The prize for this April's #wipsandblooms had been provided by The We Make Collective.com.
Making is a funny old business. It's amazing how something so rewarding can equally be so frustrating and agonising. The lengths we go to, to make something just right can be a painful process, but inevitably whatever you make you have to push yourself beyond your boundary to produce something innovative or original that gives your work an identity.
And although my work currently has a distinctive style, I'm always trying to experiment (sometimes behind the scenes) about what my next body of work might look like.
Kate from @aplayfulday is encouraging people to blog about what making means to them and to use the tag #themakersyear, as part of a creativity and sustainable living challenge with a seasonal focus, so that makers can find each other, and as a community we can share our issues, niggles and experiences.
I strongly believe that as single makers out there we are like little fish in a huge pond, but as soon as we begin to connect with each other, through collaboration, praise or feedback then we grow in confidence and stature to become much bigger fish. And our making or promotion of it (which to me is of equal importance) takes on a new stature. Afterall, what's the point of creating something amazing if no-one else knows about it? Unless of course you don't want to sell it, and are just making for yourself, which is a privileged position to be in.
The inspiration for creating my own handmade time piece originally came from reading Teri's The Lovely Drawer's blog, where she made a clock with a redundant bread board. Do check it out as it even has the links on where to buy the hands.
If you have been following me you will know that I recently moved into my new ceramics studio - and I'm not kidding, it is so easy to loose track of time, so once I had seen Teri's blog I knew that I had to make my own porcelain clock.
It turned out so well, that I'm so happy. Here it is hanging up in my studio with my beautiful kilner light from Jam-Jar lights (who are offering 10% off before May 11th).
I thought you might be interested to know how I made it... This tutorial is aimed at those who already have a working knowledge of clay. I know not many people have access to porcelain (but am fairly sure similar principles can be applied to air-drying clay?). I've tried to suggest alternatives if you don't have access to the same tools that I have.
These measurements are approximate as it depends how big you want your clock to be, and its best to have too much as you can always use it for other projects as long as you wrap it up well. My finished clock was 22cm across.
Take a chunk of white porcelain - I took about 2.5 inches off a roll, and then I took about a third of this in black porcelain. There are different ways to marble clay. I squidged the two together then separate them twisting them apart and put them back together with the opposite ends. (might need to do another tutorial on this with an extra pair of hands!).
Pat the clay into a ball - the pattern might not look that interesting yet - but roll out the clay with two wooden slats on either side. I actually have a pastry rolling pin which measures the thickness of the clay as you roll it out. You will need to do this between layers of fabric so that you can keep turning it ove. Then leave the clay to harden slightly. (It is easier to put the hole in now - which you can do with a pen-lid so you know where the centre is).
I then drew a template with a compass to 26cm on card (but if you have a plate you can cut round that). Porcelain shrinks by a third so the finished measurement is 22cm across. The next part is quite tricky - I drew round the circle very carefully with a sharp knife. I then used a hole piercer to create the hole. (again bigger than it needed to be; but if its not quite the right size don't worry as you can sand it down once it is fired and the clock fitting has a generous centre piece to hide the workings).
I then left the clay to slow dry for about two weeks - keeping it compressed under a board and turning it occasionally. Then it was ready to first fire. After first-firing I sanded down the sides to make it smooth and the clock-face to bring out the marbling. It was then ready for the second-firing.
The clock fittings have the instructions of how to fit them, I had to cut mine down slightly to fit my clock-face as I had made it as a big as possible for my kiln already. The clock part even as a hook space so I didn't need to worry about how to put the clock on the wall.
This understated design fits in with my studio so well and its so nice to have made it myself. Do you have any DIY projects happening that you've done recently that you're proud of? Go on... Share away.
If you don't fancy making your own, then then I am accepting commissions on etsy to make a similar item. Click on the link to go directly to my shop.
As a child I remember loving those little transfers you could get for instant colour and pattern. As a grown-up it's great to re-ignite those youthful passions. For those who work with clay, I'm talking about decals...
I made some floral brooches as a Christmas present idea last year and they were really popular, and have just finished a very-last-minute mother's day one too. So I thought I'd show you some step-by-steps.
For the full 'how to' guide, have a look here at Bailey Decal Ltd. where I bought my transfer sheets.
First of all you need to cut out your shape carefully. I used a protractor to get a nice round circle for the brooch.
Allow the decal section to soak (one at a time) until it starts to uncurl and relaxes slightly.
Pick up the decal with the backing paper and slide from the decal onto the ware (make sure the ware is clean first).
Position the decal in the correct position and hold one edge with a finger. I then use a rubber kidney to remove all water and air bubbles from under the decal. This bit is so important to really take your time over - be meticulous! Finally wipe carefully with a clean cloth and allow it to dry for 4-8 hours before a final firing.
I then glue on a backing with epoxy resin and this is the final result. I have a couple of these available in my etsy store.
You can make decals of almost anything - sketches or illustrations. I took a photograph of an image that I had made with coloured clay and have used that on some of my vessels, like on my bird vase below. The company I used is called Fotoceramic.
A ceramicist I met 'on-line' first pointed me in the direction of Bailey Decal Ltd. Her name is Jemma Millen and she makes fabulous hearts with floral decals on them too; check her out if you have the chance.
It's all about the bulbs...
Last month I discovered an on-line family of green enthusiasts known as the #urbanjunglebloggers (UJB). The team behind this are Igor and Judith who are both passionate about having plants in the home, in other interiors and in public spaces: "We want to highlight the beauty and benefits of houseplants and other greeneries in urban spaces.". Each month they suggest a blog topic to celebrate greenery in the home and as a plant lover myself I was keen to get involved.
This month's topic is '(Green) love is in the air'.
If you follow me on Instagram you will notice that I have fallen in love with spring bulbs with their roots on show. There is something so fragile and real about showing the beauty of the whole of a plant. I was inspired to try out this idea after reading a lovely blog over on A Quiet Style by Emma and Caroline of Wild Rubus. It was only after seeing another interpretation over on Apartment Apothecary by Katy that I got my act together to clean up some bulbs.
I chose some Mascari - as I love their delicate blue blooms which perfectly represent spring. But there are lots of other bulbs which equally look nice depending on your preference - hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, bluebells and my other favourite: Snakes Head Fritillary. Using the theme from UJB I think I have elevated the humble bulb to a piece of floral wall art. And it was so easy too!
I had some floral wire (left over from a wreath making project) which I simply wrapped around some washed jam-jars. Before I tied off and tightened the wire, by twisting the ends, I slipped some garden twine underneath and formed two single knots, on each side of the jam jar to create a simple loop or hanging thread.
Then it's just a matter of following Caroline's tutorial and washing the soil off the bulbs (I did this using the outside tap and leaving the bulbs to soak in water overnight so it was easier to remove the soil); popping the bulbs in the jar and adding enough water to cover the roots. I also added a few drops of plant food.
Finally I hung the jars on a couple of nails that my partner kindly hammered into the wall for me. It's best to display in odd numbers (since things look more natural this way). I chose 3 random heights, but I think 3 or 5 in a line might also give a good effect.
The room shot also shows some other blooms - alive and preserved which fit very nicely with the #stylingtheseasons topic organised by Katy (again) from Apartment Apothecary and Lotts from Lotts and Lots. I love the contrast of the dried hydrangeas and the fresh buds of the daffodils. I also sneaked in a couple of the pretty porcelain vases and vessels that I make. If you want to read about the inspiration for them have a look here.
I'm soooo looking forward to seeing other people's interpretations of UJB's theme.
And with mother's day just round the corner these bulbs in hanging jars would be an easy and thoughtful gift for any Mum. I hope you are inspired like I was... And if you are I'd love to see the images, just tag me on Instagram or post a pic on my facebook page.
After the rush of Christmas fairs and commissions, I've had quite a thoughtful start to this year, with the chance to play and experiment with porcelain.
As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working towards producing pieces for a ceramics 'Natural Inspiration' exhibition, Made at Mac (at the Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham). And have you now worked out what cabbages and sea anemones have in common? They are both intrinsically beautiful and delicate, and have provided a lovely, fresh 'natural' stimuli for recent work.
Last month we had a photographer, Sam Orchard, come into the centre to take photographs. I did find it hard to keep a straight face, but I was so pleased with how he captured what I was working on that day...So here's a sneaky peek of what goes on 'behind-the-scenes.'
For the next piece I was initially inspired by a potter I have admired for over ten years - a local lady called Sam Krankpod. I attended a workshop where we made simple pendants and pressed a variety of leaves into the clay. I was suddenly struck by the beauty of the cabbage! :) At the same time my tutor at the Mac had just made a plaster mould of a cabbage leaf so I then took this to make a flower-inspired cabbage bowl. I'm hoping to use a lovely translucent or pale-coloured blue or green glaze to highlight all those lovely veins. Fingers crossed it works. There are no guarantees when working with clay or porcelain. Here are some work-in-progress snaps.
I've also heard this week that I've been accepted to have a stall at Moseley Arts Market on Saturday June 28th. This is a curated market so they only pick you if they like you. I was delighted to be accepted, but all this means that I can't be quite so leisurely now and will need to pick up the pace. I've had a lovely play - but it's now back to business.
2014 - hello there! It's been an exciting start for me with news that some of my ceramic work will be included in an exhibition at the Midlands Art Centre in Birmingham.
The exhibition, Made at Mac, will take place in May of this year and has as its theme 'Natural Inspiration'.
This has come as a new juncture for my work, and has challenged me to embrace a more organic style by using nature as the stimulus for a new range. Which leads me to my title - 'Who's your muse?' Or equally one could ask what is your muse?
I'm taking inspiration from Ernest Haeckel, a German naturalist and biologist from the 1800s who did the most fantastic illustrations of micro-organisms, as there was already some synergy with these drawings and the rhythmic carving of holes in a number of my pieces (see first illustration below and my three un-fired vessels).
"Nature has created an inexhaustible wealth of wondrous forms whose beauty and diversity way exceed anything that has been created by man." Haeckel, 1899
As I have started to study his works more, I am seeing even more possibilities of how his drawings could be incorporated into a wonderful range of lighting, incorporating the piercing technique.
I've also been looking at normal scale sea-creatures, and have been been studying the beauty and fragility of sea-urchins to see if I can capture their delicate essence in my work to create a sweet tea-light. This may even be the basis for the new lighting range. (see pic below of un-fired piece) I can't wait to find out.
Today I was listening to my capoeira music whilst piercing my pot, and felt that the music was influencing the rhythm of the markings. And earlier today, I had the fortune to be hanging out the talented illustrator and print-maker, Emma Hardicker in her studio, who mentioned that human contact provides her with a great stimulus to make. I feel very fortunate to know so many creative friends, I won't list them now, but they are so important to the creative process and I am indebted to them.
So what inspires you when you're making or doing any creative process? Is it music? A view? A person? A theme? I'd love to hear from you....