.

I rushed moving in without paying great attention to layout, and it worked fine for a time. I bought flexible metal shelving and a table that I could move around the limited space as I needed. However, as months passed I began to realise various shortcomings… no sturdy workbench, no possibility of another wheel, the kiln taking up a huge proportion of the space. The interior is lined in very industrial orange OSB board. I painted the ceiling and one wall white a year ago and this added some much needed light, but the space still felt very functional.

     

I admit to having total studio envy when I see photographs of other people’s workshops on social media. In particular Pip Wilcox’s serene environment, and Tasja Pulowska’s multifunctional space. I knew I wanted a little of both.

Following much thought, discussion and deliberation about what improvements to make, a joiner fitted some bespoke shelving (inspired entirely by Tasja’s), and a workbench with additional storage. I then spent two weeks painting, and slowly moving everything back in a much more considered way. I now have a compact space that works better on so many levels; it’s a beautiful environment to be in, it works as a studio and gallery, and it’s flexible.

I’m glad that I took time before making the investment to upgrade. It’s good to know how you use a space, what the faults are, and how they could be improved.

So here it is… my new place of work.
I’m now really looking forward to open studios in September.


Much more storage and display space


Less cramped wheel space (spot the dog)


The kiln is now on wheels so it can be moved back when not in use


Standing height workbench to help my back, with storage for all my beach treasures

 

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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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Making of a mug: Day ten

Part one
So here is the mug after the first firing. It is still warm from the kiln. Note the change of colour from the grey of the unfired clay to white, which is pretty close to how it will be once it is glazed. The glaze firing will warm the colour slightly and deepen the blue of the interior.

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Part two
Next the mug needs to be sanded to remove any rough spots, especially around the foot and rim. I use wet and dry sanding pads which are flexible so make it easy to follow the contours of the piece.

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Part three
Then the mug is washed thoroughly. Some potters prefer to use a damp sponge or skip this step entirely, and just give each pot a quick brush before glazing. Biscuit firing produces a large amount of dust, and the sgraffito process exacerbates this. I have found if I don’t wash my pieces I have real problems with my glaze not adhering properly.

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Part four
This is the final stage for today… waxing. Again there are many different approaches to the glazing stages, many potters prefer not to wax and just wipe any excess glaze from the foot of their pieces. It is imperative that no glaze comes in contact with a kiln shelf as they will cement together, damaging both the pot and the shelf. I prefer to apply wax resist to any areas where I do not require glaze. The glaze does not adhere to the waxed areas and the wax burns off in the firing leaving a crisp line where the glaze finishes. If any wax goes in the wrong place the pot will need to be biscuit fired again to remove it before glazing.

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This series of posts are also running on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. Apologies if you have already seen them there. If you would prefer to view them in one of these ways please click on the relevant icon in the right hand column.

Making of a mug: Day nine

Part one
Very late last night, as I checked on the kiln, I mixed some clear glaze so that it will be ready for dipping tomorrow. The glaze ingredients were added to a measured amount of water. They were then left to slake overnight.

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Part two
This morning I passed the mixed glaze twice through a sieve. Each time a quantity is poured into the sieve and then pushed through with a brush into a clean bucket below… this process can be quite time consuming, but it is critical as it removes any large particles that may spoil the finish I am hoping for.

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Part three
Finally I check the density of the glaze by using a hydrometer. This helps me ensure that I get consistent results. For this particular glaze it should read 47, so I need to add a little more water.

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This series of posts are also running on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. Apologies if you have already seen them there. If you would prefer to view them in one of these ways please click on the relevant icon in the right hand column.

 

Making of a mug: Day eight

Part one
The mug has dried out nicely and is now ready to have its first firing. At this point it is in its most fragile state so careful handling is vital. It is packed into the kiln along with all the other pieces I’ll be needing for the open studios which start this weekend.

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Part two
So here is my kiln Bertha, fully packed, programmed, and switched on. For this biscuit (or bisque) firing she will be slowly heating up to cone 06, which is 998˚c. This will result in the mug being strong but still porous enough to absorb its glaze. The lid is propped open initially to allow any steam to escape. I will close it up about four hours in. It will take just over 11 hours to reach temperature, but then a similar length of time to cool. Because there are a mixture of pieces in this firing, including some wide based platters the slow firing is essential.

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This series of posts are also running on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. Apologies if you have already seen them there. If you would prefer to view them in one of these ways please click on the relevant icon in the right hand column.

Making of a mug: Day six

Part one
I unwrapped the mug today and the handle has fixed well with no cracking. It is now dry enough to finish the decoration. This can produce a lot of very fine dust. I wear this attractive mask to avoid inhaling any of it.

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Part two
For this mug I am using a traditional decorating technique called sgraffito. This is where you scratch a design through the previously applied coloured slip to reveal the plain clay colour beneath.

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Part three
So now the mug is left for a few days. It needs to be completely dry before firing. Normally I would leave it for over a week but the kiln is firing with other work tonight, so this will speed up the drying considerably. All being well it will go in for its first firing on Monday.

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This series of posts are also running on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. Apologies if you have already seen them there. If you would prefer to view them in one of these ways please click on the relevant icon in the right hand column.