dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Termite Totem

Termite Den

Friday, 23 July 2010

Essential Items


from top:

Kiln Controls
Blue Roll
Sgraffito Tools

Monday, 19 July 2010

Gorilla Hand

This isn't mine, but I'll be painting it if the artist doesn't claim it within the next couple of weeks. Look at that hair! C'mon, give a geezer props for his first attempt at anything ceramic! I was well impressed, I tell thee! This is someone's first ever attempt at pottery, and that hair is realistic bruv! He used a tool I have never seen before or since, like a mini hand-held extruder, and the pressure he used to squeeze those thin strains of clay through it was mighty intense. I had a go myself and sacked it off because my palms were burning and aching. He was only a slight guy but his determination to make fine hairs for his gorilla hand was much higher than my resistance to pain at the time. Good on him, well done, but he better come back soon, or else

this gorilla hand is gettin' claimed, painted black, with big PINK fingernails!

Bigger Golden Grapes

Rolling all these malteasers out takes hours. I never wanna do it again, to be honest. It's drop-dead boring. I would never be making these if not for my ideas about The Ceramic Devision. I recently read that if you want to sell your ceramics, the best thing to do is to stop making whatever you are making and enroll on a business course. There was nothing mentioned about spending your time with similarly-minded people, which I for one reckon is vital for self-development, confidence and esteem.

It's not the best environment if one is painting a Mona Lisa in a class of dunces drawing matchstick men, if you want to thrive and improve upon your skills. I'm just saying. Being at the bottom of a class, rather than than the top, will never result in stagnation.

I learned today that when rolling these balls, it doesn't irritate half as much if I go softly-softly (although I have big hands, they can be very gentle).

It took 4 hours to compose 3 of the extra large edition golden grapes/bronze balls. We're talking another 1.5 hours to paint them. Regardless of all the figures and prices and whatnot, I'd sell them in a blink, because they are, from a personal perspective, passionless. I could reel them off all day and they would all look the same.

My ornaments, on the other hand, are one-offs.

There's something special about them.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Ow, my hands!

So it's time for the very small scale production of some more Golden Grapes, or Bronze Balls. Let me tell you, making these is a killer. After snapping up bits of clay into equal size pieces, the 'rolling' begins. That's the tough part. The palms become so irritable it's unreal. It's an itchy numbness, like when you'd come in with freezing hands as a kid and stick them directly in front of the fire. It's actually what I would describe as a sensation......but an unpleasant one. You couldn't do this all day. No way. After 4 or so you want to scoop out the palms of your hands with a dentist's drill.

The other ball-ache is painting them in 3 coats. That's a lot of coats to someone who hates runny paint. This new glaze we have is just like the cobblers I bought from Homebase to do my kitchen - ended up absolutely everywhere. Imagine having to paint a wall in 3 coats? Considering it's expensive and comes in small quantities, 3 coats is a pain in the ass.

So anything hand-made and/or hand-painted has a right to be have a higher retail price. But that doesn't mean there is any visible difference in the finished product, or any other obvious reason why such more painstakingly created gifts should cost more. There are plenty of fantabulous mass-produce products all over the place, for the price of chips.

If you calculate the hours spent on creating them, even at minimum wage, and then add the other costs, you're talking prices that can't compete with shops like B&M who sell some nice little finished vases and the like. True worth could only be revealed at auction. That's why I for one don't value my time, because the major benefit, were it to happen, would be being able to survive doing something creative without having to punch a clock in a noisy furniture factory or some other bollocks, messing about with dowels and shrink-wrap. Cover costs, make a little profit, that'll do nicely. Start small, think big......

On the other hand, get your big chequebooks out, because art is priceless. And this is art.

I think. It IS, isn't it?

la poverta e la madre di tutte le arti......
(poverty is the Mother of all the arts)


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

New Ornaments

No plan, no design......just making whatever comes to mind. It's really simple and fun.

For the one on the left, I used the extractor to give me a fat coil and wound it up into a cup shape, slicing the bottom flat with a knife so it could stand up. Then I did the same with a slimmer coil and put the slim one inside the fat one. To top it off I rolled two balls to go into the top. Somebody said it looks like a sex aid, or a man getting choked in a big hand.

The one on the right started as a small vase, before I cut it in half and inserted the bottom half into the top half. Then I hand-cut and rolled a kind of clay straw for the little rolled worms to go into.

Judging by the similarity of these, I think I will classify them under an 'insertion' technique, because of how they are configured from dual parts. That gives me several personal techniques I have discovered without ever reading a single paragraph about 'how to' in pottery. The sheer physicality of a piece when it comes about through trial and error and suddenly takes shape is worlds apart from dealing with words in ink or words on a computer screen when writing about ideas and make-believe characters. One moment you're down after cocking something up, but with the next you're high when it becomes something good you didn't expect.

Projected colours: Gold and Blue

When you're building instinctively you will always run into problems, but there is always a way out or around them. The worst that can happen is scrunching the clay up and starting again.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Work Table

Tidying up after a session is a downright chore but I didn't mind this week because I'd just had a marathon 7-hour session with only 3 packets of Smith's Bacon flavoured fries for tea during a quick food break. In that time I only painted 2 ornaments and made 2 ornaments, but I've never heard anyone say that pottery is quick and easy. Everyone would be doing it if it was!

The Ceramic Devision and Creative Possibilities are hardcore. No fancy studio we, what you see is a huge board planted on top of a pool table in a dingy basement (did I ever tell you, on the matter of pool, that I can clear a full table from the break without missing a shot?). To us, cottage industry is the highest standard. Poor lighting, no sink or running water......but it does the job. I could happily stay down there all day eight hours a day as a full time job (gotta be constant ventilation though), or at least it felt that way today, the world drip-tock-melts away sometimes when you're making-painting-and-cooking baby......a new passion comes along and you wonder what of all those years without it in your life......whoop!......ya heard and ya better believe......hollah!

Random lines for today

Monday, 12 July 2010

Brazilian Transvestite

the brazilian transvestite

I didn't make this but I sure wish I did. It's absolutely awesome, in my opinion. I'd have this in pride of place in the living room no matter where I lived. It's a crying shame that it has become damaged lately, probably knocked over, but it still lives on.

The young chap responsible for it's creation no longer attends class. He actually said I could have it for nothing (wadda guy, eh?) but before I got a chance to take it home, it had been moved onto a display shelf for public viewing, and Simon wasn't seen again, so that was the end of that. I would have looked after it better, I know that much, but at least others have an opportunity to witness a truly jolly-hearted piece of craftsmanship. I often share a quiet moment with the Brazilian transvestite. For a moment, it takes all the hardship outta life.

Simon perhaps offered me this because I gave him a picture of a lion one time. Jokingly, I said I had drawn the best lion ever. He was intrigued, and when I showed him, he said it WAS the best lion ever, and in my book that entitled him to a copy, so I gave him one. I was also doing some cut-out collage arrangements at the time which he commented on. He said, and I quote:

"You can change peoples' lives doing that."

You know what? That comment ensures that I'll never stop doing collages. He stated what I had hoped in my heart was true but had never been pragmatic enough to contemplate. That's the deal with art: Someone somewhere just might have a killer reaction and be knocked off their feet. Sweeping floors, order picking or driving a forklift just ain't the same.

Nobody ever made such inspirational comments when I was removing the labels from out-of-date tuna fish in the John West warehouse.

Personally, I'm knocked off my feet every time I turn a page in a good comic book. The actual drawers and inkers of those comics do it day in day out, and it probably don't seem like too much of a hoo haa, but when something's so far beyond your own capabilities, like gymnastics, diving, or marathon running for example, the impressive wow factor impact just seems all the more greater.
The only other thing that comes close to this is what a new bloke made on his first ever attempt, several weeks back: a GORILLA hand. It wasn't bad actually, he got the thumb and the palm and the fingers all decent, and even got the hair down to a tee, which I thought couldn't be done. And although he hasn't finished it yet, I have made him promise me that he will put PINK fingernails on it. That's right, a black King Kong Gorilla hand with bright pink fingernails.


GO EASY......please!
No explosions
No shoddy finishes
No unwelcome surprises

It's squeaky bum time......big time

Can't blame you though you're just a cooker on steroids it's those stupid glazes which resemble a box of chocolates from Forrest Gump because you never know what you're gunna get I mean the best glazes in the world which always come out like you want them to come out see I'm being nice I believe in you come on fellas don't let me down now I put enough frickin' coats on perhaps maybe too many freakin' coats trying to be on the safe side but probably screwing it right up I mean getting it exactly right yeah can't wait to see how my perfect glazes turned out you guys are the business I'm'a write a letter to BOTZ and tell'em they're great!

Test Tiles

I was reluctant to paint these sample tiles but it's a good job I did because these new glazes are quite unpredictable. The gold needs 3 layers of paint before it actually becomes gold, and the black and white patches you can see, which in the shop resembled a shiny Dalmation dog's coat, is, in reality, a crumbly, flaky, touch-it-and-it-comes-off mess. A glaze which actually comes off, like dried cigarette ash! Can I believe it? No sir.

The blue is the only one which does what it says on the tin. Deary deary me. Ah well. I've just done some painting with them anyway. Talk about taking a gamble. It'll be squeaky bum time big time when I get to see in 3 days time. I suppose the insurance is that I can always re-paint and re-fire if the results are very poor, but that in itself is another gamble.

Sometimes they come out better than expected, other times not so. With these recent Termite Fortresses though, they are the best ornaments yet, so pretty pretty pretty please Mr Kiln no nasty surprises......

VERDICT: Alarmingly wild undesirable results!!!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Purple Plate

I'm suffering from a distinct lack of planning when it comes to plates. What I've been lacking is a solid base layer of a single colour, top and bottom, to build on. You can see the white of the porcelain through the brush strokes here, which was undesired but bearable, in a messy kind of way.

Green Plate

Not exactly overawed with this one. I'd feel less than comfortable giving it away. It's only value is to make up the numbers in a small collection, I guess. It even has a matt finish, which is just wrong for a plate. Not willing to get intricate with them, like I can a cup. It's too big a space. The dots here simply aren't enough; they only took five or ten minutes, but that was tedious enough. Things done quickly lack quality.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Other Termite Fortresses

from left to right in above (bottom) picture:

Termite Den
Termite House
Termite Hive
Termite Totem
Termite Shuttle

Trademark 'threaded lace' effect
...fake it till ya make it...

Temporary Glazes

Make it, Paint it, Cook it

Here are 2 of 5 recent Termite Fortresses. Although Termite Fortress is the generic line name, this pair would be categorised as Termite Fortress Hive (left), and Termite Fortress Shuttle (right). In the larger scheme of things, when they link in with upcoming fiction, they are actual large population places, not ugly ornaments.

The colours are temporary crackerjack brown and buttercup majolica glazes. MAYCO discontinued their gold but fortunately a German company called BOTZ do a replacement and in the nearest suppliers, PotClays of Stoke, I personally hand-picked the next 3 glazes that will hopefully carry The Ceramic Devision forward. Thanks to Creative Possibilities. Cheers Julie!

There have been breakages and explosions lately, but also an insightful visit to a Potter's Barn and a new technique on how to pattern plates, so all is fair in love and war. The next news will likely be about the remaining 3 TFs, one or two plates in the pipeline, and maybe a different golden grape. Or perhaps not. It might be sod the blog and go back to school.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Blue Plate

This is achieved by spinning the plate on a wheel and pouring a thin stream of paint onto it straight from the bottle. In this case the paint was thick and came out in small blobs, creating the 'sperm' shapes.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Miscellaneous Objects

The top picture here, in my opinion, with the direct sunlight, favours the lustre glazes more, although the bottom picture is from a much better quality camera. The piece on the left hand side is a very slim vase of sorts, and so would the other one be if it wasn't capped with irregular coils and a small solid ball. The coils and ball were loosely laid on top before firing, and the glazes fused it all together like glue. Given that these were just created on impulse in 20 or so minutes at the end of a class, the results are deemed very satisfactory. There is a pattern emerging in a selection of pieces and now real planned designs can begin to take shape. So far, it has all been rather random and instinctive, which is cool for prototypes, but not for bulk uniformity. There's been hardly any drawing board involved at all, as yet. It's a whole 'bigga-buncha' fun that way, but most of the best human designs in life have an air of preparation and planning about them. As fascinating as the design itself is the process as to how the design is made.

......a fresh approach to clay......

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Termite House

If I had to lose one of the latest 5 termite builds, then I would have chosen this one, but that’s hardly a consolation. I think it was too solid a blocky mass, or had some trapped air in it. It will look superior with a slate-effect roof anyway, which I intend to add onto the remake. Not yet though. It can wait a while. Feeling lazy.

Paint Detail: Never spend too much time on something that can drop and shatter in an instant.

As of late, I will try not to spend more than two sessions (4 or 5 hours) on one particular piece (not that I ever did anyway). One session to make, one session to paint. Full time, I could really go gung-ho on the painting and easily spend a couple of days going dotty with the SCRAFFITO tool. 2 hours to paint even the smallest patch of porcelain feels like the blink of an eye, to me; at the end, when it should be done, I can’t help but think to myself that this is just the beginning, the base layer. Selling points of The Ceramic Devision are ‘detailed all over’ and ‘every inch covered’, but maybe that’s not wise when it comes to costs etc. I seem to spend the bulk of the painting process on the backs and undersides of objects, where nobody will see. Duh!

Because I believe in the little fine details. There’s nothing bigger.

With the Termite line however, the proof is in the design itself, and painting the ‘threads’ or ‘laces’ a different colour to the object body, as I would like, would be too time-consuming to not want to sell anything for less than £75billion. So that means that most of them will likely be coated twice with just a single colour. There are some truly astonishing glazes out there but expect anything by TCD in the near future to be either, gold, blue, or black & white.

You’ll see, if you stay returning. It’s gonna be just great!