Friday, 28 September 2012

22. Coloured Clays and Castles

Hello Potters and Friends,

First things first - I promised to give you Alan's best tomato soup recipe, so here are my home-grown, purple tomatoes ready for the job.

Why do I never pick courgettes, or zucchini, when they're small and sweet? 

Ingredients;  Tomatoes (Fresh or tinned)
                     1 Onion
                     Split Red Lentils (not too many, about 3 ounces)
                     Vegetable Stock
                     1 heaped tea spoon of dried thyme.
1. Fry the chopped onions in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes.
2. Halve and add your tomatoes to the onions.
     (you can add canned toms at this point if you want to make loads like me.)
3. Throw in the washed red lentils.
4. Add a couple of pints of stock and a generous sprinkling of dried thyme.
    Lid on and simmer for half an hour.
    Liquidise in your whizzer and eat immediately or freeze for later.   Delicious !

Now, I am someone who cannot throw clay away, no matter how contaminated it might be. So I keep a collection of small, smelly pots containing different coloured clays, that are the leftovers and scraps of  stained and oxide-mixed clays.  

They may look and, certainly, smell awful but they really are useful.

I take a small handful from one of the dishes and kneed it into a ball to make sure there are no air bubbles. I then cut the ball into 3 or 4 slices. Then take your chosen white stoneware or, better still, porcelain and cut that into 3 or 4 slices. Now you can make one large ball by layering alternate colours; white clay/coloured clay/ white clay/ and so on until you have something that looks like a huge Liquorice All Sort sweet. Wedge up the mixed layers and either hand-build with it or throw it on the wheel.

   Wheel thrown, then turned before bisque firing.

Because such a lot of water is used when throwing, you find that your pot comes off the wheel as all one purple-coloured mess. Where's all the lovely swirls and layers gone, you cry.  Just keep your nerve. When it has dried to leather-hard - your turning stage - pop it back on the wheel and with a good, sharp, metal tool start to turn off that top messy layer and the lovely pattern will be revealed.

I'll dip these pots into a transparent glaze, whereby I'm expecting the purple swirls to change into browns and greys. And of course, I'll be posting the results when they're out of the kiln.

But, alongside this I am still working on my commissions that I got from from Warwickshire Open Studios Exhibition. 

Table centre-piece. Stoneware.

Table centre-pieces. Porcelain.  

 Stoneware clay bowl, having had lace rolled into it.

It should look similar to this original.

But while I spent so much time in the workshop last week, outside we saw the last beautiful, sunny days of autumn. So Rosie and I took ourselves off to the small, but glorious, Mill Garden that stands at the foot of the majestic Warwick Castle.


Me under the Ghost Tower. 

William the Conqueror ordered this castle to be built on the River Avon in 1068 so that it stood as a symbol of his power over the people of this new territory, the Midlands. Over the centuries many battles, executions and murders took place here. Hence the dungeons and ghost tower.

Happy Potting Folks.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

21. Miniature Pots and Oh, la, la !

Hello Potters and Friends,

.....and Bonjour from Honfleur in Normandy.

Alan and I have left the summer sun in France and have been greeted by the long, shadowy, autumn days of Leamington Spa. Leaves are yellowing now and will soon be turning red before they fall. The tomatoes in my greenhouse are ripening quicker than I can eat them. Alan's tomato soup will soon be on the menu again. I'll be giving you his recipe for this, 'oh so easy but oh so delicious ' soup in my next post.
But let's crack on with the potting news.

Before going to France I started working with porcelain again, and although, as I've said before, it's quite tricky at first, constant practice is the answer.
Here are some of the results after unloading the kiln from their first bisque firing.

As you can see I've been making, not just small, but miniature pots.

These dinky little pots are very attractive and were very popular at my open studio exhibition in July. They're also great fun to make.

Some will be dipped in a clear glaze which will give the porcelain that translucent look, but some I'll leave unglazed in order to retain the pure whiteness that only porcelain can achieve. 
The unglazed pots I have burnished while still on the wheel as part of the turning stage.

This method takes the hard work out of the constant rubbing with the spoon and the clay takes on a silky, soft feel that makes you want to pick it up and just hold it.

So now on to glazing.
I dip pots more than any other glazing method. If the piece is a bowl, plate, cup or any wide topped pot I use these special tongues which makes glazing easy.

But I can't use them on small pieces, or on the moon pots I love making that have tiny openings, so this is how I do it.

Where my thumb has covered the rim I touch it with a finger dipped in glaze. When it dries out you'll find a lump of glaze on the rim and maybe even drips where the glaze ran off. 

 Don't leave them. I wait 24 hours so that the glaze is bone dry and very powdery, then a gentle rub with a finger will take them away.

These cups were worked on in exactly this way.

But look what I brought back from a brocante (a sort of car boot sale) in Lisieux.

A Delft plate, milk churn and a completely over-the-top soup tureen. Who could resist it??

What splendour. Chateau de St. Germain de Livet. Over-the-top residence? 
Not at all.

Vive la diffĂ©rence 

Happy Potting Folks.