Friday, December 7, 2012

Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles

These are, of course, a few of my favourite things. 

I've written about my firing cycle before.  Well, I'm just at the end of a making/firing cycle and had a lustre firing on Wednesday.  Yesterday was unpacking, photographing and then making up some deliveries and today I'm just going to share a few of the things that came out that I particularly like.

So here are some more lizard cereal bowls.  All of these pots are unique but I have returned to certain colourways which have been particularly successful.  On the left is a blue lizard and leaves with red spots, which does look like the first colourway but isn't.  That had silver lustre and this has gold and that one had red spots made with carmine lustre, whereas this has red spots made with red lustre.  The carmine spots had been so successful that I ordered (at some expense) 25g of it to replace the first 5g I'd bought when it ran out.  But then ....  it came out a completely different colour.  Some research suggestst that my first bottle was the weird one and should never have come out as red as it did.  Further research identified another supplier with a different selection of lustres.  Talking it all through with them confirmed that of all the materials potters need to buy, lustres change most often, possibly even every batch is different in some colours.  Ah well.  Something you just have to go with.  So I ordered 5g of red and applied it merrily to pots.  I also accepted samples of tangerine, purple and emerald.

The red, as you see, is lovely and red.  Success.  The purple is ok too, though as I've mentioned before, I already have a dark and light purple which arrive under the pseudonyms of dark and light green.  I had hopes for emerald, but alas, it is only a duller sort of mauve.  The centre bowl above has emerald veins on the leaves.  I think you can just catch the mauve.  There's some on the lizard too, but it works fine.  The one on the right was just another colourway, going for something a bit darker for those who prefer that, and all in all I think it works.

The tangerine is delicious.

Here it is the darker of the leaves, the lighter ones using "real orange" underglaze colour (this time actually used under the glaze) and gold lustre spots.  I love this mug and these colours.  I expect to be using more tangerine.  I also expect to be asking for some more samples of the large number of colours this new supplier has in case some of the others turn out as zingy as the red and tangerine. 

I'm slightly worried about my favourite things, though.  They seem to be lizards, closely followed by ivy, with or without the lizards.  All of which is fine, but does it matter that most of my new work is still dominated by them?  They may be my favourite things but are they everyone else's?  And again, the colours.  If I think back to the wallhangings I've made over the years, my favourites have often been in the red/rust/orange/cream range.  They've sold - eventually -  but I sense that the majority of people like the blue range better.  So should I be planning to go further with the red/tangerine/gold/yellow idea or will I end up with shelves full of pots nobody wants?  My policy has always been to make the work I'm most passionate about, though.  I always said that although I could make patchwork cushions for sale, I never would because I would be bored.  This is the work I do and if you don't like it you don't have to buy it, kind of thing.  On the other hand, of course, if you don't buy anything, I won't make a living, so I do make more commercial decisions.  I work hard at maintaining my stocks of "everyday" designs. I think this means I'll continue to follow my heart so lizards and leaves will be it for a while longer.

And finally, talking of hearts, I wish I'd made more of these:

I've made one with the silver hearts before but really like the gold hearts.  I think they'll go soon, but I'll definitely do some more next year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hot and Cold

This is a painfully contrived blog title, for which I apologise. It's on a par with some of the segues they use on The Today Programme on radio 4.  It's the only thing I could come up with in a hurry, the first photo being of frost on a curry plant.  Sorry 'bout that.*  I've become aware that there hasn't been much in the way of photo blogs lately and wanted to put that right, but then what to call it?  Photos?  Perhaps you'd prefer that next time.

* Years ago, when I had more money and more time (some of my working hours were teaching, which paid me much more per hour than making!) I used to attend quite a few poetry events and some of the highlights were readings by the poet Adrian Mitchell, who died in 2008.  I didn't always agree with his politics but I admired his constancy and dedication to trying to right what he saw as the many wrongs of the world.  His readings were the most 'human' of any of the poets I saw.  He seemed to have no 'side' to him - what you saw was what you got.  One of his poems is called "Sorry Bout That".  I was just reminded of it, and him, when putting in the apology for the corny title. 

So in the end, you get a bit more for your money than expected.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Just For The Present

"Just For The Present" is now open!  It will be at the Cotswold Craftsmen Gallery, Market Street, Nailsworth, until 24th November.  Tuesdays - Saturdays, 10.00 - 5.00

Artist's statement

As we develop as artists, our ideas sometimes take on a life of their own and lead us to new discoveries and passions so that we sometimes find ourselves taking surprising roads.  2012 has been a year when I have been following new roads which may themselves lead in directions I haven’t yet imagined.  So, Just For The Present, what you see here is a selection of the work I am making currently. 

This year I’ve returned to my roots in fashion (nearly forty years ago I studied fashion and textiles at college) and I’m delighted to be showing some of my new silk-painted scarves.  Having worked on silk-painting in isolation, I then moved on to give machine embroidery the same treatment and three new pieces portraying lizards are worked entirely in machine stitching with no other added colour.

Lizards seem to have become my theme of the moment in ceramics too as they are ideal subjects for rich decoration.  As well as my tableware ranges, I’m now making more one-off items - mugs, bowls, plates and vases - decorated with individual designs in coloured underglazes, slips, lustres and precious metal lustres. 

Just for the present, these are my preoccupations.  Next year – who knows?

 The Purple Corner!

Monday, October 22, 2012

To market, to market

It's the market season for me.  Normally I'm at Stroud Farmers Market a number of times in the autumn; this year I'm branching out and trying elsewhere as well.  Here is my stall at Gloucester Arts and Crafts Market where I was for the first time on 13th October.  You get a big stall in Gloucester - ten feet wide by four foot.  Plenty of room to spread out with a good selection of products, including, for the first time at a market, my scarves and earrings.

Lots of people at Gloucester took leaflets etc, which was part of the point of going - I don't have a 'presence' in Gloucester at the moment.

This last Saturday I was back at Stroud Farmers Market, which I do love.  For one thing it's a great market - masses of choice of meat, fish, cooked food, as well as the obvious vegetables, and always a selection of us craft stalls.  Half of what I sell there is to people who've bought from me before, which is always pleasing.

Next Saturday I'm trying Nailsworth Farmers Market for the first time.  It's a much smaller market, and with very much smaller table space than any others, but has a lovely friendly feel to it so I'm hoping I'll be well received.

If there's room, I'm hoping to do Gloucester and Nailsworth markets again in December (I happen to be busy doing other things on the second and fourth Saturdays in November) and I'll be at Stroud on the first and third Saturdays of November and December.

To market, to market to buy a fat mug
Home again, home again, juggety jug.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

La rentrée

In France la rentrée happens every September.  Literally meaning "the return", it means not only the start of a new academic year for schools and colleges but also returning to work after the holiday period.  Much of France still goes on holiday for the month of August.  La rentrée is heralded in supermarkets and other shops with special promotions of stationery, clothes suitable for work in autumn or whatever promotion they can think of in their case and for us it's always a rather early reminder that we'll be heading back to the UK sometime.  This year, because we were so late in going, la rentrée was already plastered everywhere when we arrived, which seemed an unfair reminder that our visit was so short.  I know, I know, five weeks in France doesn't sound short to most people.  But if you're living somewhere rather than holidaying, it is.  Still, you might like to see the last photo I took as we left and compare it with the photo in my last post as it shows we actually did make an impression on the place.

Back to la rentrée (which may be a tautology, but I don't care.)  I really like the concept, as it fits with my approach to life.  I've always related to time in a physical and unconscious way, which I think I've written about here before.  Times of year have reminders for my whole system which I can be quite unaware of until I realise what is happening.  Some, though, like the start of the academic year, are much more conscious.  Until about five years ago part of my life was always organised around the academic year and as well as often feeling it was a chance to do better work in a new academic year, I've always arranged my life around it.  Even my household finance budget is organised from September to August, a throwback to the time when I first took over organising the joint incomes in my first marriage.

Now I'm only involved in my creative work, la rentrée is still a significant time for me.  It marks the beginning of doing more markets and shows and making work specifically for seasonal shoppers.  (I was going to use another word instead of 'seasonal' but decided that September was too early for it.)

This year, in particular, la rentrée is particularly real for me.  I'm back at work.  Nothing all that startling in that, I suppose, but the notable thing is that I'm back at work and I'm well! Only now do I realise how unwell I was and for how long.  It's great to be back.  I've been working on new textiles pieces.  No, you can't see these until my exhibition in October/November, which I will be telling you more about in due course.  I've also been making new stock of earrings.  First a new design, stripey triangles, designed to go with the triangle scarf design:

And then a new colour range, which I hope will be popular for the autumn.  Black is the new black.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Still here

Some time in the last week or so I realised that my last blog post warned of forthcoming surgery and that so much time had elapsed since the surgery date that it would be reasonable to ask if everything had gone ok.

It has, thank you for asking.  A GP I wasn't all that keen on once redeemed himself considerably by telling me that getting doctors to agree about something was like trying to herd cats.  It was good to have this in mind a week after my surgery when, although things had gone fine, I clearly wasn't fully recovered.  Why would I be?  Well, because the first surgeon I had seen (before the operation) had told me that within a week or ten days I would be completely back to normal.  No other doctor I've asked since can imagine why he said that, but he did, so it was always in the back of my mind in a sort of "but the surgeon said so" kind of way.  Eventually, I've remembered the unherded cats and felt better about things.

So although I'm still not completely recovered, I'm still here.  In a manner of speaking.  Actually, just at the moment I'm there rather than here, if you see what I mean, since I'm somewhere else.  All clear now?  Good.

And we were very pleased to find that here is still here, also.  Hiding behind two summers' worth of growth,  but here nevertheless.  This is more or less (more trailer, slightly less grass) what we saw when we arrived.

It's not much different now, to be honest, and we're not planning to try to make up for two summers in a few short weeks, but so far there have been no major disasters.  Since we arrived the weather has been kind (though I see some rain is expected tomorrow) and I've more or less finished the essential cleaning and unpacking.  I am, eventually,  after what seems like many years but is really only two, getting a break.  I'm eating what I feel like eating, sitting and reading and generally just listening to the wildlife and hope to be doing more of that in the next week or so.  I think it's what people call a holiday.

I'm beginning to think I was actually more unwell and for longer than I thought I was, considering the exclamations of "Oh, you look well!" that I've been hearing from all sorts of people.  Certainly I had a year of increasing stress, followed by a few months of less stress, followed by starting to feel more unwell, followed by quite a few months of feeling ill and not being able to work full time.  Although I say I am not fully recovered (and not yet back working), I'm only talking about the body.  As a person I feel like myself again.  And I do rather like it.

I do, of course,  have work with me. Not to mention the current stock in my online shop, so that it is still fully operational.

Oh, did I not mention that I have a super spiffy new website complete with online shop?  Sorry.  Well, I do.

Do go and take a look, if you haven't already.

Friday, July 13, 2012

What's in a blog?

Well, what should be in a blog?  I guess it depends on why you set it up in the first place.  I started blogging because I enjoy writing and showing off my photos.  I wanted somewhere to put news so that family who live elsewhere could see things we'd been doing, like the greenhouse project.  I wanted to be able to write about my work so that customers could find out a little more about me if they were interested.  And I wanted to be able to just share things widely when I felt like it.

There.  Like that.

Actually, the sort of things I really meant were perhaps recipes, book reviews or other topics which interest me.   It's ok, I'm coming to the point.  What I never really wanted to do was use the blog as a personal/public journal.  I hope people like to read it, though I sense that the friends who started off reading every post may not read it at all now.  In any case, though, I do want people to feel it might be worth coming back to see what I've got to say next so I have tried to avoid writing when I've got nothing positive to say.  Which is why the blog has been more sparsely written of late, to be honest, and I decided it was time to say something about this, without moaning too much if possible.

I have been suffering the ill-effects of gallstones and I am due to have my gallbladder removed next week.  There will be some weeks of recovery from surgery but then I hope to feel considerably better.  And about time, too!  It was a long time before a diagnosis and the knock-on effects of not being well enough to work a full week since Christmas have been widely felt.  With regard to this blog, when I've felt well, I've snatched the chance to do some work and when I've felt ill, well, as I say, I just didn't want to write when things just felt gloomy and I had nothing positive to say.   There, hardly a moan at all, but now you know.

And the weather hasn't helped.  Well, quite.  And here I'm not even going to try to avoid moaning.  I do try to be phlegmatic about weather.  We live in a climate with seasons and I'm usually comfortable with that, indeed, I've written quite a few happy blog posts on the subject at different times of the year.  But the last three months' weather has been just dire-bollockle.  The sun is shining now, it's July and approximately eight o'clock in the morning, so I would expect to be able to sit with the door open, letting in the warmth.  If I do open the door, though, a howling gale sweeps through the study.  As it is, I am sitting here tense with being not quite warm enough.

And the garden!  The vegetables don't know whether they're coming or going.  Well, the squashes are definitely going.  In the two months they've been out in the garden they haven't grown at all, the flower buds they had are still flower buds and the leaves are turning yellow.  No squashes for us this year.  The fleece over the leeks (to prevent leek moth) is being torn by the wind.  The beans are holding their own, making their way up the poles at about a quarter of their normal speed.  Fair enough, the spinach is growing well and I suppose the leaves on the root vegetables probably indicate that the roots themselves are swelling up.  But the onions!  Some of them are flowering!  What's that about?

I don't ever remember a spell of weather as bad as we've been having.  I don't know a single person who isn't fed up and saying so, and considering the number of cheerful, practical, back-to-nature types I know, that really is surprising.

So there.  Some legitimate moaning.  We all do it and the weather has given us plenty of cause.  You don't really need to know that some of the time I've been moaning, it's been about something else.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Coming back into fashion again

When I wrote about coming back into fashion back in January, I didn't say much about how I got into it in the first place.

The course I was on was in Dress and Textiles.  Most people on the course had either or both of Art and Textiles "A" Levels.  I had neither, (having done languages at "A" level) but I did have a Housekeeper's Certificate.  This was issued from a wonderful institution called Eastbourne School of Domestic Economy (which seems, unsurprisingly, to be no more.)  The course was three terms long and we had five main subjects: dressmaking, needlework, cookery, laundry and housework.  Yes, really.  And in the seventies, not the fifties.  The observant amongst you will have noticed a distinction between needlework and dressmaking.  Needlwork involved children's clothes, nightwear, embroidery and smocking.  Dressmaking was everything else.  But you can tell from the tone that precision and method were of prior importance.

Fast forward a year or so and you find me on the Dress and Textiles course, still imagining I would get good marks for precision and method.  My grades went down termly.  Eventually we had a half-termly module on jewellery and my life turned a corner and I found myself on the path I'm still following today.  The jewellery module was something completely new to all of us.  We were encouraged to make use of a wide range of materials and just go for it, so I did.  I received my first A grade and finally understood:  the point of it all was to be creative, express my own ideas and come up with original designs.  I applied this to the next fashion garment module and never looked back.

So having come back into fashion earlier in the year with my silk scarves, it's not really surprising that my latest product launch is of earrings.  I have discovered friendly plastic, which, put simply, you soften and cut to shape with metal stamps.  I've made my own stamps by and large so that I was able to make earrings to co-ordinate with my scarf designs.  I've also moved on to some other designs since.  As soon as my new website is built, you'll be able to buy them directly online, but in the mean time they're for sale here in Stroud or in By Local in Cheltenham.

Enjoy.  I am!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Not all doom and gloom

Well, actually, the weather is all doom and gloom.  Not only is it the worst summer weather I remember but more people than I can remember are getting cheesed off with it and saying so.  So here, to cheer us all up and because I've been rather lax in posting pics of what's around, are two photos from two weeks ago, just to remind us all that we have had some nice days and it's always possible we'll get some more.

Friday, June 8, 2012

More new pots

As promised, some more of the recent lustred pots.  I'm making these more or less individually, in other words some might be similar but I'm not recording the colours and shapes so they are all different.

These are small mugs.  I've done more of those than any other shapes with underglaze and lustre decoration.   I'm very fond of these serving bowls, though:

Monday, June 4, 2012

New pots

I've recently come to the end of a batch of firings, ending with two lustre firings, and these plates were a long overdue order.  I've said for a long time that plates decorated with lustre can be ordered but this is the first time anyone has done so.  Usually cereal bowls are decorated with stars but this customer wanted one each of the four designs to go with the mugs and the same in large and small plates.  I think they do look pretty stylish.

I've been looking back over the last year or two and it seems the pattern of firings works out that I probably only do lustre firings twice a year, but then when I do, I do more than one of them.  I'm not sure if it has to work out this way - it might be more convenient for supply and demand to have them spread out more evenly - but suspect it does because of the way kiln-loads need to be distributed.  In any case it always does feel that lustre firings happen and then that's the end of a big cycle.  I probably don't have enough pots to do another ordinary firing until I've done some making. 

At the moment I'm not making pots, I'm catching up with life tasks, especially getting the vegetable garden planted up.  My health problem seems to have been diagnosed as gallstones.  It's great to feel a step forward has been made but the diagnosis is only the first step in a long wait for appointments and treatment so I'm still not able to work full days or weeks and gossip about waiting times indicates this may continue for some months.  Deciding what work to do in restricted time is tricky, but I think I've decided to move on to the new project I hinted at earlier in the year.  Watch the space for this.  

In the mean time, I was so pleased that the firing cycle meant I could produce these for a "Happy Holly Party" (instead of a christening.)

The beakers are new and seem to have worked out well.  (This shows back and front of the same beaker.)  The firing cycle problem means it's not very convenient to offer as a christening present to order because these are decorated with lustres.  However, they might work ok in the chicken design with the name written in blue.  I'll have to give it some thought.

And finally ...

...  a whimsical idea I had which turned out well.  Heather glaze with purple or carmine lustre spots.  I didn't make many but will certainly make more.  The heather glaze is the most variable according to kiln position so lots of variations to play with.

Next time - more recent lustred pots.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Just to say that I haven't been entirely idle on the writing front.  My latest musings are just in a different place, for once.

Take a look here: By Local Blog and read some of the other posts while you're there.  You never know, you might find you want to subscribe to it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A potter's day

For many years a regular feature of Ceramic Review was “A Potter’s Day”. Always on the last page of the magazine, it was a whole page written by a different potter each month and always showed as much about the personality and lifestyle of each potter as it did about their work. Recently this feature seems to have been stopped so I thought it would be interesting to write one of my own.

I usually wake quite early. I’m a lark rather than an owl and rarely need an alarm. I generally aim to get up around 7.00 - 7.30 on a weekday. A lifelong Archers listener, I now have the luxury of “Listen again” via the internet so listen to yesterday evening’s episode while I have breakfast and start on desk work.

Today I need to finish a newsletter for Crafts In Gloucestershire. I love admin tasks and am a bit of an internet addict so this is an ideal vehicle for my technological skills, which are increasing all the time. The newsletter is fun too because it’s a bit of design that doesn’t need me to be good at drawing. As usual, other arts and crafts folks, who mostly don’t like any kind of admin work, are slow in sending me any news so I try to find work I feel is vaguely seasonal from the photos I already have. If I haven’t got too much admin to do, I’ll probably fit in a household chore at this point, like putting in a load of washing.

By nine or nine thirty I’m in the pottery. Time markers feel important to me so if it’s gone 9.05 then I’ve definitely missed the 9.00 start and continue with the desk work or chores till it’s 9.30.

Pottery work has a rhythm and life of its own. You don’t just pick it up for an hour or two and put it down. Most days the first work of the day is already mapped out by what was done yesterday or the day before and the last is in preparation for the next day. Today the first task of the day is to turn some fruit bowls I made two days ago. They’re just right now but by this afternoon would be too dry without a lot of faffing about. I don’t turn many things (fruit bowls, colanders and lids) but it’s a process I enjoy.  

After finishing the fruit bowls I put them on the ware trolley in the unheated part of the pottery where at this time of year they’ll dry out slowly, along with some large colanders with handles and some teapots that were finished earlier in the week. Then, after a coffee break (more newsletter work) I make some cereal bowls. It’s a lovely sunny, spring day and I want to take advantage of that. You can hurry the drying of most pots just after they’ve been thrown and cereal bowls take up so much room in the workshop until they’re bone dry and can be stacked so it’s good to get them outside to start drying, where today there’s a light breeze as well as the sun.

Once the bowls are outside drying, I go in to the house for lunch. Lunch is usually toast - light, quick, and cheap! With a coffee afterwards I often weaken and have a little chocolate. I spend at least an hour, often an hour and a half on my lunch break. I have an occasional back problem and varying activities is essential so this is a good way to break the day up with more desk work. After my fix of catching up with Scrabble games on Facebook (did I mention I am a bit of an internet addict?) and answering an email from a prospective workshop student I make good progress with the newsletter and leave it at a point where I know it can be finished by the end of the day.

Back in the pottery I put on an audio book. I listen to music in the morning - usually Classic FM or my own CDs - but by the afternoon I often want more distraction. The teapots will need lids so that’s this afternoon’s work mapped out.
 I make the lids “off the hump”, which means you centre just the top section of a large “hump” of clay and throw the lid from that. The lid (currently ‘upside-down’) is then cut off the hump with a length of thread which you allow to twist around before you pull it straight out. The lids are left to dry to leather-hard and then tomorrow or the day after the lids go the right way up, the top of the lid is turned to its final shape and a small piece of soft clay attached, which is thrown into the knob.

By the time I’ve finished the teapot lids, the cereal bowls I made this morning are firm enough to be handled and have their bases smoothed and finished and my potter’s stamp pressed into the base. The day is losing its warmth now, so they can stay inside. I get some clay out to firm up overnight so it’s ready to throw with tomorrow.

It’s about five now and I usually stop for a drink of some sort. Often I’ll go out to the pottery again but today I’m finishing earlier. I pick purple sprouting broccoli from the garden - broccoli cheese for supper - before it gets dark and then go in and finish the newsletter before switching off for the day at around seven.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Launching a new product

Today I'd like to talk about launching a new product.  What's that Ms Chatshow-Host? Have I a new product out myself?  Well, yes, I do, as a matter of fact and thank you for asking. Would you like me to tell you about it?

Well, I know I said you weren't all to hold your breath a little under three weeks ago, but I have in fact already started producing silk scarves.  I wasn't going to until the summer.  I was testing out different fabrics for scarves so that I could decide what to order.  I took them round to a friend for some market research.  She immediately requested a scarf right now as she needed a gift for a friend.  So I made another.  I then still had three perfectly good scarves sitting here and it occurred to me that if my friend wanted to buy one now, so might other people and the money for the first sales would come in handy to recoup the big outlay of setting them all up in the first place.

Now, however you display them, three scarves look a bit sparse.  So I made four more.

Seven scarves have been delivered to By Local in Cheltenham this morning!

Tomorrow will be a day off and then on Friday I start a batch of silk-painting classes for a few days.   This leaves about two and a half days in the middle of the week.  There really isn't any point trying to get stuck in with pottery in that time frame as anything I make will need working on during the time I am teaching.  So, guess what?  I'll be making a couple more scarves this week.  Then I will stop, I promise, until later in the year.

So, I was going to talk about launching a product (other than advertising my own new product.)  I do think that getting the presentation and placement of a new product is vital.  If you go about it half-heartedly then some of your first customers will always remember that it's a bit of a half-hearted product.  It should look as it's going to look when it's become a regular feature of your range.

If I have a new design on my pottery it's a fairly simple thing to launch.  Pictures everywhere people are already taking notice of my work will generally do it.  These scarves, though, are a completely different thing and there is so much to think about.  Here's a summarised version of how I went about it.

  • Will they be labelled?  No, I don't want to sew a label on and detract from the design. 
  • How will people know how to care for them, then?  Well, there'll have to be a label of some sort available somewhere.
  • How will they be displayed for sale?  Ah.  Well, I don't want a huge stand with them all floating about.  Also I worry about their being kept clean.  So in a bag - which can also contain the label.
  • How will people know what the scarf looks like when worn if it's folded up in a bag?  Hmm.  OK, photos of the actual scarf in different styles can go on the label.
  • But how will they know what the scarves, and especially the different types of silk, feel like?  So, I need some samples of each sort so people can feel the samples.  And the samples will help convey what a loose scarf looks like compared with one folded up in a bag.
  • If you put your website address on the label as you usually do, won't people think it's a bit odd when they don't find any reference to scarves on your website?  (sigh)  Yes. Yes, ok, I'll update my website.
  • Shouldn't you have updated information on your page of By Local's website too?  Tomorrow, ok?  Tomorrow.

And the result?

and of course here on my website. 
Product launched.  I must say, I'm looking forward to my day off.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Coming back into fashion

Don't hold your breath.  In the grand scheme of things I don't move quickly, but I'm coming back into fashion.

It all began nearly forty years ago at college.  I won't write about how I got there just now but I should say that for the first three years our main subject was called "Dress and Textiles" with the emphasis on Dress.  It took me about 18 months to cotton on to what was required.  I thought I just had to demonstrate good dressmaking skills whereas what was really needed was innovation.

The top designers of the day were people like...  er ..oh yes,  Bill Gibb and ...  er ....  oh dear.  I really can't remember any more.  Because I only really noticed Zandra Rhodes.  And when I suddenly understood that each design brief was an invitation to do exactly as we wanted, I took off.

This assignment was to design and make an outfit based on an ethnic source.  I printed the design (based on old Chinese landscape paintings) on satin and the top had a chinese-style jacket openening with rouleau loops and covered buttons, all heavily influenced by Zandra Rhodes.

Here's another, possibly my favourite and I think perhaps the first one I designed after realising you could make what was in your head, no matter whether anyone had seen anything like it before.

In case you're wondering, the idea came from a photograph of a green and salmon-pink conch shell, a little like this one, only with bottle green on the widest parts of the shell:

See?  No?  Oh, well, turn the shell 90 degrees anti-clockwise.  There you have it.  The salmon-pink border is the muslin underdress, plain salmon-pink.  The cheesecloth tabard is made of one huge piece of fabric, (well, two, one back and one front) printed and then smocked over the whole bodice to create those  little lines you see on the shell. 

I should mention that when I say printed, what I actually did was make card masks which I pinned to the plain white fabric.  I then hung the lengths on the wall in the print room, mixed my dyes and applied to yards and yards (well, they were all yards then, not a metre in sight) using only a spray diffuser.  Luckily I was a clarinet player and knew about breathing.  It was impressive, none the less.

So there we were, immersed in fashion for two or three years.  When I say fashion, I do of course mean the sort of things worn on catwalks and shown in Vogue, not what the woman-in-the-street was wearing.  I did wear my outfits, though, at parties. I'm sure many of the others on my course continued to be influenced by and to some extent work in the world of fashion.  By the time we had to specialise in our fourth (degree) year, though, I had become more interested in our 'second' subject of textiles: construction, dyeing and embellishment, and I drifted away from fashion completely. 

Now, I'm coming back into fashion.  Where the development of my work and business is concerned, though, I do play a very long game indeed.  And I'm talking very small scale. 

I'm not known as the Purple Potter for nothing -  I do wear a lot of purple, with red, pink and couple of other colours thrown in for variety.  There are many colours I don't wear and some I really can't as anything remotely green tinged does hideous things to my skin.  I do love all colours, though, and enjoy seeing other people wearing them, so I'm going to make silk painted scarves.  I bought some scarves to try about three years ago, last summer I decided to get on with it and last week I made my first scarf.  I'll do a second and possibly a third this week, just to establish what I want to do and what materials I might need to order and then I'll be putting the project aside until later in the year.  As I said, the long game. 

There are other ideas bubbling away in there, though.  Earrings and brooches to go with the scarves.  Friendly plastic.  I'll say no more for the moment, but watch this space.  Eventually.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Magazine prescriptions

I've not been quite well.  Most of my general malaise has been caused by antibiotics, which I finished yesterday.  This afternoon I've been womanfully resisting going to bed for a sleep because I Must Be Better.  Well, I am, enough.

So yesterday and today I finished my filing.  Some of this filing goes back about 9 months because last time I did it there remained a few categories unfiled which went back into the filing tray.  But now it's finished.

So far today I have been fairly productive:  a useful Team Viewer session with Dad, helping him create some labels, researching suppliers of silk dupion for my next batch of textile canvasses, and one or two other desk jobs.  However, steam having more or less run out, I didn't feel well enough to do anything else remotely demanding so I thought I might take on the Magazine Mountain.

Some months ago I resolved to reduce the pile of magazines waiting to be read by trying to read one per day until the mountain became a foothill.  (I have other piles of magazines - those needing filing in order, those needing culling for recipes or pictures, etc.  This pile is magazines I receive on subscription and is the Magazine Mountain.) My resolve didn't last, though and the Mountain has achieved new heights.

Mum buys me Country Living on subscription.  I've been getting this magazine one way or another since it first came out, which I think must have been in the early eighties.  It used to be much more about the sort of life I led or would have liked to.  These days not so much but it still has the sort of recipes and food articles I like and pictures of homes I'd like to live in if someone would like to give me the million pounds or so required to buy one.  I enjoy the magazine, though.  As much as anything, I enjoy the way the various section editors use colour and often harvest photos of things just to remind myself of colour combinations.  There are interesting bits and pieces to read, too.  I keep some of the back copies so that if my parents come and visit there are some for Mum to read, but as they don't visit as often as they used to there is less need for this.

Country Living is issued monthly and I probably read most issues before the next one arrives.  They then go in the pile, for Mum to read when she visits or, if older, for cannibalisation by me before recycling.

 I've written about Crafts magazine on this blog before.  In brief (well I'll try, but you know me) - I've subscribed to Crafts almost since its beginning.  I'm missing about 5 issues from the first 18 months but other than that have every issue published.  It's rarely about anything resembling the sort of work I do and yet I still find it occasionally inspirational and always at least pleasing to look through.  Back copies are now stored under and behind a table in my attic studio.  They're still available if I crawl under the table.  There's a general principle of moving copies to "back copies" status at the end of a calendar year or sooner if I've finished reading them.

Crafts is published bi-monthly.  I rarely read it straight away and it became something of a casualty during the Pear-shaped Year.

Ceramic Review is also a bi-monthly magazine.  I probably find it less inspirational than Crafts because my ceramics work is slow to change and progress.  Making, as I do, primarily tableware for everyday use, for the most part I'm content to maintain (or during and after the Pear-shaped Year try to catch up with) stock levels of the things that people always want while occasionally doing something a little different just for variety.  Some of the articles in Ceramic Review are very informative, though, because even if they are about processes or materials or styles not relevant to my work, some of the information or ideas are transferrable.

A year or so ago I contemplated going through all the back issues of Ceramic review, removing and filing all the articles I thought would be of future interest and recycling the rest.  This idea was met with such horror by John West of Lansdown Pottery, that I just couldn't go through with it.  So back copies of Ceramic Review are filed on a shelf in the study, behind the table (so you have to pull the table out to access them, but not exactly underneath.)  The problem with this is that they have filled up the available space and are now being stacked flat on top of the row.  Not ideal and eventually, (soon?) this space, too, will be filled.  And what will I do then?

The Magazine Mountain lives just underneath the calendar on my desk.  Well, that's where it started out.  As the Pear-shaped Year and it's only slightly less busy following friend progressed, the MM grew so that this morning I noticed it completely covered the calendar, which has therefore to be taken down to be consulted.  This Will Not Do.

I enjoy using the malapropism of magazines on prescription anyway, but allofasudden it struck me - is that what these magazines have become, a prescription?  Something that is good for me so I order it, pay for it and bring it in to my home with the best of intentions but rather less conviction.  Do I get Crafts and Ceramic Review because they're professionally Good For Me or because I really want them?

I'll fess up.  I dismantled the MM and distributed it into the piles of three publications.  There were 11 copies of Country Living, all at least partially read and most just waiting to have pics cut out.  It's less than a year's worth, anyway.  Remember, Crafts and Ceramic Review are bi-monthly.  Of each of these, there were 18 copies, that's THREE YEARS' worth!  And, (my name is Jane and I'm a magazine non-reader) there were 16 publications that had not even been taken out of their polythene wrappings.

So - what to do?  Catch up with my reading, file and promise to read all magazines on receipt?  Cancel one or more subscriptions?  Continue, but start marmelising the back issues into lever arch files so the rest can be recycled?  (Sorry, John.)

Suggestions on a postcard.