Saturday, 21 November 2009

Festive Finishing Touches

Making seasonal gift ideas in ceramics is a long term affair. You have to plan ahead otherwise time soon catches up with you. So this year I started making ceramic Christmas decorations back in the Summer. Normally I’m the type of person who really objects to Christmas decorations appearing anywhere and everywhere before December. But this year I feel strangely compelled to let my own little decorations loose into the world as soon as possible! So although December is still a week or so away, I thought I would blog a medley of photos of my handmade ceramic stars.

Each star has been handmade from stoneware clay and glazed on one side. The larger brown-fleck stars have been reduction fired in a gas kiln which has given them a lovely toasted appearance. The smaller white stars are fired in an electric kiln and glazed in a plain white glaze.

Finding the right details to finish off your creations is not always easy. I’ve strung the brown-fleck stars on a festive red ribbon with a simple bow which I think sets them off beautifully and has a rich warm quality. I wanted a more delicate, sparkly type of thread for the smaller white stars but finding the right one proved difficult. I made several disappointing trips to my local sewing shops in search of just the right texture and quality – but found nothing that fitted the bill. Then I suddenly remembered making cords out of strands of wool when I was a kid and realized I should make my own hand-twisted thread.

And here’s how I made it:

I chose a plain white cotton thread, a strong durable silver thread and a sparkly, flimsy gold thread, all of which were unsuitable on their own. Then I measured out a strand of each of these threads to a length about three times as long as I wanted the final cord to be. Then I held the ends of all three between my thumb and finger on my left hand as I twisted the other ends in my right, keeping them taut. When the cord was tightly twisted, I looped it over a nail or hook at the middle point and then lined up the two ends so they met. Then I lifted the cord off the hook. The tightly twisted cord quickly springs back on itself and the two sides twist together to form a thicker, stronger single cord. If you’ve never done this, then try it: it’s a clever little trick. The result in this case was a perfect sparkly thread that has proved far better than any I could have bought.

You just never know when childhood pastimes will come in handy.

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