Tag Archives: pottery



The beach clay pots are in progress, and I am trying to possess myself in patience and retard their drying to a suitable slowness.  This is difficult, as they are completely in the way, all over the kitchen – the conservatory would risk them drying too fast, or unevenly if the sun caught them on one side.

Some of them have cracked anyway, but on this occasion I don’t think it is my lack of patience.  The three are all made from the same batch of yellowish-grey clay, which is a 100% failure rate for this particular clay body.  Lucky it wasn’t one of the larger batches.  I shall not recycle the clay and try again; if it won’t do a slow dry without cracking, I can’t imagine it firing successfully either.

I’ve had some odd things posted to me by various nearests and dearests; this has to be one of the oddest.

Punishment for disorganisation


is to find another eleven spidery plastic bags in a corner of the garage, each with a lump or two of dried out clay at the bottom, and all completely unlabelled.    (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)

Now:  can I, from touch memory, work out what sorts of clay the last six lumps are, which are all very slightly differing shades of grey…  Groans.

Creaking slightly


and not feeling creatively adventurous.  I’ve used up nearly all the algae-encrusted, dried-out or slimy remnants at the bottom of plastic sacks, though, which is a sort of achievement.

The mugs and jugs are bog-standard stoneware and I hope their simple shapes will show off my favourite green glaze with its dark tan colour break.  Fingers crossed.  The main practical problem at the moment is to slow down the drying, as the conservatory temperature is peaking at about 85° in the shade.  So the kitchen table is now fully occupied with slightly whiffy clay, outgassing slowly.

Nothing much to be said either for the basic flowerpots made with the local clay from the beach.  Since I don’t know if they will fire successfully, I’m not going to invest a lot of time in each piece.  I’m guessing that holes at the bottom and in the rims may weaken their structure and crack the pots, but we’ll soon see.

Creak creak.



It’s fun to watch the young blackbirds bathing; not as funny as the blue tits, however, which are so tiny they are up to their necks when they get in.  Look at me swimming … glug …

Not much throwing lately; time to rectify this, but all spaces in this house have to multi-task, so first I had to remove from the wheel about forty agastache, bergamot and aquilegia seedlings, a tray of pricked-out snapdragons, an ounce or so of escaped potting compost, and some curly lettuce.  (Obviously didn’t move them far enough, as I then trod in the lettuce.  Never mind, they were annoying anyway.)

Some of the beach clay I collected last time was so fine it seemed worth trying to throw with it – most of the beach clays go for hand-building, as the coarse texture would sandpaper your fingers if it was whizzing on the wheel.  This fine one is very unspringy, and, being out of practice, the first thing I made was a splot, and another effort was destroyed by an undetected small stone in the clay ball.  However, there are now a few grey basics sitting on the side to play with and decorate later.  I’ve no idea how this will fire.

Then it was time to exercise my civic responsibilities.  Many compatriots will understand when I say that I came home with a large chocolate bar, and feeling glum.

I wonder if coloured paper and scissors and glue will make things better … and tea in a proper cup and saucer … and space opera?

Definitely space opera.

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.





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.