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Category Archives: Unfired

Work which is yet to have its first firing

One of the ladies who come to the studio wanted to make a teapot. So I thought I had better make one to remind myself how it is done! I haven’t made one since college.
And as I recall that was a disaster. The pots had been unloaded and put on display with my other work, right before my critique with the tutors. I hadn’t seen them before I walked in to have my turn at the ‘end of second year’ review. They sternly told me my work was ugly, and perhaps I ought to think wether I should complete the course. It was a miserable moment.
The kiln had way over-fired and what was meant to be a brilliant blue was a sludgy green. In the extreme heat the clay had blistered and boiled. The glaze erupted to leave sharp edged craters.
Suffice it to say I didn’t leave (my lovely tutor Sean came to my defence) but I never made a teapot again. Till now. It’s blue too, I hope.

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So I finally got a firing. Kazuri Beads let me use their kiln. Although confusingly they will not tell me how much they are going to charge me before the event. I have relayed this story to others and they tell me this is a peculiarly Kenyan approach to a transaction. We shall just have to see I guess…..how much could it be?!?
Anyway in goes 28 pieces. (Only one made by me!)
As we loaded up I am reminded how much I like technicians. The practical people that work away behind the scenes. They are the problem solvers and genuinely want things to work well for others. Lacking in the ego required to be the front man I am naturally at home with these types. And I feel confident that Nicholas is going to see us right!

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Dry clay vessels, being loaded into kiln at Kazuri Beads

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The steady hand of the technicians

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Me and the fellas at Kazuri Beads

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All loaded up and good to go….

So it’s half term and I changed the habit of a life time and let the children in the studio. It has been really lovely actually, as they are all of an age to enjoy it too. Little LB made a coil pot and a mug on the wheel. C made a mug and a vase, and P made a jug and a mug.
A little family of pots now sit in the studio drying. And we are all quite tired!

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We went for a walk in the woods this weekend and I (unknowing) stood astride a boomslang. My husband shouted ‘move’ with sufficient emphasis that I knew I was clearly in trouble, but gave me no indication as to what the trouble was. Consequently I did a little panicky jig over the snake before deciding to run, as did my youngest. The boomslang was unruffled by the dance above and slid off up the tree, to eye us from a safe distance.
I watched and cursed the fact I did not have my camera, this snake was an emerald beauty.

On returning home after this adventure I resolved to clear everything out of the studio. The class this week had been crowded and a little chaotic. My nice demo-jug had got broken. I realised I had been putting off making decisions, or rather not acknowledging how much space and time the students needed. I needed to rejig and rethink the studio, as a shared space. Not my haven alone.
We went out and bought a new table and some checkered PVC to cover the big black one. And I stopped dancing about and got on with it…..

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Clean Empty Studio

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Albert Lends a Hand

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Decorative Slips

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Students work drying in the sun

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Covering Large Table in Check PVC

Sorry been off radar for so long! I heard a radio programme recently (BBC world service), the lady (very clever business women) told me never to start with an apology. But there you go, I am regretful as much for myself as for you!

So my studio ladies are back. Today’s lesson; Jugs. And finishing techniques slips and glazes. Next week we shall attach handles and paint these with slip. I managed to find some ball clay here and can get going on a few slip recipes tomorrow.

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Jugs for the ladies, and my new tools.

In other news I have a lovely bunch of bananas which I wanted to draw whilst green. Too late already!

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My Lovely Bunch of Bananas. Already turning from green to yellow

And lastly I am volunteering at school, with year 8. Cubism. So much fun. Trying to pack it all in…..the machine age, Freud, Einstein’s theory of relativity (I struggle with), painters and their motivation. They set up this still life to draw. Next week we get all cubist.

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Still Life in Blue and Red. Yr8 Hillcrest

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Pictured here throwing a jug, as a demo for the Ladies. It was a real pleasure to get behind the wheel with a bit of purpose. I think they enjoyed their turn!

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Happy first attempt!

I had gone over to the Sisters farm to feed the pigs our left overs and fetch some more eggs. As I washed out my swill bucket at the farm tap John appeared, politely asking how my day was going (Kenyans are very polite). It took me a while to notice his right hand held a black bottle, the other some broken shards of bowl. My pots! The bottle must have reemerged today from the giant smoking blue-gum charcoal pit, and I was delighted to see it in one piece. I popped it all in my swill bucket and took it back to the large cast concrete sinks behind my studio to give it a wash and brush up. As I examined the shards, they snap in my fingers like dry biscuits. Not fired then, actually just cooked. I turned to the bottle and applied pressure at the rim and it too snapped. Obviously didn’t get above 600•c in there. Looking at a cross section I could still see the clay centre, untransformed. I took the pieces inside and submerged them in water, wondering how long it would take them to return to sludge. 20140228-145045.jpg

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One open form, one closed form.

So I can still throw, just. 2 out of 3 attempts remained standing. And I was pretty slow…. but I have at least got going. One closed form, one open form. I shall have to practice…..

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Coil Building lovely big pots on turntable

 

It’s been a really tough week  in Nairobi. The Westgate Mall attack has dominated my mind. On Wednesday I did a days teaching making ‘Enkaji’ Maasai Huts with a group of Year 1 students.  It was a fun day and good to get away from the terrible rolling news. We went to this magnificent place to get the clay.& I loved it!