Wednesday 31 March 2010

Thank you

I'm a much happier bunny today, thank you for all your supportive comments. The mind of the middle-aged man is not always a good place.

Guess what Dave and Sue, got started making your tiles today with Michael Cardew's tile mould that I rescued from Wenford Bridge. I post this picture for Ang who asked to see it a while back.

And here are some of the tiles. More of these to make tomorrow, then lots of decorating to do.

I had the most wonderful walk home this evening, albeit a baptism of hail. It was really wild and windy, but just what I needed, a good bit of thinking time. I'm looking forward to seeing the spring arrive in close detail. That said, snow forecast tomorrow.

My favourite flower, the primrose. The Devon lanes are full of these beautiful, delicate blooms in the spring and it lifts my heart and spirit. That's all for now, it's bed time.
Thank you everybody, goodnight xxx

Monday 29 March 2010

Glum :(

I've felt really glum since I got home from France - it was so good out there, I suppose I'm bound to feel a bit flat now that everything's back to normal :(

It's good to have new pots in the freshly painted 'showroom' :)

but to my eyes right now, the shelves are half empty rather than half full :(

The glaze quality on the 'Elizabethan Lady' jug is beautiful :)

but the big crack in her side isn't :(

Moan moan moan, the gearbox destroyed itself on my car last week, so that's the end of that, no car :(

Sooooooooooooooooo....The positive from this is that Spring is around the corner and much is happening in the hedgerows. I made my best pots last time that I was walking to and from the workshop, as the mud and the plants of Devon countryside find their way into my work :)

My good friend, woodcarver and fellow Love Daddy, Paul 'Cookie' Cook has offered me lifts a few mornings a week - that's the uphill, half awake bit, so I'll probably take the ride on those mornings, then walk home in the evenings. Now that the clocks have changed, it'll be daylight :)

I'll see how it goes and how much I miss the car before replacing it. We have two cars, Hil uses the other one for getting to work, in the opposite direction, but on days when I really need a car, I can drop her off and use that one.

This is more jolly, I've had my older son Luke with me at Hollyford in the last few days which has been cool. He's working on a school sculpture project using the variety of clays diggable here on site.

He's making a huge amonite, based on the Fibonacci Sequence and drawing influence from the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy :)

For my part, I prepared lots of clay today, ready to get making tomorrow. Perhaps I'll post something less gloomy then. I can't be so fed up or I wouldn't be able to post at all, so don't worry, but right now I have to say, a nice easy nine to five with no responsibility, no pressure and a regular wage every week looks very attractive!

Tomorrow's another day, hopefully it'll be a constructive one.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Nouvelles d'hier aujourd'hui

Home again after a brilliant, long weekend in France. I feel absolutely exhausted and have spent much of today sleeping - surprising as most of the weekend I've been sitting down in a darkened room, but we kept long hours and I didn't get home until the early hours this morning, so there's my excuse.

These are the guys who took me there, John Davies on the left, who edited the film, director Alex McErlain on the right and Stephen Yates, camera man, taking up the rear. Huge, huge thanks to these chaps.

On the first evening we went to an exhibition of ceramics and glass at the Montpellier Musee Languedocien. In the background is Marta, who travelled with us on the plane to France - some of you may know her from the CPA shop in London.

The museum was full of amazing, ancient pottery. I had photographed a lot of it, before a very polite man informed me photography was not allowed - so you haven't seen this picture ok?!

Here are some of the contemporary exhibits, mixed in amongst the antiquities.

This was a large porcelain piece, made by soaking fabric in slip, the fabric burning away in the kiln. I remember firing student's work made by this method when I was an art college technician - it's so fragile, a technician's nightmare.

This work consisted of a number of glass baubles placed on the wire innards of a mattress. I found myself looking up to the chandelier above, to see where these 'bulbs' had dropped from. The springs related well to the surrounding furniture and made me consider what may lie beneath the upholstery of the chairs - not sure if that was what was intended, but that's how it was for me.

We then went to the opening night of the festival and the first films, a collection of remarkable animations, presumably painted on glass, by artist Florence Miailhe and a spectacular dance sequence, filmed on a seemingly huge shard pile - some of this stuff has to hurt.

I saw fascinating films and met wonderful people. The festival was attended by film makers, artists and delegates from all over the world. The French government clearly value their crafts, certainly more than my government does, (read this article)and the festival must have been a heavily subsidised event. We were put up in a good hotel and wined and dined in style by the organizers. I was also looked after really well by Alex, John and Steve, who were great company and we enjoyed a few beers every evening in the hotel bar.

The venue for the film festival was a huge building called Le Corum, in the centre of Montpellier, situated at the end of this avenue of beautiful plane trees.

It's a vast building, an opera house in fact, with many seats, almost filled to capacity for the duration of the festival.

Looking up to the heights of this ceiling made me feel quite giddy - so I didn't do it too often!

Here's the woman who introduced the films, in front of the huge screen.

These are some of the good people I met. Behind me and John is Florence Bruyas, a talented ceramic artist. Beside her, her sister Raphaelle, a film maker, who made this film about Florence. I'm afraid my French isn't very good, so I can't follow much of the dialogue, but the work and the imagery are beautiful. This was the film that was shown immediately before Hollyford Harvest.

Beside Raphaelle is a Canadian potter, Jody Greenman-Barber, who made a very entertaining short film, titled Clay Play, combining the rhythm of making on the wheel, with dance.

Next to Jody and her husband is Caroline Andrin, a professor from Belgium, who works with fabric and porcelain, cutting and re-sewing found items of clothing such as gloves, which are then used as moulds, within which slipcast forms are created. Between Caroilne and Alex, is potter Ann Van Hoey, also from Belgium whose film you can see here.

Hollyford Harvest was well received. I felt very nervous as the opening sequence appeared on the vast screen, followed the sight and sound of the Love Daddies. I hate hearing myself speak, so I was cringing somewhat. Subtitles in French had been added so the predominantly French audience could understand what I was saying.

I was a lot hairier when it was filmed and had managed to stay relatively anonymous - the picture in the catalogue was also shot pre-haircut - here's somebody a few rows in front looking at the catalogue. After the screening, our names were announced and we each had to stand in turn, Alex, John, Steve, then me, then we had to wave to the huge audience, in response to their applause. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life - exciting, scary, kind of nice, but kind of odd too - I didn't know what to do, part of me wanted to sit down immediately, but instead I put my thumbs up to the crowd, then worried that it may be a rude gesture in France - they didn't seem offended fortunately, so I did it some more! I had to pose for photos and even sign an autograph - it was all very flattering. If anybody out there would like to purchase a copy of the film, you can get it from John Davies, right here.

And so the festival drew to a close and we wandered back to the hotel in the rain.

Yesterday morning we checked out of the hotel and set off into Montpellier to see the sights.

We stumbled across a number of antique shops, selling beautiful old French earthenware pots.

If only I were a wealthier man, I would have brought every piece home with me!


Then it was time to go home, so we headed to the airport and the cold and wet and grey of old Blighty. Thank you so much Alex, John and Steve for a wonderful experience.

So there we go, I did it, left my hiding place in my shed in the countryside, survived the aeroplane experience, saw a bit more of the world - and I loved every minute of it.
Look out the world, I hope I'll be coming to see some more of you again soon.

Monday 15 March 2010

Catch up

Hello the world
It's been a busy few days here and blogging has fallen behind, but here are some pictures of what's been going on. I'll start with yesterday and work backwards.

Hannah and I unpacked the kiln yesterday morning before Hannah headed back on the train to Scotland.

It wasn't the best of firings - there were quite a few losses due to damp in the kiln which hadn't been fired since last June and that did some strange things to some of the slips and glazes - but it certainly wasn't the worst and there were some pieces that came out really well. I was expecting damp to be a problem, so no surprises there. I'll post more pictures of the pots when I've got better images. Now I need to get stuck in and make another kiln load to mix up with this one so that I'll have pots with a wider diversity of tone and colour. The kiln will be lovely and dry for the next firing. I made a number of modifications to the inside of the chamber for this firing, the aim being, to achieve a more even temperature throughout(the top of the kiln tends to be much hotter than the bottom) and it worked, so I'm very pleased with that.

Earlier in the week I had a visit from Tony and Fliss Mugridge. Tony is the country's last itinerant brickmaker and runs a brickworks in Shropshire. They kindly delivered me some mugs and some clay samples. My clay is made from a blend of locally sourced clay and commercial clay. I've been using a brick clay from Exeter, but sadly the brickworks has now closed and the supply has come to an end, so I'm looking for a suitable replacement. I also use a clay that I dig from the woods opposite the workshop, but have always struggled to get enough to make its use viable as the complete clay body. I'm rather lucky however, that the owner of a neighbouring field has just given me consent to dig clay from his field.

On Saturday, I was being filmed as the subject for another documentary, by two Sky News cameramen who are making a number of programmes about ceramics, with a view to offering the finished series to the Sky Arts channel. Here we are, filming the clay digging sequence in the woods.

While I was busy filming, Hannah, bless her, was doing all my glazing for me.

She's been a tremendous help and I couldn't have done without her this weekend. We packed the kiln, finishing the pack in the early hours.

We got up early the next day to start the fire and she stoked all day while I was swanning around in the woods filming. We finally finished at 1.30 am, exhausted.

Just to prove that I did do some work myself.
Here we are about to film a sequence about kneading clay
Nathan, on the left, Duncan on the right and in the centre, Blogger Paul . These guys are used to chasing all over the world after the likes of Gordon Brown and will soon be off to South Africa to cover the World Cup, so my rural workshop must have provided something of a contrast to the norm. Here they're planning the filming of the throwing sequence. Blogger Paul fed me the lines to which I reponded during the filming. It's pretty nerve racking having to speak to camera whilst throwing a pot, knowing that what you're saying and doing might be scruitinized in the future by a wider audience via tv, but these guys calmed me down and made it good fun. I'd also the benefit of having had this experience before, during the filming of Hollyford Harvest, the film made last year, about which I shall write more during this post.

Here's Paul enjoying a cuppa from a mug sent to me by my Secret Santa, Jim Gottuso.

Marion, Paul's partner did a wonderful job of keeping us all fed and the wedging bench became banquet table to the hungry firing and filming team.
There was much going on outside too, as Different Dave came along with a concrete mixer and poured the slab for the next phase of my building project. This will provide me with an undercover area where I can chainsaw wood. I use a lot of salvage wood which contains nails, so it'll be good to have a sweepable area. The old tin shed behind will be taken down in the next few weeks and will be replaced with a new woodshed.

And this is my mate Frank, aka Andrew Grundon, the esteemed traditional signwriter, who designed and applied this lovely gold leaf sign to my 'showroom' door. Shortly I'm off to Hollyford to sort out this little room which has been used as a dumping ground recently. If I get time today, I'll paint up the dresser I built to display the finished pots, so that if anybody might like to come and see them next week, there will be somewhere to display them.

Tomorrow I head off to my brother's place just outside Plymouth for the night. I have to get up very early on Friday morning to take a taxi to Plymouth Airport, where I'll catch a flight to Gatwick. At Gatwick I'll meet up with Alex McErlain and the rest of the team who put together the film Hollyford Harvest. We'll then board a flight to Montpellier, France and to the Festival International Du Film sur L'Argile et Le Verre, where Hollyford Harvest will be shown on this vast screen to an audience of 2000 people. That's quite scary. I'll report back next week. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend et bonne chance, au revoir mes amis.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Six hours to the big burn


Wednesday 10 March 2010

Three days 'til the big burn

A long day today. Marky Mark, (infected with man-flu poor chap), came up to the workshop this evening and we did the late night's work that we regularly do on a Wednesday. There was another beautiful sunset this evening and we took Digger the Dog for a long walk along the lanes and across the fields. In fact, it's been beautiful all day again, cold, but sunny, distracting, but good for the head. The forecast is for good weather to continue for the next few days, which will make the weekend's firing so much easier.

We spent the evening sorting out the kiln out in readiness for packing. Here's MM cleaning up some second hand kiln shelves that I bought recently.

We put extra insulation into the kiln floor, then tried to work out the most efficient way of using the new shelves, these being different sizes from my old ones, but in much better condition. I'm trying to be more organised with all these things than I have been in the past. Sometimes - all the time - I make the stupidest of mistakes by rushing this part of the process and have pointlessly ruined hundreds of pots over the years. This is the most organised I've ever been - but if you realise how disorganised I usually am, that might not mean too much! Maybe I'll even surprise myself this time.

Here's the inside of the chamber before we started. I've got a few really big pots that'll take up a lot of the space, so I think it'll be a full load. Tomorrow I need to get on with glazing - not my favourite task to say the least. Hannah arrives tomorrow evening by train, it'll be lovely to see her. We'll pack the kiln together on Friday and Saturday, all ready for the big burn on Sunday.

I received in the post, the final copy(complete with french subtitles), of Hollyford Harvest. I travel out to Montpellier to the film festival a week on Friday, which for a man who likes to hide in a shed, is too scary a prospect to even think about - well at least until after I've got the firing out of the way!

My fantastic prize of a carton of healthy breakfasts from Dorset Cereals also arrived today, hurrah! Thanks Dorset Cereals very much. To show my appreciation, I took time this evening to model for a number of promotional photographs for you.

I think I may need some sleep right now, goodnight all.

Monday 8 March 2010

Six days to firing time, woohoo

Hello the World.

That was a really, really lovely weekend with all of my family and in spite of my customary migraine attack(I forgot to take my pills with me too - doh), we had a really fantastic time.

This is a little jug I made for my Dad.

My parents have so many of my pots, they've barely room for any more, so this was just a little one, but the sentiment was big.

So back to work today and a small package waiting for me on the imaginary workshop doormat this morning. What was it? A Wedgwood egg cup and funky little egg cosy - my Dorset Cereals Blogger Award - well look at lucky me!

Thank you Paul for nominating me, thank you everybody for voting for me and thank you Dorset Cereals for the prize. I have a crate of cereals to look forward to in the next few days too, hurrah, how healthy I will be.

Please don't forget to vote for Hannah to win this month's award, right here. Oh and be sure to buy lots of Dorset Cereal, the blogger's breakfast of choice :-)

Also on the 'doormat' this morning was this letter from Barry Wilson at Earthmarque. I was really chuffed to be asked to be included in this show which is entitled Great British Potters. I know I'm not great, it's just that I'm from Great Britain, but it sounds good and the letter put a big smile on my face when I read it!

Today saw final slippings of pots - actually, not entirely true, this will need another coat tomorrow and it'll need a bit of force drying too if it's to make the firing at the weekend. There's still a fair bit of sgrafitto to do too.

Here's some stuff awaiting bisc firing. These will be glazed inside and just over the rim, with the outsides left predominantly bare. I'm hoping they'll get some good 'flashing' marks from the flame licking across the naked clay.

Different Dave came by today and we cracked on with sorting things outside. I bricked up the door of the kiln and we got some good fires burning in the damp fireboxes throughout the day, burning a lot of scrap wood which had been saved for this job. The kiln is soooooooooo damp, it hasn't been fired since June, so there were plumes of steam and smoke - apologies to my neighbours.

By the time I left this evening, it had reached about 700 degrees and the damp brickwork of the fireboxes was feeling warm. It should be well dried out by the weekend, which is essential - my glazes blister and bubble if the kiln is wet. Six days until firing time and new pots next week - hurrah! I have no finished pots left on the shelves at all, so I hope it's a good firing or I'm in trouble.

Different Dave and I finished digging the drainage trench that had been started back before the winter froze the ground solid. We laid in some drainage pipe to carry away rain water to a soak-away trench that will be back filled with shards of pottery - no shortage of those. At present, this outside area has all the components of a good gypsy site, amongst much other hoarded junk are sheets of rusty corrugated steel, an empty, weathered gas cylinder and an old Ford Transit wheel - how picturesque - not.

During the next couple of days we'll be putting up some legs, a roof and a concrete slab upon which I can cut and stack timber out of the rain. It's great to be getting on to the final part of the workshop redevelopment - I aim to have it all finished within the next month or so, with a new woodshed and some more flowerbeds to plant and tend for the new season - I love gardening almost(sometimes more) than potting.

Hannah arrives on Wednesday, all the way from Scotland, to help fire the kiln - oh and to do loads of glazing, sorry H ;-)

There's going to be some filming of the firing at the weekend - more about that later, so it'll be good to have the place looking tidy.

Well that's all for now, hope you've all had a good start to the week, bye for now.

PS Happy Birthday wishes to my old mate Allen Rotten