My New Toy

I bought myself a slab roller with the intention of saving my wrists. I’ve found it’s not that simple, but I’m learning it’s much easier to roll a small piece of clay and take it down gradually.

The slab roller comes with 2 boards and some canvas, they aren’t long enough for larger items so OH cut me some long plywood boards and I got the sewing machine out an zig zaged some strips of calico. In theory you should be able to roll clay on any length of board, and the width is all my kiln will take in height.
P1340633I seem to want to work big though, I made another lacy lamp ( I’m still figuring out the internal lamp bit), and while I was rolling slabs I decided to make a couple of vases. I like the shape, which sort of just happened when I cut a folded piece of paper into a template. The clay for the lamp needs to be quite thin so the rolling pin did come in useful, but I think I will get some thinner sheets of hardboard so I can go down very slowly and thinner, it’s much easier that way.
P1340635These have dried out quite quickly, the clay has mould on it which makes it harder to see any imperfections, let’s hope none show up once they are fired.

Now I can’t decide if I should stain / glaze the vases or leave them white

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Hadrian’s Wall, in search of Sycamore Gap.

I have wanted to walk along the Roman Wall to Sycamore Gap for a long time. I know the place very well but I have never walked along this part of the Wall, which has become an icon since it was featured in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

The Emperor Hadrian built the Wall to control the marauding Picts but it’s a common misconception that the Wall marks the boundary between England and Scotland. There must be another 30 miles of unspoilt Northumberland before reaching the border.

This stretch of the walk along the Wall is probably the most rugged, the Wall is strategically positioned on the top of the Whin Sill, which is a dolerite intrusion.
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You can see the Wall snaking out in front of you, it would have been about 12 feet high originally.

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Here we are at Sycamore Gap, it would have been lovely to have it to ourselves but everyone had the same intention, people posing contemplatively, and cameras and phones clicking away.

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This photo is looking back along the Whin Sill, it clearly shows the ridge of harder igneous rock and the glorious unspoilt Northumbrian countryside.

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Every mile along the Wall there was a mile fort, this one has the remains of an arched gateway.
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This is the remains of one of the granaries at Housesteads Roman Fort, one of 15 forts.  They would need a lot of bread to feed 10,000 soldiers along the Wall.

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We walked back on the lower path north of the Wall, it was a bit boggy in places but it gave great views of the Whin Sill and shows what a great defensive site it is. Also there are wonderful views of the rolling unspoilt Northumberland countryside.

P1340816And I got another view of Sycamore Gap, I think this is the one I will use in my artwork. Now the question is do I work in textiles or ceramics, or maybe both.
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A trip to Holy Island

We have had a wonderful few days in Northumberland, it’s the county of amazing castles, a wonderful coastline and big skies.

Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as it is also known, is reached by a tidal causeway so we had to wait until quite late in the afternoon to get across. Unfortunately sometimes people risk crossing and they get swept away by the tide, the hut on stilts is there as a bolt hole just in case.
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The Vikings first landed here in 793 AD, killing the monks, this is when the island became known as Holy Island. P1340362

The abbey ruins and a statue to Saint Cuthbert.

Lindisfarne abbey

Lindisfarne castle, (built in the 16th century), etches itself on your brain forever, it’s so imposing. It stands on a piece of the whin sill which also forms the Farne Islands, and also runs along Hadrian’s Wall.
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I have painted the castle a few times but maybe it’s time to paint it again.Lindisfarne castle

Or maybe these charming fishermen’s huts.
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This is Bamburgh castle, I’ve never seen it look so clear from Holy Island before, my camera was zoomed right in here.

P1340397I will show you some more pictures from my travels in Northumberland soon but I need to go shopping now.

 

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That Tony Soprano moment.

Yes it’s coming, I have that feeling in my gut, just like Tony Soprano’s ducks took flight and were gone I know my swallows will fledge any day now.

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I can’t stop watching the parents flying in with food even more regularly, then they are out again in a flash. There is very little rest for the parent birds but occasionally one will sit on the field gate opposite.

There are a lot more swallows flying about now so I assume they are fledglings. I’ve observed an interesting behaviour, about 3 of them have been flying around near the nest, it looks to me almost as if they are trying to entice this brood to join them. I’m sure they will be any day now, I have mixed feelings about them going. This surrogate mother is concerned , will they be strong enough for their flight to Africa?

I managed to contort myself over the kitchen bench and get a bit of video, it’s not the best quality being taken through the window.

Swallows

P1330847As you can see the nest is looking pretty full now, I couldn’t decide if there were 3 or 4 chicks, but there are definitely 4. Look closely and you will see the eye of the 4th one.

Now I want to make some swallow art!

 

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Hares, wrens, swallows and Ikebana vases

Yes, this is a mix of a blog post but it’s been a funny week. We have had heat in this part of the world, and thunderstorms. We were without electricity for a whole day, and my kiln had just been loaded. So I had to postpone my delivery to the gallery.

I will show you this week’s work but first I thought you might like to see how my swallows are doing. There are 3 or possibly 4 chicks, they are growing fast thanks to the diligent parents who feed them all day long.
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There are problems with BT internet so everything is taking forever to upload, I did get some succulent planters and this ikebana bowl listed in my Etsy shop. The great thing is my pots can be used for both, or even for cacti. I got a lovely bunch of arum lilies for only £2 at Aldi today so I got my photo shoot done. Don’t they look great with the dark glazed pot?

ikebana bowls

Some of these have gone off to the gallery along with some of my handpainted porcelain lustreware, that was stuck in the kiln when the electric went off.

Not sure which is my favourite, the little wren vase , or the hare vase, I do know I never tire of painting them both.

wren handpainted vase

Handpainted hare vase

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A wet week – swallows and bleaberries

I was wondering what to blog about, thinking I haven’t made much this past week, (I have been catching up on custom orders) but I have been out and about even though the weather has been quite dreadful.

It was a celebration weekend last weekend which meant we dined out a couple of times, so we opted for a trip to the coast to walk off a few pounds. As I said the weather has been dreadfully wet and windy this past week, it felt more like autumn than mid summer. But there is always beauty to be found whatever the weather, I love the moody sky, and the limited colour palette certainly reflects the weather conditions.
P1330167I was drawn to the textures of pebbles and seaweed collected along the groins, and the sounds of the sea rolling in, then taking the cobbles back out with it.
P1330159Wednesday looked more promising so we headed out on the fells, but it was short lived and we were soon sporting waterproofs, but the weather didn’t spoil our day.

This is the route up the fell, we started in the middle distance where the light coloured  buildings are.
P1330448And this is where we were heading.

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The skylarks were not deterred by the rain, I love the song of skylarks, they remind me of my childhood.
P1330463And look at this lovely fledgling undeterred by the rain, I haven’t identified it yet.
P1330458Much to my delight the bleaberries were ripe, I used to pick them with my Gran, most folks would call them bilberries, I believe she called them bleaberries from her time living on a croft in the Scottish Highlands, or maybe it’s a Yorkshire thing. I do know they taste good but they dye your tongue and teeth blue.
P1330447I love the view approaching the summit, even on a dull day I love it as it’s so serene. If I’m honest the gentle rain was rather lovely too, until the howling wind got up.
P1330465It’s been much the same weather most of the week, yesterday I was concerned as my swallow parents couldn’t fly out from under the porch to hunt, but thankfully today there has been a few dry spells so they were able to feed their young, I’m not sure how many chicks there are in the nest, I’m hoping to see them popping their heads over the top soon.
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I’m hoping for some sunshine this coming week, fingers crossed.

 

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What’s on my worktable today

I have been working with clay this week, I’ve made some more succulent planters and ikebana bowls, it’s been so cool there is no fear of them drying too quickly. I made a large hosta platter but it’s probably going to be too big for my kiln. Why do I work large then ask questions later? I made a little birdy too, I think it’s a great tit, but will decide later when I work out how to colour it. I would usually work with overglaze enamels but I’m learning something new here so it could be underglazes or stains but that means test firing some samples. I would love to make some large sculptural pieces so this is my starting point, let’s hope it doesn’t explode in the kiln.
ceramics dryingI’m making a texture plate for a ceramics and glass pieces, but it all takes time so nothing I can show you yet, I think I’ve joined the ‘slow art movement’.

I’m heading off to the hills now, have a great day whatever you are doing

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Catching up

Hello,

I haven’t been around for a few weeks, firstly I was busy with work before a trip to Scotland and the Isle of Lewis. We were very fortunate to have good weather while we were away so we could explore some of the amazing beaches and crystal clear waters, I even had a paddle. This is Uig beach where the Lewis chessmen were found, it was like Paradise.
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The beautiful beaches have inspired my next crochet blanket, I love the colours of the Lewis blanket, and enjoy sitting in the evening doing a few rows, it’s quite meditative.
Lewis blanketLast weekend I went to Woolfest with a couple of friends, this is the stash I bought, mainly wool and silk for some mixed media work, but that’s still in the planning, more later. Some  stuff I bought just because I liked the look of it, I have no idea what to do with silk cocoons or carrier rods, but I may be doing some dying once I get a mordant. I love the idea of picking plant material to dye fibres to use in my work, and if the plant material came from the place that inspired me that would be fabulous but I realise you can’t just pick anything, and the colours may not be what I’d want, but it’s a nice thought.

woolfest stashWe had a trip to Castlerigg stone circle and Derwentwater on the Sunday, which was perfectly relaxing after Woolfest the day before. I do have a thing for stone circles, they are very special places.
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It was a great weekend with friends old and new, but now another weekend is here and I need to get my head back into work. I have managed to glaze some ceramic buttons this week to stock up on Etsy, I’m easing back in gently:)
ceramic buttons

 

 

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Ikebana – my first attempt

I thought if I’m going to make and sell ikebana bowls I need a bit of an understanding of the artform so I ordered a pin holder or kenzan to fit one of my ceramic bowls, and also a book on the subject.

I was first attracted to ikebana in the 70’s , I think it was in a WI tent at the summer exhibition, but it’s something I’ve not tried. I know the simplistic line and form could kid one into thinking it’s easy, but it’s not, as you will find out if you continue to read about my meagre attempt.

I decided to have a go at the first arrangement in the book, Risshin – kei or basic upright style. The book tells you that the length of your 3 main branches, the shin, soe, and hikae should be as follows:

Shin – width of container + depth + half as much again

Soe – three quarters of  shin

Hikae – three quarters of soe

So I duly worked out the sizes and rounded them up to the nearest cm, and wrote the lengths on my hand. Armed with secateurs and a ruler I headed off into the garden to see what I could find.

My first choice was the silvery green leaves of the senecio bush  but I found them to be just too droopy when I had to place the branches at precise angles. Actually this was , I found the hardest part of the process. The shin had to be upright but bend slightly to the wide part of the container, with the tip at a 10 degree angle from vertical. The soe should go at the right front, at a 45 degree angle, and the hikae left front at a 75 degree angle. I gave up on the senecio and cut some copper beech foliage, but no matter how much I tried to place these stems at the correct angle they just sprung out of shape.

Now I had to add  jushi, the  flowers, so far I haven’t read enough to know how many but 3 is a good number, right? I did read they should be at different heights and none longer than the main stem. So off I went back into the garden looking for some blossoms, unfortunately there wasn’t much that I thought suitable so I went with this pink rose, which I really don’t care that much for, it’s such a harsh colour don’t you think, but it flowers profusely and the foliage is good. I thought it appropriate to choose flowers in different stages of bloom to add interest. The flowers were easier to place than the main stems, they should be angled so they face the viewer.

So here’s my first ikebana arrangement, I’m not sure it works very well, I think the beech leaves are too large and you know how I feel about shocking pink.

I think I need a lot of practice, and never be fooled by a simplistic flower arrangement, like most artforms less is more.
IkebanaI think I will head out with the secateurs once more and see if I can find some stems with smaller leaves and have another go, I’m going to practice over the summer.

 

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Framing Mixed Media Artworks

I have framed up the mixed media ceramic and textile pieces and if I do say so myself I think they look great, how I wanted them to be in my mind’s eye.

This one is now hanging on my wall, I loved it so much it’s a keeper.
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These make a lovely pair, don’t you think?

ceramic mixed media artMy apologies about the quality of the photos, it’s really difficult to get good pictures when they have glass in the frames. This one is out of the frame so you can see better, I have mounted them so they look like they are floating .
ceramic mixed media artI have so many ideas to follow on from these, that’s the good thing about a tiny spark of inspiration, it leads to so much more.

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