A new day a new Attittude

Sleep really does the mind good, I'm so glad that it does. As it is now technically my holidays I should be doing paperwork for the next two weeks, I do have a wheel at home but the kiln I have isn't connected to the electric supply so I can't even bisque my work. I will probably try and throw one day while I am off I only have a limited supply of clay right now, mainly terracotta which is a bit useless for a stoneware potter. hopefully I will find some time to paint whilst my little boy is at nursery one day, I have some new paints so there is no excuse, even if I just end up painting a picture of one of my bowls with lemons in

These are some close ups of my platters, I love how the iron speckles break apart the broad strokes.

This is the workshop I work in at University, as you can see it is quite cramped, especially when we have had up to 15 people working in here at any given time, so I tend to wedge together as much clay as I think I will need for the morning and then get on with it, same for the afternoon. I started making platters again last week as you can see here, as my mark finally arrived last Wednesday after many problems with Parcel Force who kept trying to deliver my order to a place in Poulton which is the next town over which has a similar street name but not the same post code or town name.

Here is an impression of my mark, it works much better on leather hard clay and forms a really crisp image, I love it. Anthea's stamp is a cute little fox which is the same as the logo on our website red fox pottery.


Back to the beginning

This is the first thing I ever made when I started at UCLAN asides something I had made out of air drying clay when I was in Beaver Scouts when I still lived in Fleetwood 20 years ago, it is actually the first thing I ever made out of clay. It was the first assignment at Uni to make the tallest structure you could with a set amount of clay, I did have a little clay to one side but it would have collapsed the tower so I didn't use it.

My mind recently keeps being drawn back to this, especially today when I have been struggling with working in way shape or form. Things have just been getting me down so I guess it is just one of those days. Uni technically finished today but I didn't find out till after I had left the campus and I was on my way home otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. Anyways I have to go in on Thursday to stamp all my work, we aren't allowed to use any of the machines so it will just be putting handles on all the mugs.

Whenever I have a bad day I wonder what other potters do to get through it


My Range As It Stands

Well I was told by my business studies tutor that I had to take pictures of all my range as it stands right now. I took the pictures with my wife's camera and without the black base, I'm not entirely happy with the results but I want to put them up to start getting everything in order for the degree show and starting the business.

My teacup, I made saucers for these yesterday I just need to trim and fire them(and make more teacups) the handle is just big enough for one finger to fit through, I really love these and can't wait to make more. About 250grams of clay
This is my Coffee cup it is quite narrow to drink out of, handle needs a little refinement. 300grams
This is much wider than the coffee cup and is about the size of a normal mug and is so known as my medium mug. 400grams
My big mug, 1 kilo of clay so is much bigger than the rest of the mugs and probably holds more than all concerned. This is the status of the mug after my tuition from Kevin Millward. Before the tuition the rim was just straight from the normal cup but he advised me that a rim like this was easier to drink from especially from such a large vessel. These size of mugs are most popular amongst students.

Tea light holds are only about 100grams of clay and are good at filling the gaps in a reduction kiln, I have plenty of them.

Soup Bowls with handles, these are 600grams, I have a lot of these as I thought they would be very commercially viable, my business studies tutor and head of course agree. Though I have been asked to make either a lid or a side plate for these, I will probably go with the side plate option as the bowls aren't all the same size so I would have to make a lot of various sizes and cross my fingers.

Other straight sided bowls, though this one is only slightly bigger than the soup bowl, it is actually 800gram of clay and has much thicker walls so then it could go in the oven.
Two of my bigger platters finally here for you to see, they are 2 kilos of clay and were made before Christmas, though I did throw some yesterday as my mark has finally come so I can stamp them and hope they are good enough for my show. My throwing of these has improved but yesterday I was throwing bigger ones from 6 kilos of clay and it was hard going with that much clay.
My first teapot, unfortunately I can't remember what weight went into this after seeing a demo on teapots, I prefer the top to be an in the pot as the lids for the sort with an internal gallery are easier to make the right size than the almost tea light holder that will have to go on top of this.

I have a few more different bits but then are either green or biscuit. I only have 5 working weeks to get everything done for the show, then 3 weeks where I have to furiously create so then I have enough stock for the summer and hopefully to buy a gas kiln from the proceeds (and some training to go with it. I need to take some measurements of these so then there is a little more idea of scale.


Different Clays

I have a couple of different clays hiding in my supply cupboard, there is porcelain, Arctic white stoneware and porcelain white stoneware and of course this earthenware clay called "surprise clay" surprise clay is from GreatArt.co.uk. Anthea bought me the surprise clay two birthdays ago to try to throw with, as it was a gift I was afraid to mess up so I have saved it until now. As you can see it swirls with colours through the middle, it is a combination of oxides and different sorts of silica as far as I can tell as it was like throwing with sand.

I threw the entire bag of clay on Thursday, I have a small reclaim pile that I am going to wedge and make some more pieces from. These are just a few of the pieces there were actually 3 boards full of things. It was interesting throwing with the clay, very different to what I am used to.

This piece actually started off a bit taller and a lot wider, I cut straight lines into the clay(faceted) and then stretched it out on the wheel, it shows how sedimentary the clay was. It was very sandy so you couldn't rest your hand on the wheel head as it was like sand paper. The clay wasn't made for throwing it was resistant to being thrown and was a very thirsty clay.

Yesterday(Friday) I threw some tea bowls off the hump, unfortunately I haven't done the technique more than twice before so I had quite a few unsuccessful pieces and what is left here don't always have flat bottoms, but Fridays for me are just the afternoons, as I have a business class in the morning.

This next week I am planning on taking pictures of every different piece in my range so you can all see it, piece by piece.


Finally the time is here

The time has finally come, today I unloaded the kiln, I underestimated how long this would take me, especially with taking lots of pictures added in to the mix.

The technician had already moved all the pieces that weren't mine from the top shelves which helped speed things up. But I basically emptied the kiln myself apart from the top level, it is really satisfying doing so much for this firing myself.

This is all a large portion of what came out as it was hard to get everything in one shot as there was so much. I had lots of questions as emptied, the most common of which was "what did you do to make the different colours?" Well the blue is Cobalt Carbonate and the red/brown is Iron oxide, the speckles are because of the lack of oxygen in the kiln as it fires.

I had three ruined pots today, two were because of clay/bat wash falling into the bowl such as this above, it has fused with the glaze and the pot itself.

The third pot that was broken had split through the base, I have been told that there wasn't enough compression when I was forming the base, but that bit has already been covered in my latest tuition. For such a large kiln I don't think a failure of 3 pots is so bad at my stage, as I had a firing last year where I lost every pot places in the kiln.

One of my soup bowls and large mugs, this was my favourite large mug from the firing, and I did it after tuition from Kevin Millward, I just need to go back to the wheel and make a good couple of dozen of these so then I have some to choose from for my final show, still need more practice with the handles.

Some of the different size mugs/teacups I have been working on over the last few weeks, still trying to decide which size I want for my farmers market range.

Looking for some concept shots to go on my business cards / on various design sites that I am planning on joining over the next few weeks such as Design Initiatives.

Just trying to create some interesting shapes, colours and tones

These are what the tea light holders look like right now, all grouped together showing that scale that sometimes pots need an object to show scale.
This is my favourite item from the firing, it has just the right blue to green ratio on the cobalt and the textures just seem to have run slightly, it is such an interesting pot up close. I have actually brought it home to show people as an example of my work.

I have a slight oversight on the platters I forgot to take some overall shots of them and I only have detailed shots, so I will get some more photos on Thursday. I do have plenty more photos to upload and talk about later.



Something a little different for me

Yay back to throwing for me, I have missed it and as I was shown how to make lids on Thursday, on Friday I decided to make some bowls to learn the basics of the skill. The other major thrower on the course is throwing these to like twice the size and ever so accurately, whereas my rims are a little wonky and I am only using between 1 and 2 kilo of clay. My goal is to be able to throw enough clay to make a bread crock by the time I leave University.

On other things, the large gas kiln was fired on Thursday! I had a look inside on Friday, but it was too hot still to open it properly to get a photograph. So my first job of the day on Tuesday is to empty my kiln and get loads of photographs, then I can start joining designinit.org.uk and a few other places where I have been advised to make a profile. I can also think about getting my business cards done for my degree show.

Work on the website has been a little slow this week, and my business set up enquires have been stressing me out to no end. Oh well, heres to another week.


Kiln Full and ready to go (almost)

This first image is how I left the kiln when I left Uni on Friday, it is quite obviously half filled and took me two days to get to that point. I got in this morning and started weighing out all 5 kilograms of ingredients, then I had to wait for the technician to bring the 300 grams of titanium dioxide. Once I had the titanium the scales had gone walkies so I emptied the bisque kiln and brushed oxides on to all my work. After lunch I finished making the glaze, fully sieved and all.

This second image was taken about 3.10 which is cutting it fine as my bus comes at 3.20, all but the top shelf on the right is full but the technician said he would fine a few pieces and put them in for the firing that would happen either Wednesday(today) or Thursday. I wouldn't have finished if Anthea hadn't have helped out for the last hour. Everything is done now and I am happy, three days to load a kiln is too much for me, I think I will just fill the small gas kiln on a weekly basis so I don't have to spend so long away from the wheel. I have learnt a lot doing so much glazing in one go and of course this is the second kiln I have ever packed for glazing, and definitely the first glaze kiln with more than one stack of shelves

I am just hoping all 9 of the first years that are supposed to be throwing don't show up so then I can have a wheel on Thursday


Half full or half empty (if you don't intend to fire)

Well it is the start of another week, above is one of the very few images from this last week,  I trimmed the base on the wheel last Friday just to give it a little extra lift and removed some of my finger prints from lifting it off the wheel in the first place.

On Friday I also made some aggregate test pieces which once fired will have to be ground down to a smooth surface, I have done it before but it will be a very wet job.  I also filled the kiln some more and now it is half done, unfortunately I ran out of glaze and didn't get chance to to mix any more up, especially as the University is out of titanium and is waiting for a delivery so hopefully it will be there tomorrow so I can fill up the kiln.

I really miss throwing after spending so much time filling the kiln so hopefully I will be able to throw one piece at least tomorrow.


Slow Loading

Spent all day glazing and loading the kiln as I went along, found out once I had done it all it is better to stagger the shelves so I will be going back in today making a few alterations and then filling some more of the space. But I have been doing everything, and it is a first time for me, the tech explained it and left me to it. Even been using bat wash on the bats.

Still got plenty of work to load into the kiln, my big mugs, some huge bowls and all my platters.Unfortunately because I was so busy I didn't manage to talk to Kevin Millward about easier techniques for throwing my platters. But this kiln takes priority at the moment as there is so much work to do with it, for the next firing I'm going to do it every week and I should have enough for the degree show, just need to pick up the pace a little and hope my little one doesn't get ill.

So many plans and it all relies on getting my own gas kiln, so I will be working hard to produce. One of the girls I work with told me to be more selective and only pick a quarter as many but she is making things that cost at least £80 a go and I just don't have that sort of work.


Pottery Masterclasses

Last Thursday for the first time since I learned to centre clay I have been receiving tuition from Kevin Millward who according to the head of course has two claims to fame, he was the potter off the BBC's Generation Game and he threw the Sophie Conran Portmeirion range, he is a very imposing person especially after he threw a teapot body from start to finish in around two minutes and that is when he was explaining as he went along. He makes our tech look slow, not that speed it everything it isn't but his skills are just amazing, he uses one metal rib with two finger holes and a wire.

After seeing the demo's the other third year students asked me me what I thought, my response was a simple "I'm going home now" he went through everything that was wronng with my work, so I needed a break to recover from the big long list.

He is being paid to teach the first years but as they are just learning to centre and do a single pull he has plenty of time on his hands to teach the three of us third years who need the help as we are more or less self taught.

I asked about handles so he pulled some and attached them to my jug, they stayed on most of the day until I got a bit messy with water and they snapped off, though he said they wouldn't stick at all. Tried to do the same thing yesterday on my pots but it just didn't work.

He took one of my pots as I was throwing it and showed me how to improve upon all the really fine details, there is a lot he went through with me and at the time it seemed a bit much but I appreciate it now.

He taught a slightly different method of throwing than the one I was taught so as you can see it took me a while to get used to it, he also insisted that I don't slide my pots off the wheel with water like I was originally taught apparently "no proffessional pottery uses that method" I have so much still to learn I know that but at the same time as I am learning this I am also trying to learn how to set up and run my own business. Any advice would be welcome.

I have 4 more Tuesdays with Kevin but at some point I have to fill the large gas kiln, I was unsatisfied with my test firing but I know where it went wrong, my glaze was either too thick or thin and I think I had too much cobalt on the brush as it was turning more green than blue. Forgot to get pictures but I will get them tomorrow inbetween my 101 jobs and demo's