Slipcast Collection

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New wares are beginning to trickle out… I’m excited by the colour palette and feel of these fresh new slipcast pieces in stained porcelain. The charcoal grey vase form is cast from a lathe-turned form I created while in Denmark. I like the possibilities of the grey canvas for fresh simple white slip decoration – here a midcentury modern inspired sunburst pattern, set off by pompom hydrangea blooms.

ATCF 1 Slipcast Vessels Yellow White and Tealfive slip cast jugs

I’ve been keen to experiment with coloured porcelain for a long time. After trying out some own-made black clay on the wheel I decided that the chemicals used in colouration (raw oxides and metal salts) were best kept in minimal contact with the skin, and so began my delve into slipcasting production… I’m really pleased with the initial results and they have certainly had good reactions from customers so this range will be something I am working on quite heavily this year. I love the strong colour palette in the pieces above and I’m also tapping into the subtlety of marbled slips and pared down surface decoration.
  

I couldn’t resist, while in Denmark, the chance to create a direct link with the minimal, pared down scandi-chic trend that’s consuming UK interiors shoots at the moment. These lidded vessels are based on casts of plain glass storage jars from Denmark – they are the store cupboard equivalent of the kilner jar and I was really taken by their shape and design.

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Hedgeflora and beyond

Introducing a new set of bone china wares that I’ve been sketching, colouring, getting printed into decals and firing onto some beautiful Stoke-on-Trent bone china ware. Here are some shots of the finished pieces, followed by an explanation of the work in progress.

The flexibility of being able to accurately reproduce detailed drawings on ceramics using this method really inspires me – it’s a completely different approach from the handmade pieces and I love it as it allows me to produce consistent products that all work together.

This little lot has been in the pipeline since July so it’s great to be getting it ready in time for all the Christmas events this season.

Here are a few snapshots of how the designs begin, on paper. Sometimes in the garden with tea and sunshine, sometimes in the studio using blooms and seedheads gathered while walking.

nasturtium-wipdand-wipcow-pars-wip

I love this process. It makes me feel so connected to the work I do. It also allows me to be creative with the raw materials. Currently I am creating a couple of tea towels to go with the above designs. Because I can manipulate the images in whatever way I want to I am free to put them together in new ways. I got really inspired by the Fifties in the colouring and style of the drawings so I took it a step further for the Dandelion tea towel and turned elements of the sketch into a colourful repeat pattern.dand-tt-crop

It’s at the printers right now, so here’s hoping it looks good on unbleached cotton!

Volcanic Yellow…and Storm Blues

The experiments with colour block brights and layered leopard print effect glazes are coming along too. I’m really excited by this range and once a few firing difficulties have been ironed out I’m going to be making this my primary product I think.

I’d never really tried doing anything with out surface illustration before – that is my area of expertise and what I’ve always loved doing. Having the freedom just to think about shape and colour and the graphicness of the 3D objects themselves is really exciting to me and a bit of a breakthrough in my practice. Refreshing not just to simply see the vessel as a canvas for mark making.

New work arrayed…

My new porcelain hand thrown wares are building for the market season, as well as winging their way soon into the Platform Gallery in Lancashire for their Northern Star winter exhibition and Found Gallery in Dunbar in time for their winter show.

The Peapod and Dandelion versions of these thrown ceramics have cemented into the two designs I’m happiest with so it’s just going to be a case of trying to get faster at throwing them… Since getting back from sabbatical in July there has been a lot of work in the pipeline, building on the designs I began work on in Spring, and it’s satisfying to see it finally in the outcome stage.

Volcanic Yellow

I’ve been inspired for a while to try and create a sulphurous yellow glaze as I am a bit mad for yellow at the moment. I’ve also been working hard at throwing porcelain for my illustrated range – but felt it was time to try something a little different that relies simply on the surface effects and colour of the vessels in relation to the thrown shapes and the qualities of the material.

I completed a small body of work using some new glazes before going on sabbatical earlier this year and felt really pleased with how they came out of the kiln:

volcanic yellow four pieces

Volcanic Yellow collection in the studio.

I took the pots to Frome artisan market this month, selling out before I’d even had a chance to take any proper product shots! I must admit I was quite surprised at the level of positivity to them. Here are a few shots of them before they went:

volcanic yellow 1 lo

Volcanic Yellow on display a the Frome Independent market.

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Logo-ed base of Volcanic Yellow mug

I’m really looking forward to getting back into the studio now and developing this range further – I’ve already thrown a new shape of jug to play with. Shown below, they are just now drying out ready for bisque firing. Maybe it will be part of the new Volcanic Yellow range, or maybe an illustrated piece, I will be test-firing a few different ideas:

new jugs lo

 

Travels in pottery

Arriving back in the studio after a substantial time away in various parts of Asia, I thought I’d post up a little taste of the visual plenty from the trip, starting with of one of my favourite places – Bhaktapur.

This town in Nepal is a mediaeval city with a very strong artisanal tradition and a charming and laidback approach to life. Only an hour from the craziness of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is full of friendliness and a lively traditional, and very visible, culture. It’s a Newari city and it has it’s own special caste of potters – the Prajapatis. Historically this was a very low caste but it was heartening to meet young potters raising their heads high and proudly continuing their traditional heritage for a new era. By embracing social media, finding out about new techniques and researching new niches in their business they are moving away from occupying a challenging strata of society as the demand for simple bisque-fired, purely functional, single-use pots slowly dwindles. Below is an example of a traditional urn, situated on a street-corner sitting area:

Bhaktapur ancient pot

I had the privilege of watching and engaging with a remarkable master potter too. His ‘studio’ is simply an unsheltered area of a backstreet off Potters’ Square, next to some rudimentary storage space for his goods and materials. He works in the traditional style, throwing functional homewares such as rakshi brewing apparatus as well as myriad moneyboxes, as seen below – each of these pots is thrown in less than a minute on his huge momentum wheel, which is simply stirred into action with a wooden staff:

master at work

Pots drying in the square – these are for the local market and are functional pots for use in the home:

drying in potters square

Here a potter tends to one of the wood-fired kilns, before getting ready for the next firing. In preparation, women file through the square bearing huge bundles of straw to pack around the pots. Beneath is a shot of a kiln ready to fire. How the whole district doesn’t go up in flames I have no idea:wood firingready to fire

Pots of yoghurt stacked in a traditional curd shop. A buffalo milk delicacy, cooling earthenware bowls are still the preferred vessels to sell in – sadly they are discarded after use:

curd bowls

Below are some more shots of the square. You can see the huge stack of straw ready to be transported to the kiln firing buildings; pots ready for sale; pots drying out in the sun, each maker arranging them in a perfect grid of work; there is even pottery graffiti on a wall as you enter the Potter’s Square:

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I would love to spend more time here and feel the whole process from start to finish and speak to more of the traditional artisans still at work.

Adventures in Porcelain

January and February…the fairs are over, the festivities finished and the earth is hibernating and readying itself for germination. Much the same stage has been reflected here at As the Crow Flies. A really valuable period of reflective thought, sketching ideas, drawing on the ideas touch on in 2015 and pushing them further.

I’ve really enjoyed the chance to process carefully the throwing aims I’ve had, working towards cleaner shapes in porcelain, practising the motions of throwing and enjoying the smooth clean feel of porcelain after working in terracotta for so long. First out of the initial test firing was a Wild Pea serving bowl:

6 large wild pea bowl .jpg

Seeing the initial effects coming out on a few pieces enabled me to refine and progress the ideas…gradually more things came out of the kiln, building the bones of a new range of Dandelion and Wild Pea shapes; some of which are pictured below:

9 wild peas and dandelions7 wild pea large mug8 new bowls

I’m also pleased to have produced more satisfying wine tumblers and the first forays into vase production, but photos of these will have to come later. The final thing I played with was transposing my popular Nasturtium design from terracotta to porcelain – in tea cup form. Looking very Art Deco with it’s conical shape, I particularly like this example:

nasturtium tea cup

All in all, I feel ready for this year…although I’ll have to put my anticipation on hold for a little while as I am taking a sabbatical from mid-March to mid-July to walk through Mustang in the Himalayas and then cycle the through the Pamirs in Tajikistan up into Kyrgyzstan. I’m sure the inspiration will be myriad so I look forward to posting when I get back.

BCTF Harrogate

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Well, what an amazing week it’s been – so much to learn and so much inspiration gained from the British Craft Trade Fair last weekend. I’ll be posting up more fully about all the other ceramicists I had the chance to meet and chat to. For now, though, here are a couple of shots of my stand at the show. As the Crow Flies was in the Newcomers Gallery, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the other traders there and making friends with people producing everything from contemporary jewellery to beautiful knitted textiles. 

doily display lo

So many thanks to all the team at BCTF for creating such a great event, and to Angieof Craft&Design magazine for sponsoring the Newcomers’ Gallery and giving such a good talk and advice at the traders’ breakfast club.

Work in progress, in the elf studio…

Yikes, 3 markets booked in and stock needs to start emanating magically from my studio/hands/imagination/somewhere?…. So, strangely aided by the grip of a slightly head-hoovering post party slump I managed to turn my surviving (s)elf to the single-minded task of potting.  And *delighted* found myself to be undistractedly productive for many hours.  Without the adhd liveliness of a usual daytime weekend mind, I actually concentrated!

So, here are some little monochromatic tasters of goods yet to be finished… naked porcelain objects gently drying in readiness for decoration, glazes and double firing.

I’m especially looking forward to a flight of swallows.  I found a beautiful brass swallow in a little antiques market, full of forlorn Presents from Bournemouth, militaria and horrid horse brasses.  Just as I was lamenting how anyone could possibly buy or collect brass objects, so tacky and crass looking… my eye lit upon a single swallow perched on an almost-packed away stall and I knew we had a future together. My wonderful pottery teacher Bill showed me how to cast it and I am now creating porcelain swallows to be decorated in slips and oxides, hopefully to swoop gracefully onto people’s walls for Christmas time…

 

Ladies of Cliftonwood

whahey!! easter crafty baking joy in Cliftonwood as the Ladies get together for their fourth outing to make simnel cakes and easter nests; undignify themselves blowing eggs (horrible business, especially duck eggs) and getting painty; fondle the chicks that are hatching at an alarming rate in Netty, Jen and Bec’s back room; eat boiled eggs and soldiers with extremely nifty Ukrainian shrink-wrap boiled egg designs on… and other appropriate sorts of activities.

I finally got my marzipan applied and browned this evening, having left far too late last night with a very hot cake and no bike lights to do anything about it before bed yesterday.  And this was the exciting result (note the slightly crushed and smudged painted eggs produced especially for the occasion and hung using Holly’s extremely cunning matchstick-and-string Steiner equipment (thus proving the worth of a steiner education for daily living…)

a mo a mass a mat a marmalady moon…. our first try at productivity on a grand scale yielded some rather fine marmalades in January.  We rock.

** for things of a more foodie nature – please go to my cookzine which is currently residing at http://frangipanepie.wordpress.com/