Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Making of the Secret Surprise

Because the surprise was a secret surprise I did not share pictures of the work in progress. Now that the secret is revealed you can see what you missed in this wannabe tutorial.

Step one:
Getting inspired by the window hangings at the pottery, I admire so much.

There are more but stupid me didn't take pictures of all of them (or at least one good picture for that matter).

Step two:
Pondering many a week about the design of the teapot, making sketches and roaming the internet for pictures of English teapots. The pots I found at the English Tea Store have been my main source of inspiration.

Step three:
Turning the sketches into a paper stencil.

Step four:
Asking a nice person to roll a big lump of clay flat and having this done putting the stencil onto the clay and carefully cutting around it with a sharp blade.

Step five:
My favourite part: adding decoration. I don't have a picture of this part of the process because when I had finished my pattern a board was put on the teapot (on which it dried) and turned upside down to remove the cloth from the backside and I forgot to take a picture before.

Step six:
Bisque firing. This is what it looked like at this point.

A closer look on the decoration:

Step seven:
Smoothing sharp edges and then painting it with manganese dioxide.

Another close look:

Step eight:
Firing it in the kiln once more and admiring the result.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Secret Surprise Revealed

My sister's back from England, where she spent 10 long months (which now feel quite short) to get herself an eccentric and snobbish attitude, a beer belly, loads of heavy books and art exhibition catalogues and most importantly to deepen her obsession with the art of drinking tea. I wanted the secret surprise I had in mind to welcome her back to be related to the latter. It should be a teapot! As I'm not skilled enough to build a three-dimensional one I made a flat version, that could be used as a wall hanging, inspired by similar vessels hanging in the windows of the pottery studio. Finally, here it is:

Monday, 21 July 2008

Balcony News

I'm itching to work with clay (and I even bought some more polymer clay and some gloss varnish for beads, that I haven't tried before) but I have no time these days. So instead of crafting news here are some pictures from my balcony.

My sunflower began to bloom. (Sunflower fields also look very impressive at the moment.)

I was surprised to find a little pumpkin growing from a blossom! This came totally unexpected. There must have been a bumblebee (It's so seldom that I spot a bee this year!) that visited another pumpkin blossom before it came across mine.

(I had more pictures, but Blogger keeps on with rotating them for no apparent reason.)

Saturday, 19 July 2008

A Field Trip with my Rooster

I took my rooster out on a walk in the countryside and he eagerly posed for me in some pictures. (I tell him all the time that he's very good-looking and he wants his beauty exposed to more eyes than mine.) So, here we are!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Trying a new Technique

Here comes my second homemade dish. I used a flowerpot saucer as a mould for the plate I made and then I tried something new. When I was roaming crafting blogs I stumbled across this great snowflake tutorial by Eleanor Hendriks of StudioÈLAN. Check out her wonderful ceramics!

Blogger doesn't like me and rotated some of the following pictures, but as they show circular patterns it's not too confusing I hope.

I made a round paper stencil (and noticed afterwards that I cut through the face of a former boss of mine, but hey, that's your risk when you have your picture in the newspaper.) and put it onto the damp clay.

Then I took a brush and applied slip, that I had prepared before of dark contrasting clay, but I reckon it was a tad too wet and fluid.

I removed the stencil way too early, smudged my pattern and resorted to swearing.

Then I added a lot of my usual impressed decoration and let everything dry.

I spent the next morning carefully scratching away the exess clay of the smudges but still the pattern doesn't look as neatly as it should. Both my plate and my bowl are in the pottery already and can get bisque fired soon. It worked quite well to carry them there in their moulds. Free formed items would be more difficult to transport safely.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Making Pottery at Home

Yay, I've got clay at home and the best rainy weather for crafting, so I couldn't wait and started right away with a bowl (of course) made with the mould I borrowed.

Now, with no time limit I can work as slowly as I need to, which is the biggest advantage compared to the class. The biggest disadvantages are my lack of tools and of a proper working space. I mess around in my kitchen and it seems to be inevitable to produce a lot of fine dust, that wouldn't bother me in a studio but isn't the best of things I could think of in a kitchen.

But it's extremely fascinating for me to finally see the stages the clay goes through in the process of drying. So far I only experienced the material in the softest state and a week later completely dried. Now for the first time I got to know what I found described in books as the leather-hard stage, when the clay is still flexible but can be handled without deformation and is already as hard that touching it doesn't leave fingerprints on the surface and it even can be burnished to a smooth shine. I touch and look at and turn around my creation all the time, as everything is so new to me and I'm about to get a better feel for the clay.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Handmade and Homegrown

I went to the pottery to pick up my cachepot. I've got my rooster two weeks ago, but haven't taken photos yet, because my mother likes the proud bird so much, she instantly kept him. (I intend to take some pictures soon.)
But I did not only pick up my pot, I also took some clay with me and not only some clay, I also borrowed a mould! Woohoo! I can mess around at home now! (Although I don't know how to bring fragile dried items back to the pottery without breaking.) My feelings are divided though. My mind is excited but my wrists say: "You're stupid, stupid, stupid! Very stupid, that's what you are!" and then my mind, knowing that my tendons, muscles or both of them are burning like an igniter cord from my fingers to my elbow and up to my shoulder says: "The wrists are right! You ARE stupid!". So, let's see if I get anything done... Actually I planned to work with polymer clay, but it has to wait.

Today I harvested my first fresh and tasty green bell pepper! Look! They grow so well!

It feels good to take pictures of homegrown vegetables in bowls I made myself.

I wish I could also produce electricity by myself!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Blossoms on my Balcony

Not much babble today, just some botanic pictures from my balcony to enjoy. I can replace more of my climber's numbers by actual names now.

There's a second beautiful Morning Glory. It's pink and (so far) not growing as fast as the other one. They twined and winded around each other, so there are pink and purple blossoms close together, greeting me in the morning.

This picture makes me feel a bit dizzy, as this is a view from outside of my balcony, taken with an outstreched arm. The red blossoms you can spot in the middle are Sweet Peas (Wicken in German) and they remind me of "Mrs Dalloway" all the time.

I've also got some in a shade of deep violet, but they snapped during a thunderstorm two nights ago (and so did some branches of my tomatoes). Flowers with their heads down at weird angles are such a sad sight. I haven't cut them off so far. I tried to give them back some stability and hope they'll grow further despite the damage. They smell so good! Everything smells so nicely after a heavy summer rain. It's like the stinky smell of the town is washed away and a thousand earthy scents are floating through the air.

Another one of my climbers seems to be a pumpkin. I had no idea pumpkins are climbers! Well, the seed looked like a pumpkin seed and my mother says those are pumpkin blossoms, but it looks like I won't have a big yellow balloon hanging on the side of my balcony at halloween, as the blossoms just fall off. Seems like it needs at least two plants to grow some pumpkins.