Saturday, May 21, 2011

The greenhouse project is plumbed

This may be the most uninteresting picture you'll ever see on a blog and it may even be the most uninteresting blog post too, so I'll keep it short.

We have plumbing!  You can see here on the left a tap with hose attached.  Going up from there is more pipework and you can see a tap at the top centre of the picture.  This one is for the watering system in this end of the greenhouse.  Lower and to the right of the picture you can see through to the other end where the tap with a bit of hose stuck on awaits the watering system in that end of the greenhouse.

That's it.  Plumbing in greenhouse.  Really nothing more to say.

Except how pleasing it is.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Work in progress - 5

Well, not really in progress any more as the lizard vase I've been documenting here is now finished.  Here he is:

It's hard to photograph shiny things but I was very pleased with the vase so couldn't wait to have a go and post the pic here.  I may have another go some time later.

The kiln was packed with pots I'm very happy with, most of which will remain uncovered until the exhibition in a few weeks time, but I'm delighted to share this chap with his loyal followers!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Work in progress - 4

The lizard has survived the first firing.  (Actually, several lizards have, but this is the one everyone has been following.)  The green is perhaps a little pale but it's difficult to get right.  If it is applied too thickly it will run straight down the pot in a spectacular fashion, so it's better to err on the thin side on the whole.

Applying the lustres requires even more imagination than applying glazes because here none of them remotely resemble in the raw stage what they will look like after firing.  Then there are other complications.  I may have written before about the green/purple dilemma.  Basically, green and light green lustres come out as purple and light purple - except when they don't!  What to do?  If the green went green then it would be ideal for this lizard.  But if it went purple then I'm not so sure it would do much for the light green.  It goes purple much, much more often than it goes green, so I decided not to risk it.  Instead, I went for turquoise lustre, which is fairly bluish usually, but perhaps not too far from the light green base.  I like to use gold with the green too.  Finally, wanting to make the chap really lizardy, I used a fair amount of mother-of-pearl lustre.  Below is what he looked like once decorated.

I can't be sure how this will all look, but I can be certain that it won't look anything like it's unfired state.  The kiln is firing as I type.  Tomorrow I will unpack and the vase will be finished and, with any luck, will still be in one undamaged piece.  I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I believe in the US "oatmeal" is sometimes used in place of the word "porridge".  At least, when watching films or TV I've heard parents tell children to eat their oatmeal and seen a bowl of something looking porridgy.  Anyway, this is definitely a bowl of porridge (with demarara sugar and double cream, since you ask) but it is in a cereal bowl with the glaze/design name of "oatmeal star".  You can just see two tips of a greenish star poking up above the cream, but you can certainly see the overall colour of the pot so if I'm right about the US terminology you could say this is an oatmeal bowl of oatmeal.

As with all of my glazes, this one varies according to exact temperature, which usually means the position in the kiln as well as the temperature I have fired to.  This oatmeal star design had been for many years sold only in The Made In Stroud Shop but in the last couple of years has begun to see the wider world and this particular bowl is the first one owned by me. 

I rarely keep what I consider to be the nicest pots for myself.  I rarely add a new design to my own kitchen collection either.  This is mainly because of storage space in the kitchen and the fact that my pots are quite robust and don't tend to break unless treated badly.  The cereal/soup bowl stacks have a little more room available so when this one came out of the kiln I decided it must be mine.

What I liked was the particular range of colours.  The reduction was really good, in other words there were more than the usual scattering of speckles in the colour, the background colour itself is a soft, well, oatmeal colour, but with slight tinges of light blue where it had caught some extra heat.  Yum.  And so was the porridge.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Work in progress - 3

Remember the lizard?  Well, it's time for him to progress.  Today I'm busy glazing and decorating.  Tomorrow I'm working at Gloucestershire Arts and Crafts Centre all day but then on Tuesday I'll fire the kiln.  So here's the lizard vase, which has survived the glazing process.  This isn't a particularly risky stage but as I've said before, with unevenness on a pot, raw glazing can be just too much of a shock for the clay.  If it is too much, the pot will crack quite drastically, so you can tell when it's happened!

Deciding how to decorate this vase wasn't easy.  Usually I am pretty clear from the outset what I want a pot to look like.  In this case perhaps there were too many choices for just the one lizard vase in white clay.  What I went for was plain white/grey vase and painting the lizard green.  Other details to both lizard and perhaps vase will be added in the form of lustres later on.

The firing stage is much more hazardous.  There was a time some years ago, with my previous, much smaller kiln, that it was probably a 50/50 chance that lizard dishes came to grief.  I was often on the phone to H, a friend and jeweller, to wail "another two dead lizards" in the weeks leading up to our annual exhibition.

I do still get casualties but in this larger kiln I have a better chance of having the lizard not too close to where the flame jets out from the burner and yet close enough to that side of the kiln to get the steady highest heat to turn the glaze blue if needed.  It's fine tuning.  I had a lovely big fish dish in the kiln the other week but it didn't like the place I put it - too near the burner on the bottom shelf - and the stresses caused it to break apart in three directions.  I think four or five centimetres further away could well have been enough to prevent the break, but it's always hard to judge.

Last week I fired three lizard serving dishes and two butterfly vases, all of which survived.  I can't help thinking this isn't a good omen for this next firing, which will contain two lizard dishes, two fish dishes, two lizard vases and two butterfly vases.  It must be somebody's turn by now.