Wednesday, 26 November 2008

New clay, new pots, new head

It's been a funny couple of weeks since the firing - funny in the head kind of funny.

I haven't got much made - in fact, until today there were just eighteen mugs on the shelves.

In spite of it all and contrary to my usual mindset at this stage of the proceedings, I've not felt particularly depressed this week. Far from it really. Nor have I felt terribly stressed about the fact that there are so few pots on the shelves - for once I've just accepted that there are lots of things to do, than just making pots and I've been constantly busy sorting other stuff out - going through the new pots and pricing stuff up - planning a sale (next weekend I think - more about that later) and thinking, drawing, reading, scrutinizing.

It seems that last week's migraine was my body and mind demanding a rest.

Physically I feel on top form today, just the aches and pains that a man of my time in life should be experiencing after years of abuse.

The last couple of days I've allowed my brain to recharge - it's been great - there's a lot going on up there at the moment - some funky ideas that'll come out in this next batch of work. The temptation after a firing is always to fly straight back into making pots again and to carry on where the last lot left off, in a crazy and stressed panic, trying to refill empty shelves ready to meet another deadline.

This week has been for thinking about how to develop and move on to the next stage, based on the information the last firing gave me. There's been no rush to start making. It's been a week for looking into things that are happening in the countryside around here, in particular the microscopic detail of pattern and structure in some of the flora, which is dead and dry in the fields, brown, grey and yellow, the spent seed pods and the crinkled up leaves. It's clear to see where the inspiration arose for much of the decoration on the medieval jugs that I love so. Those potters would have been so attuned to their natural environment, because it was the world they encountered on a daily basis.

My friend and photographer Johnny takes the most incredible images of plant life and magnifies it hundreds of time - it blows me away. I must get some of his images to post on here because they really opened my eyes to this stuff.

This week I've been walking Digger the dog. I take him out at midday for a forty-five minute run. It's added structure to my day, usually I'd not stop for any longer than it takes to munch a sandwich. I like it; it refreshes the mind in readiness for the afternoon session. It gets me into different fields and terrain, different plant life - all in all, really inspiring and bursting with information that can come straight from nature, to the surface of earthy, country pots - what an amazing resource base - and I'm surrounded by it.

At last, my new clay was ready to use today - that was really exciting. I've been processing the stuff from the seam that Matt and I were digging a couple of weeks ago and today it was sufficiently tough enough to make a few things from it. Drying it quickly enough in sufficient quantity is going to be the challenge, so I've started making some large, wide, low-sided vessels to pour the slip into to dry. They'll be bisc fired and left unglazed so thus, porous.

I made these three pound jugs - five of them(I'm trying to break the habit of making multiples of six)

And these mugs(I didn't do too well at breaking the habit of making multiples of six)

It's so very different from the gritty clay I'm used to using, just the naturally occurring sand that goes through the sieve, creamy, rich and silky, super-plastic, it sings, but with a softer, sweeter voice than the gruffness of the old stuff. You may be able to gather that I like it a lot - enough to turn me all poetic.

The pots will change in response to the properties of the clay - the slurry on the surface and the finger marks left from throwing. They'll be a lot thinner - that's a good thing, although I'm anxious not to make them too thin - earthenware needs a bit of substance to it. You can see from the photo how much further a pound of this clay goes - I know the mug's fired, so has shrunk already, but it's a lot, lot smaller than the new ones I made today.

I've loved the effects that the old brick clay has given me - there were some lovely results from the most recent firing that are being photographed tomorrow - I'll post them shortly, but I feel like I've left it behind. Maybe I'll still use a small percentage of it added to Hollyford clay for larger pieces until I can sort out another opening material - that's all academic as I still have to process enough to make the larger pieces, so only time will tell.

Well I've rambled enough, so I'll sign out and leave you with two videos, I hope you enjoy them as much as I'm sure you all enjoyed Ivor Cutler last night, God rest his soul.

The first one shows Digger living up to his name, looking for a seam of the good stuff.

The second shows my muddy wheel and the bird table outside my window that is alive with beautiful colour and shape all day long - a constant distraction.

I say it often and I expect you're tired of hearing it, but I only say it because I know how true it is, I'm a lucky, lucky man.

Blimey, that was a long one, happy Thursday all.


Ron said...

Hey Doug, Nice to hear you in good spirits. That clay is really wonderful. I took it out of the bag and gave it a good deep sniff today. Nothing like sticking the head in the earth. (Right Digger?)
Anyhow, hope you have a good rest of the week. I'm almost set for the sale and for Thanksgiving here. Baking my first pumpkin pie right now. Later. Like the mugs with the pours between the coils.

ang said...

brilliant doug, i was just watching your mud to bird vid and and had my own soundtrack outside birds singing away after a little shower of rain....sweet..

Becky said...

Doug! Too many thoughts come to mind with a wonderful post like this! Please turn poet in your posts as oft as you like. If it weren't late at night I'd be running to put fingers to clay. THANK YOU!

And, um, I have to ask...what kind of bird is that delightful visitor in your video. It's a stunner!

Brad Lail said...

Brilliant post Doug. I think I want a bird feeder right outside my window just like the way your space is set up. The clay looks beautiful. Have fun digging up a great seem with ole digger!

doug fitch said...

The little bird's a Nuthatch - it's beautiful. Earlier in the week, I had a nuthatch and a greater spotted woodpecker on there at the same time - you can't buy that kind of thing - that's why I'm lucky!

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

Felt a bit like I have been spinning my wheels in the mud too and there is soooo much to do...
gorgeous work Doug.

paul jessop said...

It's a lovely feeling Doug I'm loving this potting life as well

jbf said...

Great post. Sounds like things are coming together nicely. I really like the pitchers and would like to see them again with handles.