Friday 24 September 2010

Pottery tools

I’ve decided to clean the studio this weekend. It’s been a busy summer and at the moment the studio feels like a dumping ground for boxes, bubblewrap and other show-related paraphernalia. I’m actually looking forward to sorting through everything and finding out what’s left in stock. I have two big Christmas shows planned for November (the first of which is only 7 weeks away) so I’m already trying to make a list of all the stock I need to make before then. Christmas decorations are high on that list…

In the meantime though I found this photo on my computer from the last time I managed to clean the studio – which was (shockingly) way back in March this year. It’s a shot I took of all my pottery tools freshly cleaned and laid out to dry. I remember thinking how nice they looked (I suppose I have a thing for tools!) so I decided to arrange them a bit and take a photo: I thought maybe other people would be interested to see what tools I use for making my pots. So here’s a quick run down of what they are and what I use them for.

Running roughly from top to bottom and generally from left to right:

  • Small hand mirror (for seeing the other side of the pot when throwing)
  • Big sponge (for big spills)
  • Bowl of slops in water (excess clay goes in here for reclaiming)
  • Three fine-pointed decorating brushes (for glazing)
  • A metal awl, wooden stick and a nail (for making holes in buttons etc)
  • Wooden triangular rib and metal kidney (for shaping pots while throwing)
  • Small piece of sandpaper (for smoothing bisque ware before glazing)
  • Long sponge on a stick (for soaking up water inside a tall pot when throwing)
  • Various round and small sponges (for every possible purpose imaginable)
  • A metal ribbon tool (for turning excess clay at the base of a pot)
  • Rubber slip trailer (for decorating with glaze or slip)
  • Wooden stick (for making holes in beads)
  • Three metal hole makers (for making various sized holes in pots)
  • Wooden pointy hand-building tool (for shaping hand-built pots or throwing)
  • Small sponge on a stick (for soaking water inside narrow pots when throwing)
  • Rubber kidney (for shaping pots while throwing)
  • Two-ended ribbon tool (for turning excess clay at the base of a pot)
  • Piece of chamois leather (used wet to smooth the rim of a pot when throwing)
  • Plastic stick (makes good holes in card to sew finished buttons onto)
  • Three bisque fired seals (to stamp my initials into wet clay)
  • Metal wire (for cutting pots off the wheel)
  • Metal pin (So many uses…)
  • Metal turning tool (for turning)
  • Metal ruler (to measure things!)
  • Two-ended blade tool (for cutting leatherhard clay)
  • Brush (for cleaning and attaching handles)
  • Calipers (for measuring pots)

Hope all of that makes sense! Anyway, unfortunately all of these tools are currently lying jumbled up in a box covered in dried clay. So tomorrow I hope to get them all looking as clean as they were back in March!

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Buttons and Bags Revisited

A few weeks ago I took some photos of this lovely clutch bag made by fellow islander Gill from Gillian Chapman Felts in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. This beautiful bag is one of a series Gill has designed using pure Jacobs fleece. The material has been hand-felted using a wet felting technique and the finished bag features one of my raku buttons in white and mushroom crackle glazes. I think the subtle tones of the wool and the subtle glazes on the button complement each other beautifully – and it’s always so nice to see my buttons being used in other people’s work. You can visit Gill’s Folksy shop here.

I have to say taking these photos proved a bit of a challenge for me! These days I’m fairly used to taking photos of my ceramics and have some inkling about what light will work for which glaze or what angle looks best for a certain shape. But until this shoot I didn’t realize how tricky it was to photograph textiles! The lighting needed for textiles to remain true to life in terms of colour is totally different from ceramics: or at least so it seemed on the day! So trying to get both the fabric and the button in proper focus and in true-colour-likeness proved for a long and tricky afternoon. In the end these three photos were the best shots of the day. But you can also see this bag and two others in this same style on Gill’s flickr page here (probably should have taken it to the beach to photograph too!)

Sunday 5 September 2010

A Plate and Two Pears

A couple of weeks ago I found a spare Sunday to paint at last! I decided to spend the day on a simple painting to get back into the swing of things: nothing too complicated or detailed. Still life studies are always useful to get the ideas flowing, especially since they’re easy to set up with anything that happens to be lying around the house. So for a bit of inspiration I chose this little pear sitting on one of my own hand-thrown plain white plates.

After a couple of sketches on paper, I decided to plunge straight into painting on canvas without too much fussing with composition. The canvas is a deep edge 16 x 12 inch. I usually draw a rough outline in charcoal to begin with and then apply a general ‘back colour’ with a big sloshy brush. At this stage I still wasn’t sure what the scheme was going to be, so I just blocked on a base layer using a rough mix of blue cobalt, raw umber and titanium white. I find that blocking the whole canvas with one or two background colours helps to smooth the textured surface which otherwise might show tiny bits of bare white through the painting – it’s so annoying if you miss a bit!

As I got going I realized that my mood was to go VERY simple: not only with the subject (just two pears on a plain white plate), but to be very minimal with the style and colour range too. So the result is quite stylized: an ‘idea’ of a plate and two pears I suppose. It’s quite a calming picture with all that soothing green and because of the large blank, flat areas I think it has an open, spacious feel too. Anyway, I’ve hung it on the wall above the kitchen table for the time being - and it may even turn out to be the beginning of a little series. Here's a close-up cropped shot of the final draft.