Thursday 25 June 2009

Off to Rufford

Well I'm just about to hit the road, to fight my way through the Glastonbury traffic and head off up to Nottinghamshire and Earth & Fire at Rufford Abbey Country Park.

Rufford's probably my favourite show of the year, it certainly feels like it's the most prestigious. This year though I'm feeling a little more trepidation than usual as I have to give a jug making demo on Sunday afternoon. I don't know why this one seems more scary than others, I've done loads of demos this year and should be getting used to it. It's one of those ones where you're mic-ed up and there's a guy sitting on the side of the stage with a microphone asking loads of questions - as if this stuff isn't hard enough to do in private, let alone in front of a throng of people. Oh well, I'm sure it'll be over in a flash - just three days to worry about it.

I'm disappointed to be missing my older son Luke as he goes off in his glad rags to his end of school ball tomorrow night. We took him out a couple of weeks ago and bought him a new suit, since the picture was taken he's had a tidy haircut(which has pleased his Mother no end) - whatever happened to my little baby? He finished his last exam yesterday - now the long wait until the end of August to find out how he's got on. I think he'll do well, he deserves to, he's worked very hard.

Thankfully I'm not having to camp this weekend as I'll be staying with an old college chum Brigsy who lives nearby. Svend and Nic and Sabine will be staying too, so it'll be a house full of potters. I really don't enjoy camping much these days - I'm getting soft in my old age. Last weekend at the slipware event the camping facilities were very, very basic, plus my hotwater bottle leaked and I forgot to put the square thing on top of the tent and it poured with rain, so I was soaked from all directions - a comfortable bed is very much more appealing.

Well I can procrastinate no longer, I'd better go and leave my rural retreat and face the real world and a busy motorway. I'll report back next week. Happy weekends full of fun everybody, take care.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Kiln's, pots and Blogger Dan

Tom Skeen came to the event with his girlfriend Alice. It was lovely to see Tom again - he came to me for a while last year, when he made this pot from clay that he dug from the woods. I fired it for him, along with some other pots that he made and delivered them to him at the weekend. He left this one beside my car when he left which was really sweet of him. He hadn't been making pots long when he made this pot, but it's clearly visible that he has a natural understanding of good form. This combined with the direct manner in which he manipulates clay, suggest that he's going to be a very fine potter. Thanks Tom very much, note Kipper giving it some scrutiny.

This pot was made by the fair hand of the excellent Mr Nigel Lambert who was also demoing at the weekend. I really like his work a lot and this piece is a very welcome addition to my collection. It was good to spend some time with him and to get an axe swinging lesson(he's a former forester)

And here's a beautiful pot that will be added to my special shelf of bloggers' pots, made by the great Dan Finnegan from Virginia USA. I saw this pot when it was freshly made in the States on Dan's blog, so I'm thrilled to bits to own it.

Matt, Hannah, Andrew and I skived off during the afternoon on Sunday and took a half hours drive to Toff milway's Conderton Pottery, where Blogger Dan is staying. It was great to meet him - magic even. What a fantastic beard and a top man - it felt like we all knew him already. We'll see him again this weekend at Earth and Fire at Rufford, I look forward to that.

Here's my good chum Paul Young taking a break.

This is Sean Casserly, whose workshop was the venue for the event. Here he's firing a tunnel type raku kiln that he built.

And this is the masterpiece of modern engineering that Matt and I lashed together last week from an oil drum. Would you believe it, it actually worked.

That's all for now, time for bed, goodnight all.

The remarkable Mr Smith

Here are some pictures of Peter Smith taken during his demo.

Peter came to give a lecture and demo when Nic and I were students at Derby College, back in the early eighties and completely turned our heads.

His influence has stuck with us both ever since, so it was wonderful to see and hear him again.

He uses a lot of grit in his clay - his clay has similar properties to the brick clay blend that I use.

He uses pipettes with rubber tubes attached to suck up slip, then expels the wet slip in a free-flowing, but considered manner, across the surface of the pot.

I admire the fact that he has no intention of making his work 'pretty'. As he maintained when applying his asymmetrical decoration, 'it's not my responsibility to make people feel comfortable'. Love it

Pictures from the weekend

Here are a few pics from the weekend, I'll post some more later.

The assembled delegates during a demo that Paul Young and I did together.

Peter Smith, a big hero of mine

Matt demonstrating how to make oval dishes

Hannah sliptrailing.

More later, off to work now, have a lovely day everybody.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Off for the weekend

I've been finger-wipe decorating flatware today. I love the feel of cold slip on the finger tip. Apart from the occasional sgrafitto jug like the one in my recent firing, I like to keep my decoration spontaneous and flowing, celebrating the wet and dribbly qualities of freshly applied slip. Whether they work or not, only time will tell.

Different Dave came by today and put the roof on my kiln shed extension - hurrah! It's a bit of an on and off job this building at the moment. I'm desperate to get on and finish it off, but there's so much else to do and building sheds, doesn't pay bills. It'll revolutionise the place when it's finished.

Next stage is to dig the rest of the floor out(the conventional method would have been to have done this first), then crash a hole through the inside wall into my existing kiln shed to make a new doorway. The whole thing's a bit of a shabby lash-up job - plenty of big nails and filler, but it'll look ok when I plant some climbers to provide a screen of foliage and cover over the tell tale signs of the cowboy builder. It's been made almost entirely from salvaged materials. The plan really is to make it appear to the planners like it's been there since Tudor times :)

I've just been getting the camping gear together as I'm off in the morning to the Cotswolds to take part in the Slipware weekend. I'm going to be doing a puzzle jug making demo and a session on mark making - not sure what that'll be like, the puzzle jug one will be ok, but mark making - well I just slap it about really. I'll make a few pots when I get there to decorate, it'll be much clearer in my head then how I'm going to conduct the session.

It'll be a chance to catch up with bloggers Hannah, Andrew and Matt as well as other slipware dudes like my old chum Paul Young and John Edgeler who has organised the event. I feel a bit apprehensive about it at the moment, but I'm sure once I'm there and the tent's set up, it'll be fine and I'll have a great time.

We're going to go to Toff Milway's Conderton Pottery at some stage over the weekend to meet up with Blogger Dan Finnegan who is over from the States and has an exhibition there - I'm looking forward to meeting him and seeing his pots for real.

It's a crazy month this one, having started with The Contemporary Craft Fair a couple of weeks ago, the slipware event this weekend, then Earth and Fire at Rufford the next weekend, not much time for family stuff. At least I'm in the fortunate position of having recently fired and so I have plenty of pots to choose from. I'll be taking a whole lot of different ones this weekend, from the ones I'll take to Rufford the next weekend. I like to have as many fresh pots to show at each event as I can.

Right, must go scrub in the tub then pack the car. Happy weekends all and special big love to my Dad a it's Father's Day on Sunday.

Monday 15 June 2009


Jude was asking what these bowls came out like - here they are.

Lots of flatware and bowls today.

Eric the cat.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Friday grinding

Matt and I spent the last couple of days working out how to construct the oil drum bottle kiln.

It's essentially an oil drum, lined with ceramic fibre, which is then placed on top of a simple firebox, built from firebrick, with two horizontally opposed fireboxes.

The pots will be contained within a stack of saggars, which were formerly the property of and made by the deft hand of the late, great, Michael Cardew - I'm not entirely sure he'd approve.

Whether it will work or not remains to be seen when we give it its solo firing at the Cotswolds Slipware Workshop at Taena next weekend.

As you can see, health and safety procedures were strictly adhered too......

...and in the event of a lack of goggles, we skillfully constructed some from packaging saved from a packet of paintbrushes.

Our new recycle-friendly 'greengogs' not only protect ones eyes, but enable the user to smoke whilst operating machinery due to the strategically placed hole in their fabric. This makes these not simply a great item for puffing whilst angle grinding, but also a fantastic gift for the inexperienced or first time smoker, preventing cigarette emissions from entering the users eyes. Health and safety first folks.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Friday morning

A brief ramble before I head out of the door to work. Stayed late at the workshop last night, so didn't get the chance to blog. Marky Mark and Jessica came up to do some glazing.

New additions in my workshop, left to right, Blogger Paul, Hannah, Paul Young and two dinky little cups from Aussie Ang - thank you all. Ang sent me some little tiles too, but they were at home when I took this pic. I also have a lovely piece of glass, but I'll write about that another day in a separate post.

Some big baluster jugs from the last firing - I've got a good range of colour and tone to choose from for my June shows. It was quite a heavily reduced firing, so there are a lot of orange pots.

Some bowls I made yesterday, more of these to make today and some flatware. These ones are 3lb - I also made some 6lb ones. They have a notched band just below the rim.

I think Blogger Matt will be coming later and we're going to try and make a simple updraught wood kiln from a fibre-lined oil drum - not sure it'll work, but it's worth a try just for the fun of it. I'll report later - happy day all.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Back in the land of blog

I'm back!

It's been ages since I've posted on here.

Since my last post, Hannah's been to stay, we've fired the kiln, been to stay with Nic for a few days and exhibited and demonstrated at the Contemporary Craft Fair.

Here's Hannah lighting up the kiln. We fired it last Monday - the hottest day of the year. It was scorching, way too hot to be firing that's for sure.

On Tuesday we took the day off and went up to Shebbear to visit my great friend and hero Clive Bowen for lunch. Hannah hadn't been to his place before. It's beautiful there, Clive's wife Rosie is a fantastic gardener - the whole place is inspirational. I used to spend a lot of time at Clive's place, packing and firing his huge two chamber wood kiln, but missed the last two firings, so it was great to be there again after so long. Clive's been a huge influence on what I do, both in terms of what I make and why I want to make it. Behind Hannah is the chimney of his huge bottle kiln.

We unpacked the hot pots on Wednesday. Here they are strewn across the lawn.

Wednesday was also Marky Mark's birthday.

It was an interesting firing, with a range of tones that were more orange than the ambers of the last kiln load, so the two batches of pots mixed well together. I should have taken a picture to demonstrate that, these two large jugs are from the latest firing.

The sgrafitto jug has gone to a new home. It came out really well thankfully. There's always a huge risk firing with a naked flame and this jug took hours to decorate, so I was somewhat relieved to get it out successfully.

Here are some close ups of the naive birds and flowers.

I built this dry stone wall while we were firing and today back-filled it with earth that I dug out of the new kiln shed floor. I'm desperate to get the new sheds finished some time soon so that I can get the workshop into some kind of better order - it's chaos at the moment.

Well that's about it other than to say thank you to the folk who bought my pots at the weekend, thank you to Nic and Sabine for putting me up during the last few days and thank you to Hannah for the great company and for coming down and helping with the firing. Back to making pots tomorrow and who knows, maybe even some more blogging.