Friday, 27 January 2012

Getting Cold feet


As I venture out to the workshop these cold dark mornings, I am reminded of some lines learnt many years ago from T.S. Eliot's the Journey of the Magi.


'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'


The ways are not very deep but by the time I get to the workshop it's pretty sharp. The sun does not reach this place in winter, it's damp and getting feet warm is a challenge. It doesn't seem long since I could sit with the door open, the sun streaming in through the door in tee shirt and shorts. Maud on the step looking for tit-bits. Today she stands on one leg on the cold bricks. We have a one sided conversation about the merits of ski socks, or thin socks under ski socks or two pairs of ski socks and boots, but Maud moves off to stand on one leg with Flo under the bird feeder to wait for Great Tits to drop miniscule pieces of peanut.
Anyway ski socks did n't do much and my feet are swollen and hurt so getting shoes on is difficult and Laura had to drive to Loughborough to do the bread and milk run.

Sitting feeling miserable by the Rayburn doesn't last long. The Eucalyptus logs that Patrick gave us have given warmth and there is enough ash now to warrant processing. I put the ash into a bucket and add water. The charcoal rises to the surface and it is skimmed off along with the scum. I rinse the ash a couple of times and sieve it into a large terracotta plant saucer to try and dry it off. Doing my bit for the planet I use water collected in a water butt. There is ice on the surface and you can't wear ski socks on your hands to do this job and this takes the meaning of the word sharp to another level.  If I can get the ash dry, then we can try a Eucalyptus ash glaze in the next firing and maybe it will all be worthwhile.
First Crocus

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Return of Pinny Lady

As Potters,  recognition, appreciation and encouragement are often the small milestones along the way that keeps us at the task. I can live with being known as the "Potter Husband of the Lady that makes those beautiful aprons." Husband of Pinny Lady is harder to accept. What about the pots then?
The pots came before the need to make those aprons!
 It was at a Ceramic Fair when consensus amongst a group of fellow exhibitors was that there was a need for a good potter's apron. One that kept the legs clean whilst throwing, did not sag at the front and touch the rim of that newly thrown pot or make the shoulders ache after a spell on the wheel.
No good asking me, I make pots with coils, wear my children's cast off sweat shirts and get shouted at when I slump in the chair covered in clay.
It took Laura about a year of experimenting to come up with the current design. Numerous Potters were asked to try it on and give feed back whilst Laura made tucks and notes and resolved to make another prototype between trying to make a living making curtains. The final result has proven to be quite popular. Pinny Lady has made extra long ones. Extra short ones and an extra wide one for someone who wishes to remain anonymous. Aprons with a pouch at the front to catch the fettling from handmade work and a couple of children's aprons. She has made them in eye melting pink, and one in pinstripe. Can't imagine throwing in a bowler hat with a furled umbrella, but it takes all sorts. Extra pockets? No problem she smiles, no pockets even less of a problem.
Even I have one now. David Binch said that I looked like an Edwardian shopkeeper when he saw me wearing it.
Stocks ran out just before Christmas, production is in batches between making curtains and blinds and the curtain business was really busy. I rashly offered to help, thinking I could grab some of the limelight and bask in the reflected glory that has become Pinny Lady's.


I am rubbish at fabric engineering and the industrial sewing machine is a scary beast. It's like a F1 McLaren to drive. Pinny Lady can go from nought to sixty in a second. Stop. Do a hand break turn, negotiate the chicane and stop dead on the finish line. When I try, I run out of road and hit the tyre wall.
I got to cut out six sets of apron parts, and my thumb hurt for days. I'll stick to making pots and firing kilns and leave the glory to Pinny Lady.

"Just the one pot is it Madam, shall I wrap it or get Wright to pop it round to you on his bicycle?"

Friday, 6 January 2012

Here's to 2012

It seems to have been windy for ages this winter. The last lot was truly scary, the roof creaks in strong winds in our two hundred year home and lying in bed the other night it was difficult to sleep. It was like the rigging on a sailing ship creaking and groaning. I've recovered the compost bin lid several times now from the bottom of the garden and dug Mandy Next Door's plastic flower pots out of the hedge. We have somehow missed all the rain, the brook is still dry, usually in full spate this time of year and it's bone dry under the Cedar tree where the Chickens like to roost. Chicken heaven really, dust bath at the bottom, snoozing above.
Cocooned in my little workshop, with Mandy's flower pots winging by and listening to the radio, playing with clay. I have heard all the end of 2011 summaries about the Doom and Gloom and a panel of 27 experts predicting the future Doom and Gloom for 2012.  No change then. The current preoccupation with the media about the state of the high street reached fever pitch just before Christmas. Now all the fears are about poor sales figures from the big boys in retailing. Perhaps everyone now has a flat screen TV in every room and the market is exhausted.
My own end of term report is more positive. Made some good pots, sold a few, met lots of interesting people, fired a few kilns and had loads of fun.

2012 is up and running, made some small pieces over Christmas ( How sad is that )? Heard that I had been selected for Earth and Fire and Potfest in the Park, but didn't get in at Sock. Yeah Sock, a Contemporary Craft Fair, showcasing local Talent in Loughborough.
I've been preoccupied with making beakers lately, (mugs without handles or if you insist Yunomi). They don't naturally lend themselves to coiling, takes too long and it's very fiddly. I found that by flattening a disk of clay and bending it upwards to form a shallow cup, it was possible to add a couple of coils to make a beaker. They need a bit more refining, but last year they were well received and they all sold. One even went at Farnham, that I was using as a tea cup, complete with tea! The gentleman did not even want it wrapping. We had nice ceramic beakers when I was a child, they were eventually replaced with nasty Melamine ones, which were superseded with even nastier gaudy plastic. They feel greasy and slimy and don't keep the tea hot.

Beakers waiting to be Yunomi.

 2012 is going to be a year for the resurgence of good honest wood fired beakers, that is my prediction!