Category Archives: Mud

More for potters and the obsessively curious

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(and also rather pretty).  Click a thumbnail for the gallery.

This time we looked at the glazes on pots.  Tricky to get a focus and no reflections on curved surfaces.

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For potters and the obsessively curious

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(Don’t say you weren’t warned.)

I have turned my Christmas present on a few (fired) clay bodies.  Click a thumbnail for the gallery.

Turning out at night

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Out back to the garage in the dark and cold, playing a kind of loathsome hopscotch over grey slugs which slime about even in December.  As always I was longing for the heat in my face, the clean smell, and the sense of relief or exasperation, as it might happen to be.

Rather less like milk chocolate, and luckily the local clay hasn’t cracked. I’ve rushed these little plaques and the edges are rougher than they should be.  Must check them over and use a carborundum to take down anything notably savage.

These are a dull idea, redeemed because they retain the chaste quality of the parent porcelain, while a judicious quantity of toilet roll (infra dig!) added to the body makes them lighter and warmer to the touch.  They take a crisp impression, which may be useful for a more sophisticated future project.

I’m unsure what to do with the small pieces, though there are a few experiments ready to go.  But the pierced hearts have arrived just in time to save my bacon; it’s the Christmas tree festival this week, and until this hour had no idea what to do for the family tree.

The sort of day when

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Yesterday the garden fair was all ice cream and summer dresses.  Today was the sort of day when the hills disappear, when the rain streams down your face into your mouth in spite of the storm hood, when water runs into your sleeves as you take a bite of damp cake, when you snap no photos and send no texts in case the phone drowns, the kind of day when the legs of your jeans are so heavy with water that they start to pull themselves down off your bottom as you walk.  A few keen gardeners traipsed around, bought a plant or two, and went home for early lunch, no doubt consoling themselves that their £7 entry was going to a Good Cause.  The show was officially declared rained off at three, and we packed up as the angrily-flapping canvas tried to take off in the gusts, and just as the ground paused on the verge of becoming an un-driveable quag.

It was, indeed, the sort of day when you strip off your horrible trousers as you walk into the house, indifferent to the privacy of a bathroom or bedroom (or even a closed front door); and when you utter thanks to those trusty old soldiers in your service –

– feet being the only parts of the anatomy which were still both warm, and perfectly dry.

Saving the worst for last

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Not that I originally had any idea how annoying it would be.

One batch of beach clay was a rich, dark, intense orange-red, slightly gritty, and I soaked it for a long time to get the smoothest consistency possible.  Turns out that it is a pig of a clay – staining everything it touches, sticky and lumpy at the same time, and almost impossible to wedge up, as it goes from a glutinous unhandleable mess to a dense resistant lump with no apparent intermediate stage.  Of course, it absolutely did not want to be thrown; and after one attempt I damped it down (making it glutinously unhandleable again) and added some fine sand in an attempt to open the body a little.  This had no practical effect when the clay firmed up again (perhaps not enough sand) and it reverted to being a heavy, dense, entirely un-plastic clod.

Naturally I am far too obstinate just to chuck it out – having carried it three-quarters of a mile off the beach – so the intransigent clay and I sat to the wheel and beat one another into submission.  The throwing slurry is an even brighter colour than the clay, so I ended up red in tooth and claw, and the conservatory looked as if a massacre had taken place.

I can scarcely bear to think of the turning and drying and firing processes still to come; surely these pots won’t survive.

My forearms hurt.  Time for a nice little lie down.

Flat chickens

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I’ve trained them too well:  every time I walk out into the garden they rush under my feet, looking for breadcrumbs.  So far I have managed not to stand on them (much).

You would think I had stamped them all flat when they are lying in their favourite dirt bath, squashed down, spread out, heads extended at bizarre angles, feathers cocked inside out, feet projecting improbably, squirming their wings as if dismembered.  In fact, of course, they are just superbly relaxed.

I was not as relaxed as they were, having undertaken a maddening hunt for a pin.  I’m careful with pottery tools, but I’m always losing pins.  After half an hour looking in every drawer and receptacle, likely or unlikely, I found a brand new one.  Where the others have gone, who can tell?

Today was the start of one final collection of beach clay pots, from six or seven different small batches of clay, hoping for some good colour variations after firing.  Then I’m going to call a halt – at least until I have grown some new skin on my fingers and the palms of my hands.  Exfoliation?  Ow!

Broomfrighteners

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The second batch of beach clay pots went in for a  v e r y   s l o w   f i r i n g,  and I only lost one, cracked at the rim.  I’m surprised how pale some of them came out – one of the grey clays must have had scarcely any iron in.  Also rather oddly, the blue-green clay fired to a quite strong terracotta, and not surprisingly at all, the dark orangey brown fired to dark orange-red.  I think they will look better when dirtied and algaed up a bit.  Going in raw:

The third batch are drying out ( v e r y   s l o w l y,  of course).  Meantime I have had an outbreak of porcelain bud vases, which is about as different a throwing challenge from the big rough beach clay pots as you could possibly get.  I do make the little vases quite chunky though – my excuse, so that they will be stable if heavy-headed flowers are put in them.

It was difficult to achieve the zen-like concentration needed for good throwing, as the wretched guest poultry, which are allowed to forage on a large patch of grass, a partly-dug vegetable bed, the wild-bit-at-the-back, a neglected border, and a long gravel path, have found the one bit of garden I don’t want them in.  Naturally.

They waited until I was well settled at the wheel, and then tip-toed down the grass, carefully not making eye contact with me, to the forbidden territory.  I added a new game called broomfrighteners to my sporting repertoire, sweeping the invaders up the garden with gratifying flutters and flaps and squawks.  The chooks then stood about ten yards off, doing chicken things with their necks and complaining, waited for me to sit down to the next bud vase, and immediately started doing grandmother’s footsteps back down the garden for the next round.  So far, I reckon they are winning on points.

On the other hand: egg and lettuce sandwiches; swiss roll; baked custard; omelette; quiche …