This week we braved to weather, which was cold but still, to do our first raku firing of the year. It’s always exciting and unpredictable, hopefully in a good way. This time things started off really badly but we sorted the issues and re-fired the first couple of pieces. We also had a few breakages but you come to expect that it’s the nature of raku work.
Here are some leaves that have made it into my Etsy shop, I had a few customers waiting for new stock to arrive so they are going quite quickly.
I have restocked the small raku fish and there are a few larger fish as well, these ones have a lot of copper, the others are turquoise and blue.
I have a few moon gazing hares too, these would be great Easter gifts to let someone know you miss them.
Here’s a closer look.
The snowdrop trinket dishes and hearts that I showed you a few weeks ago are in the kiln now, I can’t wait to open it up but it’s still cooling down, patience pays off in the end.
I am watching things growing in the garden, soon the bluebells will be out, I have some pulmonaria flowering but no sign of the brunnera flowers yet. It’s going to be a busy time in a week or two, watch this space. I like working with the seasons.
Hello blog readers, as I’m not getting out fell walking these days I’ve been enjoying looking back at some of my past walks with fond memories. Come with me up Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain.
I thought you might like to take a walk with me up Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, but I warn you this is a picture heavy blog post.
The weather was perfect during the week for a walk up Scafell Pike. I have been planning to do this for so long but I think I had something of a mental blockage about going up Scafell. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I hear so many stories on the local news about people getting in trouble and calling out the Mountain Rescue.
This wasn’t the most demanding, or dangerous walk I’ve done but it certainly is challenging, and in bad weather it could be very dangerous indeed, it’s not a walk to be taken lightly.
We chose the easy route setting off early in the morning from the car park at Wasdale Head heading up Lingmell Beck.
Hello blog readers, it’s been a while since my last post, I seem to be getting less done these days. I thought a lockdown would mean prolific work but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
I am enjoying the cold but bright weather, getting out on my daily walks. As we are all walking the same or similar path each day (following the rules) I like to shake things up a bit by looking out for something to make each walk special. Most often it’s birds or plants but a few days ago I decided to look more closely at trees, especially bark textures.
On my way home I remembered I’d planned to make some wall pockets for air plants but I never got round to making them. Out came the clay and I set to work on the idea in my head. There were some design issues to work out, how to contain the plants, how to hang the piece etc.
Here they are drying nicely, I made a few pebbles as well as plant wall pockets.
They are in the kiln now as I type, fingers crossed they survive the first firing and then I can get decorating. My air plants have arrived and I need to get them displayed on the wall.
In March I decided the best way for me to get through the situation we found ourselves in was to indulge in small pleasures, holidays at home, virtual tours on Youtube whilst clocking up some miles on the exercise bike, good food, wine, lots of reading and craft projects of course. However once the days got shorter I didn’t feel much like working.
December was mostly about self indulgence, so January had to be about ‘my body is a temple’ to make up for the December excesses.
We have followed a healthy eating plan, mostly vegetarian, we have done dry January, we’ve walked locally when weather has permitted otherwise there’s the exercise bike and more virtual tours. I’m still allowing myself the luxury of taking breakfast back to bed and reading until it’s light , as well as little treats such as online art and craft courses. I’ve lost the weight I’d gained in December but it’s more than that, after 2 weeks I felt noticeably different, bouncing with energy, I actually wanted to get back to work.
The snowdrops were still not quite ready so I started making some leaves and fish which will be raku fired on a warmer sunny day.
Now the snowdrops were starting to bloom so I brought some indoors to enjoy for a day before taking them out to the studio for some clay work. It was only 5C out there but I soon got into the zone and the time flew by.
I am feeling quite pleased with myself for finally getting back to work and you know what, I enjoyed every minute.
If you are outside the UK you may not know we are now in our third lockdown.
Thank goodness for modern technology so we can stay in touch with friends and family. I’m taking each day as it comes; I’m lucky as I have my crafts to keep me occupied, (nothing different there). I like to get out into the countryside, nature is very important to my wellbeing. There are some lovely walks on my doorstep so I can get my daily exercise. I have especially enjoyed walking in the snow, it’s a winter wonderland out there.
The weather has been cold, I don’t think the frost has entirely given since Boxing Day so I’m making lots of heart warming comfort food.
Yesterday I made sourdough rolls and a fruit and nut bread, also rye bread but somehow I mixed up the rye and fruit loaf dough so the fruit one became a loaf and I’ve made rye rolls for the first time 🙂
They were left to prove overnight by the log burner so they were ready for the oven this morning. I wish you could smell them.
We look forward to our cold wintery walk each day, with soup and bread to come home to. The great thing about the soup maker is that you can come home to a lovely bowl of heart warming soup.
The soup of the day today is my quick cock-a-leekie. If I have some leftover chicken I make it with that, and boil the bones to make stock. Today I don’t have any so I chopped up half a chicken breast and microwaved it for a few minutes to cook it off.
Here’s my version, it’s maybe not the recipe you find online but I don’t know anyone who puts prunes in soup.
Quick Soup Maker Cock-a-leekie
Leftover chicken meat, or some chicken cooked as above.
Chicken stock, or one chicken cube and one vegetable cube.
2 tablespoons of barley I use flaked barley in the soup maker, or alternatively I boil pearl barley in a pan of water for a few minutes while prepping the veg.
I medium carrot, 1 parsnip, 1 small onion, 1 small leek chopped small.
1 tablespoon of red lentils, not traditional but I love lentils in soup as they help thicken it.
Everything goes in the soup maker, fill to the line with stock or hot water, cook on chunky setting.
Then I go for a walk and come back to a steaming bowl of goodness.
It goes without saying that most of us have never experienced a year like 2020. I have tried to remain positive with the help of my family, my garden, taking pleasure from small things and by making the most of this down time to make things for myself.
Then there were masks, lots of masks for family and friends.
The weather was so good in spring we spent a lot of time in my garden, we grew vegetables which were a disaster, and we made a pond which has been a triumph. The garden became a large part of staying positive, the VE Day celebration was probably the highlight of my year.
I learned punch needle technique and made some cushions.
I haven’t yet mentioned sourdough. I resisted for a while but it was futile, in the end I caved in and I’ve been baking all my own bread since.
Being in the garden so much was such an influence, I did an awful lot of eco printing, I made a book called “My Garden Sanctuary 2020 “ as a memory of this year and finding pleasure in the small things. I wrote haiku and learned some new techniques while working on this book, I didn’t rush it so it kept me involved for months. The garden seemed to be the extent of my world. I feel incredibly connected to this little book in a way that’s deeply emotional. I am planning more ecoprinting this coming year, I have dyers plants and seeds on order and I have a plan 🙂
During the dark winter months knitting and crochet have kept me busy in the evenings I started another waffle blanket, knit a jumper, a cardigan and some socks. I made a couple of dresses in spring, but they still haven’t been worn.
I’ve taken a few online painting courses this year, I particularly enjoyed getting back into watercolours with Dena Adams and Sarah Stokes. I regret having such a long break from watercolour but it’s all coming back to me.
I noticed the bulbs are shooting up when I was in the garden yesterday, in some ways this year has gone so fast but in other ways it seems to have gone on for ever, time does that when each day is the same, don’t you think?
So here I am, I’ve come full circle, I am making a list of stock needed to replenish my shop, I am making plans of where I want to go with my work, new makes, new techniques to try, a new year brings optimism, we really need that now.
And so I wait and watch for the first snowdrops to bloom so I can smile, then get to work on making my snowdrop ceramics, just as I did in January last year, and years before……… the more things change the more they stay the same.
For most of us this Christmas is like no other we have experienced, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I hope everyone stays safe and well this Christmas, and now we have hope for 2021 so here’s to better things for us all next year.
There’s nothing like a slice of cake on a dull dark afternoon to cheer the soul. I do love cake but I don’t particularly like icing, it’s too sweet.
Gran’s Wartime Ginger Cake is a firm favourite with everyone who has tried it. It’s also suitable for vegans, and it’s great warm with some custard, cream or ice cream as a pudding. You can find the recipe here.
I thought it might be an idea to try a chocolate version of this cake. I found half a jar of stem ginger in syrup the fridge that needed using up so chocolate ginger cake it is. Chocolate on it’s own would work well but then I would add all the golden syrup to the recipe, chocolate chips would be good but there’s the possibility they will sink. Dusting them in flour i meant to help prevent fruit sinking so that might work, I will have to try it next time.
Chocolate and Stem Ginger Cake.
2 cups plain flour minus 2 tablespoons.
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup sugar
4 oz butter or margarine
1 cup hot water
pinch of salt
2 large tablespoons stem ginger in syrup, chopped fine
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Grease and line a loaf tin
Heat the oven to gas mark 4 or 180 C
Melt the fat and golden syrup (if using ) in the water
Sieve the flour into a bowl with the sugar and salt
Make a well and pour in the liquid and stir in the ginger.
Mix the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder with some vinegar in a cup, it will froth up, quickly pour into the mixture and beat everything together. Pour into the tin and bake for about an hour, watch the top doesn’t burn.
My cake sank a little as I took it out of the oven too soon, my main oven is broken so I cooked it in a combi microwave. It still tasted good.
It’s nice and chocolatey, squidgy with a lovely lovely warm ginger note, again this cake would be great as a pudding with some ice cream or clotted cream.
I ate it in front of the fire with a mug of tea after a bracing walk, it was just the job.
I’ve had quite a busy week with packing up orders every day. It’s been a bit dull so difficult to get photos to list new items to Kiln Fired Art on Etsy, but eventually I got there. I made a simple stand to photograph my ecoprinted scarves, what a difference that has made to sales. It just shows the importance of having good photos of your work.
The first 2 scarves are ecoprints on viscose, these are really large lightweight sarong sized scarves, so many ways to wear these and also very affordable too.
The peach ecoprinted scarf below is a heavier weight silk crepe scarf, it’s such a pretty colour.
I managed to get out for a walk in search of inspiration once the rain stopped, I found a lot of inspiration in the woods, forest bathing or shinrin yoku as the Japanese call it really lifted my spirits.
Today I am framing and photographing ecoprints, also making paper packs for crafters. I am wondering what my next ecoprint project will be as I want to bring them into my paintings in some way to give a sense of place, I’m thinking collage.
I would like to thank everyone who has watched the Youtube video of my little book, in a week it’s had over 1200 views and some amazing comments, I knew it was precious to me but I am overwhelmed so many people love it too.