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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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Looking over my childrens’ books, seeking inspiration for my Reception Class, I realise that I LOVE these children’s books. Love them more than any adult book. The collection we have amassed through gifts and regular trips to book havens: the Owl Bookshop in Kentish town and Daunt Books in Belsize Park, is a wonder to behold. Shelves of charm from Ed Vere to the intricate details of Satoshi Kitamura. Of course they are all tied up with parenthood and nurture. Each has a memory: a birthday gift, a reward for achievements. These glorious books have carried us through from burbling baby to essay writing eleven year old. Helen Ward’s The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse is just exquisite, & Naughty Nina from Anna-Laura Cantone is perfectly bonkers! I have completely fallen for these illustrated books.

So it took me a while to settle on which book to work with in the Reception Class, I plumped for a combination of old favourites John Burningham and Eric Carle and relative new comer to us Catherine Rayner, whose beautiful ‘Augustus and his Smile’ will form the basis of our exploration into illustration.

Last weekend in preparation I made these mark making tools from scraps I found in our field. Tools to scratch and scape, to push and trail, to splash and flick. I think they enjoyed using them. I certainly did.

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All ok! They all survived a Cone 4 biscuit firing. That means they have undergone a change on a molecular level and can never return to mud again. Sorry world for better or for worse, that’s it these are for keeps! Aren’t they looking pretty. What clever students and my children’s half term fun survived as well.
Now I just need to find out how much this is going to set me back!

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Biscuit ware, Cone 4 fired to 1060

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Decorative Slip, red iron oxide, cobalt oxide, copper carbonate, and plain old white.

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Decorative Slipware

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….

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wedging reclaimed clay

I realised later why I found it so enjoyable, so happy, to have the children in the studio.

I was integrating my different lives, and it felt really good. I packed up my studio midway through my children and so my Eldest is the only one who ever saw ‘what mummy did’, and that was an awfully long time ago. In allowing my children into that world, something has changed. Perhaps they understand me a little better, perhaps they are a little impressed at my skills, or maybe they just loved getting their hands on some clay. But I know that I certainly feel better and Jung would be pleased I am sure. The integration of the self, peace of mind.

My Middle child made a short film of me wedging up some reclaim clay. It struck me that this was the perfect metaphor for the experience of integration. But I can’t upload it so you will have to make do with the picture and imagine the rest……

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!

Open for Business

So today I held my first open studio. Not a ‘come and see what I make’ type event, but a ‘come a try something new’ event. Five lovely ladies rocked up and it went well. I hope. Everyone had a go, pinch pots, coil pots….Next week we will try throwing, (so I better practice!) Coffee and a chat over my portfolio. It was so nice to get on the old overalls clear out the studio and get some people in and making!. I know I am slow but here we are…..