Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blast From the Past

Some of you may know, I led a past life as a textile artist.  I did a lot of weaving, dying of fleece and yarns, some spinning, some felting, A TONNE of sewing... basically all things textile. Except Crochet.  I hate crochet. Not the look of it, that I love. Its the doing it. I can't get into it. Makes me cranky even. These days my textile work extends mostly to sporadic knitting at the perk, when I remember to show up. I have been knitting the same shawl for two or three years now. DON'T JUDGE!!!  Its more of a social thing for me these days. And if you want to stretch the idea of textile work, I do make the yarn bowls...

And I do really like making the yarn bowls. I haven't really thought about my textile work a lot lately, just pumping out the pottery, and pushing around boxes of yarns and fabrics that are languishing about my living space. But earlier this week, something happened. It seems as though some pretty cool folk I know have started a Farmer's Market! This is a very cool thing BTW. Check it out! the Downton Sydney Farmer's Market, going live on Feb 26 2011!!!
Of course I applied for a spot at this hot and happenin new venue.  when I applied I applied as a potter, who might maybe want to sell some textile type stuff. I sent photos of my pots along with my app, and got a message back asking for some images of textiles. M'kay I thought, there must be a shot or two somewhere, of something I made. Nada, zip, zilch.. NOT ONE. All of them were lost when My last Frankenputer died. I was about to give up when I remembered I had pictures on my old blog. YAY!!!
So since I did all the work hauling them off that blog and sending them to The FM , I thought I would share a few with Y'all.

No word on whether I am "in" yet, but I am sure they will at least let me sell my pots........

Monday, February 21, 2011


The kiln is slowly cooling downstairs, 1300 degrees last time I checked. Its hard, this waiting. I have stashed a few experiments in this firing, pushing the envelope a bit, trying some new things. Its good to shake things up a bit now and then. It has been a while since I last took a little venture out of my safety zone, glaze wise.
One of the things I miss most about being a student, is the glaze chem lab. I love trying new glaze formulas, playing the alchemist, and discovering that perfect colour/texture combo. These days I rarely get to experiment, I have my core glazes, and I can fiddle around a bit with them...but setting up a chemical cupboard to test as much as I would like to, would cost the moon.
This is a pretty tame group of experiments, just some new variations on some glaze combos, and some experimental brush work. The studio is looking rather like a bomb went off, so I had best get down there, and make it serviceable again. There are orders that need filling... no rest for the wicked!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

update on the shaving mugs....

I declare, these mugs to be
a) a success and
b) SOLD!...
Now to make more more more for the other billion folks who need one.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Bit O' The Irish

I have been working on a celtic theme for years now, both in my fibre art, and more recently in my pottery. My love of the knots and spirals and zoomorphic critters has grown over the years, but really took hold in my first year of art school, when My Art History instructor first had us watch In The Name of the Rose and then took us all to see a fine facsimile of The Book Of Kells I was in awe of the intricate illustrations. this is one of my favourite pages from the book

After I saw this book I was hooked. I began to seek out all things Celtic. Back in 1992 that meant whatever I could find at my local library, which sadly was not much. In the ensuing years I have picked up quite a collection of books on celtic design, I have surfed the net and looked at beautiful carvings at New Grange, on gravestones, and warrior shields, and perused the virtual collections of many museums. I discovered other medieval Manuscripts, such as The Lindifarne Gospels, which I love.....its got some pretty cool images, just sayin. Now as much as I admire these beautifully painted images, it is the celtic stonework that really gets me all fired up..
 like this spirally goodness at Newgrange in Ireland.
And this beautiful two sided figure from Boa island in Northern Ireland

The stonework, and the metalwork really blow my mind, and inspire my work more than the painted images. It is the tactile nature, the feel of the knotwork, the smooth flow of the spirals that keep me going back to this beautiful, ancient design.
In my work, I use a lot of stamps to create the patterns. I carve all of them myself, many of the carvings are drawn from actual artifacts, carved in clay then cast in plaster to make a durable mold of the carving. Others, I carve in porcelain clay, and bisque fire.
This is a small selection of the stamps and sprig molds I use regularly in my celtic work.
and a finished celtic plate

The latest efforts are still in the design phase- two pedastal dishes, I am kind of groovin on these ones.....

For more celtic work, click on the Celtic Porcelain tab at the top of my blog.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Bits......

The past week has been very busy Chez Lizzie. Our studio has been completely re organized, orders sent off to NB, and new orders started. The weather here in Cape Breton has been brutal, more storm days than I can count. But after helping the kidlet with her super cool Science Fair project this past weekend, I have jumped right back into design mode. Stay tuned for the pinhole camera post... just waiting for it to return from school.
I have been approached by a soapmaker, who is on the hunt for shaving mugs. Now, I have never made a shaving mug, not even sure that I have ever seen one in person. My ex always just used an old coffee cup. BUT I am always up for a challenge, so off I went galavanting across the internets... in search of the elusive shaving mug.
WOW! Who knew there was such debate over the the best shaving mug design. I was very quickly drawn into the whole debate. There are the simple bowl folk, the grab a mug from the cupboard and hope the wife doesn't notice type, and the true connaisseur who will accept nothing but the finest china with drain holes and pour spouts and covers to keep in the heat.  Check out this bad boy patented in 1867. Fancy!
I found it on Wikipedia. Its awesome. But more than a little complex for my taste. Just looking for something simple folks.
Now a lot of the mugs I stumbled upon, were really pretty, but not very manly. Or they were really boring, and plain. There were a few nice handmade pottery mugs and bowls out there. I looked them over and decided to head on down to the studio to come up with my interpretation of the shaving mug.

My criteria were simple:
1) must fit a 3 inch bar of shaving soap
2) must have brush holder

These first two were supplied by the soap maker- she is the expert !
The next are my own.

3) must be manly. There are far too many girly shave mugs out there.
4) must blend in with my existing line of work.
It is becoming increasingly important to me to have a recognizable feel to my pots. I am not sure where this is coming from, but its working for me, and I am going with it for now.
5) It needs to be an item I can make  quickly, and in quantity.

The first kick at the can was really pretty. I used an interpretation on the design of my whiskey cups and shot glasses.
I liked it a lot, but it was a bit too deep. Like twice as deep as it needed to be. also, the darted bottom works well as a whiskey cup, but it seems a bit curvey for the bottom of a shaving cup. As shaving cup it is a failure, but as a soup mug we have a winner. Tweaking of the handle and foot, and voila! Soup.

I posted mach one up on my FB page for feedback, and got LOTS of advice. I got measurements of antique brushes and photos of people's shaving setup with rulers for scale. It was great. I went back to the studio, and tweaked my design a bit. I think we have made some progress. I made five bowls. I played around a bit with the handles, eliminated the darts, and made a flat bottom.

I think the last one is the one. I feel really good about it. Now to fire 'em up and test them out. Going back down to the studio, and filling some more orders. Next on the agenda? More Yarn Bowls, some sugar bowls creamers and butter dishes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Alchemy, Hard Science and Magic.

As most of you Potters know, our work is heavily science based. A fairly decent understanding of chemistry, and physics is necessary to being able to produce consistant results in your work. To make exceptional glazes, to create new forms and push the limits of your clay body, your glazes, and your equipment you have to grock the sciences. We potters are part engineer, part electrician, part artist, but most of all, we are mad pyromaniacal scientists. Get a few potters together, add some wine/beer/coffee and soon the topics turn to unity formulas, heatwork, glaze fit, expansion and contraction, reduction atmospheres, carbon trapping...the list goes on, and just gets geekier and geekier in the process.

A few days ago, as I stood over my kiln , oven mitts at the ready, my neighbour (friend/landlord/physicist) walked in. We chatted while he puttered around a bit, stacking wood, sorting some recycleables and eventually he asked if I was going to open it.

When I popped  the lid,  I gasped and blurted out

"It's just like magic!!!"

 When I heard myself say those words to a real honest-to-goodness Scientist, an expert even. I must admit,  I cringed a little inside. I know how much actual science happens to get these pots to this point. I do that science, for Gawd's sake!

My followup was nearly as brilliant.

"Maybe it's a bit more like Alchemy" I say.

(Sometimes my mouth gets ahead of my brain. I blame it on a lack of caffiene in my system.)

He laughed, and said something to the effect that he gets the science behind it all, but agrees, when that lid gets closed, its all about the magic...

I had forgotten, that he was raised by a Potter/Alchemist/Magician..........

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

PARTY!!!!!, East Coast Snowed in Style + the Best Kiln Opening To Date

 While the menfolk made plans for world domination, us womenfolk got serious about the really important things in life. No not whiskey... recycled bottle.. Its actually homemade wine.

Morgan decided he prefered our company to the company of the RISK players. And though it looks as though he is enjoying a glass of wine the size of his head, actually he had soymilk, the wine is mine.
Sorry Morgan, a few years to go yet buddy.
the boys did take a break to eat. Brocolli was the prettiest thing we ate, but there was lots of other good food.
 Seonaid was the one who took it out of the oven

but Geoff was the chef

Conrad made sure the wine was hitting the glasses

Aidan thinks I am Hilarious it might be because of the large quantity of  questionable homemade wine I was consuming

Sophie entertained us all she has a huge amount of energy.
 Phew, I am tired just thinking about it!

 Mason and Geoff had a very serious discussion about something...I think.
India woke up from her nap, and joined the festivities-Thanks for that,lol.
We decided to forgo the traditional candles in the cake scenario, in favour of the flaming torches beside the cake. Mostly because we only had recycled candles and we could not guarantee that some kid hadn't licked them on a previous birthday .  Normally we would use new candles, but seeing as we are snowed in, any fire is better than no fire. Resourceful. That's what we are!
AND... my kiln fired beautifully and I am in love with the results of this firing! here is a taste of what came out.. remember those slippy blue bowls I was throwing????

I KNOW!!!!!!, I felt the same way when I saw them. I could just eat them right up. That blue and teal slip is SUPER YUMMY!
But lets not ignore the handbuilt yarn bowls, no, they are also looking pretty fine! as a matter of fact, I think this may be the nicest yarn bowl I have ever made.

I love it so much, I am sad to ship it off to NB tomorrow along with a few others, bound for the St John City Market, with my  friend Liz. I am making more of these asap.
Here are a few more. Pretty, but not as pretty as my Daisy bowl.

But I must say, I have been working on a new product, something I haven't made since it was an assignment in second year... Jugs. They are lookin pretty sweet I must say. sure there needs to be some tweeking on the proportions of the smaller ones, but all in all. I declare it to be an excellant start