Saturday 22 October 2011

French Linen and Lavender Bowls

You can’t beat French linen for a touch of natural chic – or at least that’s what I think! This is my very first piece of vintage French linen…which implies I wouldn’t mind having some more. This large tea towel with red stripe was only £7, which I thought was an absolute bargain­, so I had to have it. It’s going to be perfect for my display stand at shows – I’ve got a Christmas show coming up in November at Quarr Abbey on the island (which I’m sure to blog about soon). I think this linen with its simple red stripe will give a nice understated seasonal look to my display: something that’s in keeping with the Christmas mood but doesn’t detract from the pots. Hopefully it will enhance them!

Of course it’s going to be useful for styling pots in photographs too. And I’ve already been using my new piece of linen in a set of photographs you can see above. They feature a small cylinder pot I threw back in August (blogged here). You might remember I had a ‘plan’ for these pots. Well the plan hasn’t quite happened yet (no fault of the pots!) and I still don’t want to give the game away; so it will have to wait! In the meantime I’ve called these pots ‘lavender bowls’ to give people an idea of how they could use them. As always, a bowl has a thousand different uses, and the plain white glaze I’ve decorated them with is food safe – so they can be kept in the kitchen for serving dips and sauces etc. But after sorting through a crop of lavender gathered from my garden and popping a handful into one of these pots, I could see straight away how pretty and fresh they looked. So that's what they're called for now!

Click on the pic below and you can see them listed in my shop...

Friday 14 October 2011

Turning Bowls: Foot Rings vs Flat Bases.

For a while now I’ve been making a style of bowl that didn’t require a foot ring. Hopefully you can tell in the pictures above that my sugar bowls, drizzle bowls and salt-and-pepper bowls are all turned completely flat at the base. Because of their shallow shape, these bowls already have a low centre of gravity and don’t need the stability of a foot ring, so I chose a flat base to complement this style and give them clean, simple lines. Flat bases also have advantages in the making process since they’re much quicker to turn and less wasteful of clay.

Sometimes though a style of pot just cries out for a nice bit of fancy footwear! So in a recent commission of bowls I’ve chosen a traditional-style deep foot ring to go with the deeper shape of the bowl. The photo above shows a pot turned upside down on the wheel ready for turning a foot ring.

In the photo above you can see the same bowls freshly turned with foot rings. I always leave turned pots to dry upside down: this airs the bases so the whole pot can dry out more evenly which helps minimise the risk of cracks appearing.

In the photo above you can see a smaller bowl. This was made with a bit of ‘left over’ clay at the end of the throwing session. I made this bowl with a steeper angle so when I came to turn it I decided to make a very narrow deep foot ring. I think it makes a very pretty silhouette – so I might make a small batch of these. In the last photo below you can see my pottery seal: just to prove I made them!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Making Space in the Studio

Lately I’ve been bemoaning my lack of studio space. (Not for the first time!) I know I’m lucky to have a dedicated area to work in, but recently I’ve been feeling like most of my time in the studio is taken up with careful ‘jigsaw puzzling’ of things around me.

Back in February this year (when I got my new shimpo wheel) I took a photo of my pottery studio (blogged here). Looking back it seems very sparse and tidy! But during all this time it felt very ‘temporary’ too. Lack of table space is my biggest concern, especially when throwing – there’s no room for fresh pots! And for some reason I’ve been putting up with this arrangement ever since. Finally last week I decided to do something about it.

So I bought a set of wooden shelves. Yes, it was that simple! Any normal person would have put some up straight away. But the fact that the tongue and groove on the walls can’t take any weight waylaid me. Instead I found a set of freestanding, second-hand shelves in an antiques place for £10. They’re perfect for stacking all my tools and filing away pottery notes – stuff I don’t want cluttering the surfaces. And it’s amazing how even a small change like this can make a huge difference.

The next stage in expanding my work surface was to commandeer an old sewing-machine table we had upstairs. This is much better than my wibbly-wobbly folding table! Then for an extra bit of flexible space I’ve also re-appropriated an old piece of wood. This is about the same size as one of the tabletops, and it can be laid out on top of the wibbly-wobbly trestle table to instantly double the surface area when needed (and folded away again when not).

Adding just these few bits of furniture has transformed the space. It feels more permanent and actually bigger too – even though there’s more stuff in it! And psychologically it’s already made a difference to how I work. Instead of constantly wondering where to put something (which can be tricky if your hands are covered in clay) I can focus on the natural flow of making pots.

So overall a very successful £10 spent. I really should have done it sooner…