Monthly Archives: February 2010

Shepherd’s Delight

Heading home after a visit to my pottery guru Desmond, the bright red sunset was magnificent.  By the time I got hold of the camera, it was mostly hidden behind the tree, but it did get me thinking about the meaning behind the phrase ‘red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’.  Obviously it signifies fair weather in the morning…but why?  Well thanks to Wikipedia the answer is below….

Desmond had an intense dislike for my test glaze pots, which is a triumph!  We both have a distinct love of pottery, but our tastes are drastically different.  He likes functional ware, but has a real flare and passion for glazes and an incredible knowledge of the chemistry involved….great to pick his brains.  I love big, textural pieces, where the form is often more important than the glaze…and the pieces are mostly completely useless!

I’ll remember the flash of intense red from the sunset, it reminds me of the red on my ‘Egghorn’ piece….and I should be able to replicate this now in reduction firings, achievable in the gas kiln that Desmond has kindly donated to my pottery effort.

Red sky at night, Shepherd's delight

Weather systems typically move from west to east, and red clouds result when the sun shines on their undersides at either sunrise or sunset. At these two times of day, the sun’s light is passing at a very low angle through a great thickness of atmosphere, the result of which is the scattering out of most of the shorter wavelengths — the greens, blues, and violets — of the visible spectrum, and so sunlight is heavy at the red end of the spectrum. If the morning skies are red, it is because clear skies to the east permit the sun to light the undersides of moisture-bearing clouds coming in from the west. Conversely, in order to see red clouds in the evening, sunlight must have a clear path from the west in order to illuminate moisture-bearing clouds moving off to the east.


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Harbour ‘Slip’

So, I have a lunch box full of clay from our trip to Chichester Harbour the other weekend. I’ve got no idea what will happen to it when it is fired, it could disintigrate, flop, burn away…..explode!  It will have a high salt content, so I am hoping for something interesting.

Salt fumes have a dramatic effect on clay under heat, the sodium acts as a flux and reacts with the silica in the clay body, enhancing it’s colour.  At high temperatures, over 1280°C (2350°F), salt becomes an active vapour throughout the kiln interior.  This coats and corodes the elements in an electric kiln because a dilute form of hydrochlic acid is given off as a vaporous by-product.

I have made a couple of test pieces, which I will fire in Desmond’s gas kiln.  One simple pinch pot and one stoneware body covered with a slip made from the dug up clay……

Stoneware body, with Harbour Slip

Pinch Pot...eyes off that flapjack in the background. (not made by me....I only deal with making things out of mud!!)

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Chunky Black – Glaze Tests

Glaze test were out of the kiln when I got to pottery this morning.  The test pieces were a creation that didn’t quite make it, but the contrast of the white and black clays were perfect for checking out how glazes would react before comitting them to a pot I actually like.  Am intrigued, excited, inspired with the results.  The glazes have behaved very differently on the chunky black clay, due to the high levels on iron and magnesium in the clay body.  I am used to their results on white stoneware, so it was a revelation that they would react so differently.  The Shino glaze was particulary impressive……proof that you are constantly being challenged, bemused and thrilled when working with ceramics.

I have a plan for a pot for this Shino glaze……

Shino Glaze - fabulous thick, matt, metalic finish, speckled with orange on the black clay. High gloss, orange/white (depending on thickness) on the white stoneware.

Richard's glaze (RM01). Thin metalic glaze on the black, but pools of turquoise where glaze is thicker. Shimmery, mottled white (purple/turquoise) on white stoneware.



Gareth's Red Glaze. Faint pools of white on black clay in depressions where deeper, but pretty much no effect on the black clay (slightly glossy), signs of red on white stoneware where glaze has pooled.

Leach Talc Dolomite Glaze. Normally white on white stoneware, effect on black clay is mottled white and dark brown. Lovely effect, like this a lot. It has run off the rim, so the black clay is poking though the rough edge.

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Couldn’t wait……

I have just got round to including a Gallery page which shows previous creations.  Interestingly, no new finished pieces since starting this blog….I can only blame the weather….too cold to get out in the shed, because there are plenty of pots spinning around in my head, they’ve just not been born yet.

Useful process to review previous pieces though, (there are plenty strewn around the house…..but you see them…and don’t ‘see’ them because they become familiar).  I have experimented with a diverse range of clay, techniques, glazes, firing temperatures, styles and inspiration.  In looking for a theme…the one thing that tends to link these pieces….is that they are all ‘big’ and they have their own character, some of them I have parted with and sold, but the rest are like old friends.  Ceramics for me to date has been about expression, you start out with a lump of clay and sometime later a vision, lurking from your deep subconscious has presented itself.

In a move to make the potting process more conscious, and have a vision of what I am trying to create, rather than wait and see what happens, I’ve been out and about in the past few months trying to capture and absorb the things that unleash themselves when I get a bag of clay out.  I’ve been packing all these ideas in…waiting for the warmer weather…..but I just couldn’t wait any longer.  Now every surface in the dining room is cluttered with new and half finished creations, all lurking under plastic bags.  Julian is being very patient….he too is now also wishing for warmer weather, just so he can have his table back.

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Wales Watching…..

A visit to Portishead on Saturday for a friends birthday, freezing cold day, but lovely bright sunshine.  Sat at the view point just down from Battery Point and had a fabulous outlook over South Wales and the Severn Bridge.  I had forgotten how muddy the beaches are along the Severn, but had never before noticed the cavernous wiggly channels left behind in the mud when the tide goes out.  Lucky we didn’t have a bag with us, or else Julian may have ended up lugging more mud home for experimentation…..

After a few ‘tongue loosening’ beers I let slip my pottery aspirations… better get my finger out now…no pressure!  Received a commision though which is really positive…Oh and was reminded that I still owe one fruit bowl, a promised wedding present… better doubly get my finger out…..

Severn Bridge

Kilkenny Bay, Portishead to Newport, Wales with Denny Island in the middle of the River Severn

The Severn Estuary is well know for muddy beaches, but with the tide goes out that are great cavernous muddly channels left behind.

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I love the texture of this piece, so thought I would give it the privilage of it’s own blog.

Thiébaut Chagué describes the firing process as pushing the clay to the limit of resistance, risking destruction.  For Chagué, this is a necessary part of the creative process, the fissuring that may occur revealing the engery within the forms.

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Pot Medley…

A rather large collection of photo’s taken in the V&A…and these have been edited!  I  hoped that by capturing the pots, both glazes and shapes/textures, that I would be able to see a theme in what interests me and gets the cogs moving.  It’s an interesting exercise, the colours I have captured are earthy, there are bold shapes, with plenty of texture, also elements of quirkiness.  There are plenty of avenues displayed here to explore in my own work.

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