Category Archives: Mud

Thou foster child of silence and slow time


Salisbury was cool and grey.  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)

And then it was the business of the day.  And yes – it went well.



… but muddy anyway.

A newish plant I know as Joseph’s Coat (but may not be) has put on new growth and is flowering.  I hope that means it likes its corner here by the window.


In the damp cold of the conservatory this little cyclamen is shedding lavish fragrance.  Why on earth don’t I have more?


This ravaged item looks sad – most of it has been harvested


along with other plants to do a propagation thing.  Some have taken already, and some are thinking about it.


Then I started sowing.  These are perennials, which may or may not flower for the first time this year, if I can get them an early start in their improvised propagator.


And then to get properly muddy with the remains of the paper clay I made using beach clay.  I’ve not tried to throw with it before, and it feels very soft and temperamental compared with the commercial unpapered stoneware clay which I usually use for thrown pots. Also found a few small stones as I threw – not a great idea either for the pot or the fingers.  Unfortunately to avoid this I would have to reduce the raw clay to a slop, push it through a fine sieve, and spend ages waiting for the slop to dry after that. I’m too lazy. Today’s focus was on making small funny shapes to test to destruction.


Full day


Today I had enough to do.  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)




Well first I caught up with this classic from 1950 which it happened I’ve never read before.  In these healthandsafety days it is extraordinary how they just fired themselves off into the vast blue with an untried craft and a vague theory.  I’m glad they didn’t drown.


Then there was this discussion about why Alfred achieved his mythic status when others didn’t (and why Arthur became even more mythic on even less evidence).  Given Horspool’s contention that the real king was very separate from the symbolic hero, I thought perhaps he could have called his historical guy Ælfred, which would be the authentic spelling and would remind readers he was not talking about Alfred the Cake (except when he was).


I went on a Cook’s tour as part of the theology jag, which suffered from the usual problem:  simplification leads to falsification.  How do you pot hundreds of pages of theological subtlety into three pages?  Not only that, but which theologians do you include in and out?  Well written, and some delightful anecdotes to keep the attention. I still don’t know my Tillich from my Rahner without looking them up, but I’m getting a handle on Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa and Aquinas.


Not entirely sure how this one took up residence, as I am not a Holmes fan.  This seems fairly faithful to the original in that after reading it I am still not a Holmes fan.


Like eating crisps, you keep reading just one more letter … and then one more.  Between them the sisters seem to have met EVERYONE at some point.  The most disturbing letters are of course Unity’s before her head injury, and Diana’s thereafter.  The embedded antisemitism before the war must have been enormous to allow cultivated and intelligent people to blind themselves to the implications of the Nazi regime.  I fear that Diana’s insistence on the charm and intelligence of the Nazi leaders was probably correct, though it caused such a fuss every time she said it after the war; unfortunately charm and intelligence can belong to horrible people.  Lessons for our time?  There’s also a subtext running through the book about witty writers being tempted into falsity and cruelty, because it allows them to write such good lines.  The correspondence comprises an enormous pageturner of a family saga, with some descriptions of pure and blissful absurdity to sweeten it.


Moomins … all my copies are loved to bits like this one.  They look cute, but have an arbitrariness and unpredictability which keeps them from the icky swamp.  The Groke doesn’t crop up in this one, but the curious sacrifice of the shy Hemulen poses a question which I’d like to hear Anselm or Luther discuss.


The power of the clerihew.  I can never hear of Sir Humphrey Davy without remembering that he detested gravy.  Similarly, my only information about Heidegger is that he was a boozy beggar.  I therefore chose this to establish some sense of the borderland between philosophy and theology.  I found it difficult to identify what the expected readership for the volume was – intelligent fourteen-year-olds, perhaps. Where Hill and Warburton both summarise the same thinkers, it is sometimes difficult to believe they are talking about the same person.  On the whole I felt that Warburton’s simplifications were cruder than those of Hill and  I am definitely not getting embroiled with philosophy.



Last and not least, this curiosity.  Written with what now comes over as a mixture of pomposity, facetiousness, and pedantry, it can never have been a best seller, although I notice that the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum has a copy, and, bizarrely, there is some sort of print on demand version available via the web.  Yes, I did enjoy it. Weirdly.


I’ve called a halt to the binge.  Instead – the tricky business of trying to make a teeny weeny pelvis in clay.  Long bones are fine though.  There’s a project hatching for a local school ….


…. and another section of my library is being called into action.

Marginally kippered


Raining raining raining (and on).

Mud pies are the first remedy.  I’m experimenting with paper clay, so I tried some hand-building.


Since I fully intend to abuse these pots in all sorts of ways until I’ve tested them to destruction, I’m not bothering with niceties like getting their curves symmetrical.  They are ponderous for their size, and, perhaps because it’s Sunday, and I’m half expecting this pot to explode at some point, I couldn’t help thinking of it as the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, à la Pythons.


After mud pies, setting fire to stuff is a good thing to do, so I tried a miniature barrel smoke-firing with some biscuit fired gash pots.  As the house is luckily in possession of a chimney, I could do this without annoying the neighbours or going out in the rain 🙂


I was aiming for a quick cool burn so as not to crack the pots, and that sort of worked.  Without a draft into the materials, the combustion is brief and incomplete.  I could make holes in the sides of the bucket or invest in a small incinerator if I want to get a thorough burn, but then again I do want smoke rather than hot intense flame.


Some interesting marks; and a lot of work to do before I get the process under any sort of control.  Still – proof of concept.


When you don’t know where to start


This has been a week resented, as lost time I’ll never get back again.  But when you don’t know where to start, don’t waste the facilities you already have, especially the low-investment ones.  In this case, a couple of gash plates and an open fireplace.

Ascertaining a): biscuit fired plates don’t automatically go ping if you light small fires in them


Ascertaining b):  the assorted combustibles used may indeed produce marks worth having (with due diligence in the learning process).  I’m particularly intrigued by these green marks and filaments.


So grumpy, yes; but fractionally less grumpy.

In which nothing much happens


Waiting by a row of variously muddy jugs for three days, it occurs to me that my efforts may be otiose.  I picked the most evenly-textured bit of landslip for the terra sigillata experiment, and it’s possible that, hundreds of aeons gone, the coastal marshes did all this levigation stuff already.  Certainly the clay particles are so fine that they seem capable of remaining in suspension almost indefinitely.


A clear inch of water did eventually form on top, which I decanted; and then decanted the next few inches of the jug, which poured smooth as milk (never mind the smell).   In case I want to use it, the thicker layer from the bottom of the first sedimentation is drying out on newspaper, and as I continue to wait there is plenty of time to appreciate its subtle perfections.




Tied up all day to a craft event when I would rather have been getting on with something of my own.

patienceI had an idea, and spent the day incubating it and grumping; and having finally escaped I came home, soaked, slopped, mushed and stirred.  I now have to wait for the beach clay/paper clay to dry out enough to handle, while fidgeting about too restless for other activities.  The idea may well turn out to be rubbish, but I Want To Know.

In another slice of village life, the local health centre put an entry in the Christmas Tree Fest, and got very busy with the ping-pong balls:

public-healthHmmm. Festive, eh?