Tag Archives: ceramics

Making my own decals with a laser printer

I’ve made a big decision, I’m taking my work in an exciting new direction, finally I got a laser printer to make my own decals. Hopefully I will be introducing a line of functional ceramics with my ‘trademark’ wildlife drawings like the wrens and hares.

I can imagine if you are a china painter reading this you will be shocked at the thought of  me using the ‘D’ word 🙂

Things have changed a lot since I started learning throwing,  I didn’t intend making functional pottery to sell but there is something so lovely about using handmade ceramics on a daily basis,  they are so tactile they need to be handled.

I have already made up my mind that I will no longer buy in whiteware to china paint on, there are many reasons for this decision. The costs involved for one, and the fact I’ve done it for so long I have become bored with it, there are more reasons that I won’t bore you with.
I may paint on my handmade pieces eventually ( and my ‘decal drawings’ will be done with china paints on tiles to keep my ‘style’) but my functional ware will be made using laser decals, which are food safe.

I’m really excited about this new direction, I can continue to improve my throwing skills and have something new and unique for Spring events. I’m planning on expanding my raku range and I will also be using my decals on fused glass too, something I’ve wanted to do for years now.

I believe my work has to keep me feeling excited and evolve to keep it fresh, once I’m bored by something it’s time to try something new. I may come back to china painting but for now it’s on the back burner, until I can throw with porcelain.

Here’s my little test piece with my wren drawing, I have done some other pieces but I can’t show you those yet as they are presents.
This will keep me busy for a while, but I think I will need some heating on in the studio, it’s freezing in there just now.

A week of raku firing

I have spent most of my week raku firing leaves, beads and pendants to stock up my shop . I now have over 200 listings.  All these leaves are now in my Etsy shop, they are going fast. They look great hanging on the wall, my own collection is growing, I’ve kept a copper one for myself.

raku leaves

I love the unpredictability of raku firing, sometimes the results are amazing, like this leaf dish below.  If  something comes out awful you can fire them again with the possibility of something better ( or worse) in the end.

I have had some pretty disappointing stoneware glaze results this week, and those firings take over 24 hours before you find out if you have something amazing or mediocre. At least raku gives almost instant gratification, even if it does mean smelling like a bonfire and standing around outside on a cold damp day.

raku leaf dish

One of my regular customers asked me for raku beads of a certain colour, but with the unpredictability of the process they weren’t quite the colour she asked for, although they were still very lovely, and she liked them.

raku beads

Refiring can really change the look of a raku glaze, and I’ve found firing in the large gas kiln, or my small Paragon SC3 kiln gives different results. So does the size of the combustion bin, and what’s inside it.

raku pendants

raku pendants

I made a little video of the leaf plate to show the colours off to their best, it looks amazing don’t you think?



Tableware progress – bigger dishes!

I decided not to throw anything until I glazed some pieces and made a bit of room in the studio, but the other day I slipped out to have a look at something in the studio and it just happened!

Out came the clay and I wasn’t seen again until I had made some serving bowls. For some unknown reason things seemed to just work. Centering was much easier, I even centered two balls of clay on top of each other to make a large serving platter. It’s as wide as I can go on my batts, the biggest thing I’ve thrown to date and perfect for roasting vegetables.
throwing progressThen came a straight sided dish that will fit in the halogen cooker.

Also a pie plate.

P1460077They still need a bit of trimming but I have left them on the batts a little too long so instead of wiring them off I’m hoping, like my plates they just pop off as they dry.

I made a little jug too.
P1460078And a lidded pot, with a gallery and a knob on the lid, I was on a roll.
P1460079That’s until I tried the lid in the pot upside down ( I’d read that was a good way to dry them as the fit together better)
The problem was I should have let them get leather hard first. So half a day later I had managed to get them apart, but the lid was reduced in size with all the trimming and I messed up the gallery, which I fixed. The lid is a little slack now but there is the thickness of the glaze to consider, and at least it doesn’t fall inside.
P1460100This 18cm tall jug has just come off the wheel, it’s too soft to put the handle on it just now. This is my tallest piece so far, I keep thinking back to my first piece which I made 7 months ago, things are definitely growing 🙂

I’m continuing glazing, but I admit it’s not my favourite thing to do, I may have shown these already, forgive my excitement but my pile of dishes is growing. We have eaten off them too, the large bowls are perfect for a hearty soup, noodles or porridge.
P1460090The mugs are smaller than I like but they are fine for an after dinner coffee, I can make some larger ones eventually. I did have an issue with the glaze running onto the batt on a couple of mugs so I will have to try and grind them smooth, fortunately I made 2 spares  of everything.
P1460095The plates have stayed flat, no cracking or warping, but they are more of a breakfast plate than a dinner plate, maybe I should call them weightwatcher plates.
P1460093Then there’s my small dessert bowls, maybe too small, but ok for ice cream, fruit or yoghurt.
stoneware bowlsI have my fingers crossed for the serving bowls, I hope they come off the batts soon, and as for the rest of the glaze firings , no more runs please!

Deep joy opening the kiln…….but……

It was deep joy indeed when I opened the kiln on Friday, however I soon realised I need to keep better notes. I must remember to write stuff down.

It’s been weeks since I glazed these vases, it was the second time for glazing as the first time round the colours didn’t run and merge together. These are Botz stoneware glazes which I layered up and also gave them a coat of a Botz product called Brilliant Effect, this makes the glazes run and gives some lovely effects.

I realised I’d not applied it thick enough the first time these pots were fired so I reapplied glazes and BF and fired again. Result!


P1450652I love making these little pouring bowls and I love the way this one has turned out, it has some pinholes so I may decide to fire it again. I love the effect on this pot but here lies the problem.

P1450653I forgot to write down the glaze combinations for each pot, I know there’s turquoise granite on this little pourer, and I know the glaze combinations are based on the tests I did for my dinner set but which is which?

Here’s the test tiles again to compare.

botzI think I can safely say this little thistle vase is number 3. Creme and Ice Crystal, the only reason I remember is because my daughter liked this one best.


I really don’t know what this one is.P1450665

I suspect this is number 1. which was my favourite, Creme, Turquoise Granite and Blue Black Speckle. It’s a gorgeous vibrant blue, with white green and turquoise runs.P1450669

So in future I need to write things down, the memory is not what it used to be .

I think I have made my mind up finally for the dinner set , I’m going to glaze with Blue Black Speckle ( as I thought I would ), it’s giving consistent results, I like the colour and the satin look. Here’s another serving bowl which came out the kiln on Friday, I do like the way the BBS glaze has broken on my ribbed dish. Also if I keep adding to my set if I use a glaze straight out of the pot I should get consistent results each time, so Blue Black Speckle is a winner!


I’m just about up to date with my work so hopefully the dinner set glazing should commence next week 🙂

My Ikigai – Raku Firing

Ikigai is a trending Japanese term which means something similar to Raison d’etre; a reason for being. Or putting it simply a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Having a kiln is most definitely my reason to get up early, when opening the up kiln every morning is like Christmas morning.

At the moment I especially enjoy raku firing. On a dry bright Autumn morning what’s not to like, being out in the garden with the trees changing colour, birdsong and even a visit from a hedgehog. To top it all you don’t have to wait til the next day to see the fruit of your labours.

Getting back to the raku glazes I mentioned in an earlier post; before I hurt my ribs I did some glazing and took photos to see if I could work out what affects the glaze colours, it’s all in my earlier post but basically I photographed the leaves with the glaze pots so I knew which glaze was on which leaf.
ceramic leaves collageHere are the leaves after firing in their groups, they weren’t all fired at the same time. The first group of leaves were glazed by OH, who got roped in to help, the colours are not as colourful  as I have gotten with this glaze so I think he has applied the glaze too thin. ( Shh don’t tell him ). Some have nice copper colours and one has a bit of light blue which is lovely.


This raku leaf has a blue / copper glaze , the results are much the same as I’ve had before.leaf to hang on wall

These 2 leaves have a glaze called cosmic copper which doesn’t always look as good as this, I did put the glaze on thicker this time.copper leaves

There’s not much to say about these in terms of colour they are similar, but you can see the speckled effect you get from throwing on sawdust in the reduction chamber.

raku leaves wall art

These 2 leaves look quite different, I will mention the colour in a moment.

ceramic leaves

Another 2 leaves where one has more colour than the other. I was amazed when I opened up the bucket and saw the colour on this leaf and the one above. What had happened was the 2 leaves had lain on top of each other and where they overlapped the colour was intense.


Raku leaves

Here’s another pair of leaves that came out much the same, but the other oak leaf has a lot of colour; this leaf had been fired before but I didn’t like the result so it was given another coat of different glaze and refired, the combination of 2 glazes could have affected the result but I don’t know.

Raku leaves from Kiln Fired ArtThis is how it looked before, it is a lot nicer now.

Although most leaves with the same glazes are very similar I think I have learned a couple of things. Firstly  I think a thicker application of glaze gives a better chance of good colour.

Also, as I already know the reduction process is key. I think I may try overlapping leaves deliberately, and I might even try putting one in the chamber upside down, but that may not work so well as the sawdust is likely to blacken it.

So all in all it was a great reason to get up in the morning, so what’s your ikigai?



Botz Glaze Mixing Experiments

In preparation for glazing my dinner set I’ve done some experiments combining Botz stoneware glazes. Having spent so long making this set the last thing I want to do is to mess up when it comes to the glazing. I find glazing has it’s own problems but I won’t go there today.

Botz stoneware glazes were chosen because they are lead free and non toxic.

The samples are numbered, and I managed to write down which glazes went where, something I regularly forget to do as I’m so wrapped up in the process.

I applied two coats of each glaze, layering and overlapping them. The back side had 2 layers of Botz Plus as well as the same glazes as on the front. Trying to squeeze out as many glaze possibilities as I could the larger sample had 2 different glaze combinations.botz

Here’s a list of the glazes that I used.

  1. Creme – Turquoise granite – Black blue speckle.
  2. Creme – Turquoise granite – Bright blue effect.
  3. Creme – Ice crystal.
  4. Turquoise granite – Bright blue effect – White.
  5.  Ice crystal – Black blue speckle
  6. Black blue speckle –  (left side) – Ice crystal. (right side) – Bright blue.

I think I like the first combo best for the dinner set but I’m not entirely sure, I’m still considering the black blue speckle glaze  on it’s own that I used on the noodle bowl. I don’t mind eating off dark crockery but I know from research most people prefer light cream or white plates for food. But this set is for me, decisions, decisions 🙂

I love the running effects with the Botz Plus, but on plates I can’t imagine that the glazes will run as much. I have some spare plates made from another clay so maybe I should try  the glazes on those first. I feel I have blank paper syndrome, or in this case blank ceramic syndrome, and I need to get over it soon.

Also I need to do 3 coats of Creme instead of 2 for better coverage. I find it’s quite tricky getting even coverage with brush on glazes.

I haved to experiment further with hotter firing and a longer hold, but that’s for another experiment.

I want to get this set finished but I still feel a bit wary about glazing it.
Which glaze combo do you like best?


More Raku Bowls

I managed to get another raku firing done last week, in between the days of torrential rain. I have been waiting eagerly to fire up the kiln again but the weather has been so bad this summer.

I made several pieces including these 3 bowls which are a little experiment. The one on the left is the heavily grogged raku clay, the middle bowl is this same clay but with a layer of stoneware slip on top which makes it look a lot smoother. The bowl on the right is a new clay for me, it’s Ashraf Hanna’s raku clay.
P1440384I wanted to see how they fair during the firing process.
This is the one on the left after firing
P1440434The middle pot with the slip has an interesting crackle effect

And the Ashraf Hanna one, I think for bowls this is my preferred clay but I will tell you about a project involving the heavily grogged clay in my next post.
P1440416Also my daughter is home so she has had a play on the wheel and these are her pots after firing. Very wabi sabi, with some lovely colours.

So this raku firing was a success, I think I’ve cracked it ( or not cracked my pots) 🙂

I got up early this morning to list a few of my raku bowls in my Etsy shop.

raku pots

July review, mountains climbed

And so another month has flown by, it seems I have shown most of my makes this month already, but there is something going on.

I have continued building on my meditation technique and I feel I’ve made a breakthrough. I know meditation is about letting go, allowing the mind to go blank. However it’s not so easy to do in practice, thoughts do come and go. What I find really interesting is how these thoughts relate to my creative self.

I have a metaphor for how I see the way my creative mind works, it’s a pin table. The ball, the ideas that bounce around my head, the bell sounds and the lights flash with an idea, then I bounce off onto another idea. It can be quite exhausting, and that’s how I came to meditation in the first place, I was starting to feel stressed. Now I realise I need to slow the pace of creative thinking down a bit and spend more time with each idea.

Remember I climbed a real mountain this month, I’d been putting off going up Scafell Pike for so long, I didn’t think I could do it, but it was actually much easier than I thought. Climbing this mountain has helped me with a creative mountain, and so I started throwing a dinner set.

I want 8 place settings so I decided to make 10 of everything as some might be lost along the way. I have wanted to do this since I got the wheel but it seemed too big a mountain for me to climb.

Ten bowls and 10 mugs thrown.
P1440070Plates, drying nicely, these are slab rolled and finished on the wheel.

P1440067This morning’s meditation has left me with a clear vision of where I’m heading, I realise that everything I do and love influences my work. So where am I heading?

I will tell you later 🙂



My conflict between perfection and the not so perfect.

As I continue to learn how to throw pots on the wheel I have come to realise there’s conflict going on in my head.

I’m sure anyone who throws pots will, like me, be striving for perfection. I am loving this challenge and the journey will take me for ever.

However there is a conflict going on in my head and I know it’s been going on for a long time, not just since I got my wheel. I love clean lines and contemporary design but I also love rustic too. I love hand building and wonky pots, the urge to pick them up and connect with them is so very strong. So there you have my conflict.

I guess I will continue to love both, I will continue to strive for perfection in my thrown pieces and continue making wabi and sabi hand built pieces, I  have strong urges to ‘alter’ my thrown pieces so maybe the two styles will meet somewhere, who knows. It’s enough to have fun just making.

Here’s a couple of pieces that came out of the kiln this morning, a salad bowl and a berry bowl.

The salad bowl is thrown, it has a couple of issues I need to address, it has warped a bit and the glaze has some minute pinholes, so I will strive to perfect these issues at my next attempt to make the perfect bowl.

Ceramic bowl
The berry bowl is hand built, while making this I imagined it sitting on the kitchen table at Cragside  and maybe a kitchen maid stealing one of the berries. It’s really quite wonky in shape but I like that in hand built ceramics, I just want to pick it up and steal a strawberry myself.

Berry bowlI quite like the idea of not really knowing where my journey is going, who knows I may end up somewhere in the middle, only time will tell.


My journey into Raku firing begins.

When I lived in Wiltshire I signed up for a raku course which was cut short after only one week. This sparked (sorry about the pun) my desire to make raku pottery and I treasure the bowls I glazed and fired that evening.

I have procrastinated for a long time about making a raku kiln, and decided against it but when I walked into Aldi and saw garden incinerator bins I seemed to slip one into my trolley : )

Caroline Dewison has a great article on the Art Elements blog  about building a raku kiln. Thank you Caroline 🙂

Armed with ceramic buttons, fibre blanket, nichrome wire and the incinerator we set to making a raku kiln. After some cutting and drilling this is what we ended up with.

I got the gas burner as a birthday present, isn’t that what every woman wants for her birthday? ☺

I had some pots already glazed, this is how the firing process went.

I could fit in 2 small pots
P1430681We lit the burner, but the flame kept going out when we put the lid on, what you don’t want is to turn your kiln into a potential bomb so it’s really important to make sure it’s lit. We called a halt to the process and put a few holes through the fibre blanked at the base so oxygen could get in and tried again. This time it worked,  I waited patiently, and kept checking to see how it was going, it took about 45 minutes to get to orange but I think it should have gone hotter so I will have to invest in a pyrometer.

P1430682The burner was turned off, wearing all the safety gear and looking like a spaceman the pots were carefully lifted out with long tongs and put in a metal bucket containing combustibles, (sorry no photos). After it had burned for a few minutes a lid was put onto the bucket, once cool enough the pots were transferred to another empty bucket with a lid to cool some more before going into the water bucket to finish cooling and then they were scrubbed up to reveal the colours.

The pot on the left should be turquoise and copper but I don’t think it got hot enough. I love the dark blue glaze, there is some copper there but also some lovely purples too.
P1430684I fired up again for the green pot, but just as the kiln was coming up to temperature my gas bottle ran out so it went into the bucket thinking it wouldn’t come out very well. It turned out not too bad at all.P1430685

2 pots have found a place around my home. I love the wabi sabi look of raku pots, this one does have a crack unfortunately, but it’s very tactile, not bad for a first attempt flying solo.Raku pot CollageThe green pot has found a home too, it has a tiny bit of copper in the bottom, but what I like most about this pot is it bears evidence of it’s birth, there are black speckles are were the sawdust touched the glaze, and the orange markings are probably where the newspaper was.Raku pots CollageI have learned a few things along the way, and I need to trim off some of the excess fibre blanket and when I get some more gas, a pyrometer and some fine weather  I’ll be ready for another go at raku firing.