Saturday, 6 December 2014

Egyptian Paste

The Egyptian Paste course at Hive Shipley finished last week and the final work has been fired with some stunning results. Everyone got to try out  the basic recipe with different additions of oxides or colouring stains, to make beads, cast small pieces from moulds and model pieces by hand. 


A few technical notes; the recipe used is:

39 - Nepheline syenite
12 - Soda ash
37 - Flint or fine quartz
12 - Ball clay
  2 - Bentonite

Fired at 990C
Colouring oxides:

Purple -1% to 2% Manganese oxide
Blue -1% cobalt carbonate
Turquoise - 3% copper oxide
Yellow/green - 1%  chrome oxide.
Dark brown/black  - 2% nickel oxide
Buff - 2% to 4% rutile

 The black iron oxide was a surprise, it produced pale pinky buff up to about 4%, and when tested at 6% produced a lovely dark olive green! 

We got great results from mixing paste coloured with different oxides together to get a marbled or mottled effect.

The samples painted with Egyptian paste slurry were a disappointment, but did give hints that this technique could work - so more experimentation  beginning with applying the slurry to green ware rather then biscuit.

So between now and January I'll have plenty to keep me occupied with more Egyptian Paste tests and preparing for the next ceramics course where students will find out about and experiment with all the glazes and other decorative ceramic materials to discover interesting and exciting finishes for their work.

Sunday, 16 November 2014


To date the year has mostly been about sewing. The Sewing Bee at Hive has taken off and I'm taking it for the full year. I've also started teaching two sewing and textile classes at HFT Bradford working with adults with learning difficulties.This has been a very steep learning experience for me, and an opportunity to enjoy teaching and exploring the possibilities of  basic stitch and assembly with fabric.

I've enjoyed sewing and messing around with cloth since being a child, when I was about 10, Mum bought herself a new sewing machine, and one for me.

I used it to make dolls clothes and small projects. I soon grew out of it though and progressed to using Mum's machine. Here they both are; I've inherited Mum's machine and use it for the majority of my sewing. The toy machine still works, though noisily; it stitches with a proper lockstitch using a shuttle rather than a bobbin as in modern machines.

I've developed a "thing" for sewing machines and paraphernalia, especially if they are in need of a bit of TLC as in these before and after pictures of a toy Casige sewing machine.

My ceramics classes at Hive have started this term with Egyptian Paste. Over the last two Saturdays the class has found about about Egyptian Paste, got used to the peculiarities of handling it and produced a number of test pieces and moulds to use with the paste. They are in the kiln now and will be out and ready for the last class next Saturday.

Here is a selection of some I made earlier, I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out of the kiln next week and working with my class helping them make their final Egyptian Paste pieces. .

Monday, 28 April 2014

The new sewing machine

It's been a while since my last post; the Sewing Bee was a success in the sense that I kept the class going and will be returning this week to take the Sewing Bee for the whole term. This time I've been able to plan and prepare a complete scheme of work for the whole 10 weeks based on re-using, recycling and repairing. New students will be able to discover traditional sewing skills and techniques within an interesting, exciting and contemporary context and returners will be able to continue their projects which are already moving into re-using materials and adapting from existing garments. I'll be working on my own project with the class making myself a shirt from an old dress aiming to demonstrate as many different processes and techniques  as possible in one garment. 

I'm looking forward to the first class on Friday, and to mark the moment  I've bought myself a new sewing machine. 

It's quite old and needs some considerable TLC though: ... .. ... ...

I saw it months ago in the window of the clock and watch repairers in Otley and I've been thinking about it ever since. The start of a new sewing project was just the right time to see if it was still there, and now it sits on my work table ready for refurbishment.

I've not abandoned ceramics, and will soon be getting busy in the pottery again. I've submitted proposals for three different short classes next year; if they all run it'll mean preparing lots (and lots) of examples and tests to practise and demonstrate the techniques I'll be teaching. Ceramifabricals indeed!!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

A week in which a lot happened.

I mentioned some time ago that I have been feeling increasingly unhappy at my paid work and have been looking for ways to re-balance my life with more of the creative work that I love. Last year I gained my PTLLS qualification through Artworks Creative Communities  allowing me to teach and take workshops sharing my love of ceramics and making in general.

This time last week I was in the middle of my first Hive/WEA weekend workshop teaching coloured clay techniques.

I’ve been planning & preparing for this class since last autumn, so I was confident that I knew my subject well, but this was the first time I would be tested with a class. I was quite nervous to start with, and this increased when the WEA assessor arrived to see how I was getting on. In the event everything went well, I was quite overwhelmed by the talent and enthusiasm of the class. They made some wonderful pieces, everyone added their own different talents and approaches to the basic technique producing varied and exciting work, and I learned as much as everyone else did last weekend. If I can I’ll post pictures of the work when it is fired. In the meantime here are a few of my own coloured clay pieces.

I felt very privileged to be teaching, and I think other people thought I had done alright as well. On Monday immediately after the coloured clay weekend I was asked & agreed to step in to teach the Sewing Bee at Hive on Fridays at short notice. Sewing?, well I’ve always sewn, practically since childhood. My interest then was in making patterns; firstly for dolls and then for myself, soft furnishings and upholstery. 
Nowadays I use pattern making and fabrication techniques in model making, fabricating from sheet tin and soldering in place of sewing, and in clay when creating vessels and objects from rolled clay sheets. I've always been interested in print and fabric design, here I've taken inspiration from 1950's textile patterns and interpreted them in coloured clay.

I've applied to teach more ceramics courses at Hive next year, so watch this space for more news, and if the Sewing Bee is a success perhaps I could call myself Ceramifabricals. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Tea Rex

I have a number of projects on the go at once, as one finishes and another starts and others roll on. Here's one that has just (nearly) finished.

It's been on the go for a few months - working slowly, looking for and finding just the right pieces and making custom accessories. 

Here it is:

And here is a look back at  work in progress.

Legs ready to go.
Taking shape in the workshop
Nearing completion and the pilot has been engaged
A few adjustments needed.
First test flight
Safe landing

Tea Rex