Thursday, February 15, 2018

Making Plates

It's been a plate kind of month! I had a lovely order for a dinnerware set, a workshop involving place settings coming up, and needed bisque plates to have on hand for stock, so my plate making systems got a bit of a workout during January and the beginning of February.

Plates are paradoxically both easy and difficult. It's easy to make one plate. It's even easy to make eight plates, all more or less the same size. What is extremely difficult is to make a set of plates, all of which will stack neatly. Most customers want plates that will look good both while set out on the table and while stacked in the cupboard, and who can blame them.

Early on in my pottery journey, I decided that trying to throw plates to satisfy this double requirement was just not feasible. I'd have to charge so much per plate I'd never sell one. So I looked around for other ways of making plates. I was delighted to find an ad in a pottery publication for a Jigger/jolley machine for sale. I called and arranged to come down and see it and said I'd probably buy it. Luckily,  I had a new truck at the time, and the long trip down to Kincardine didn't alarm me. My husband and I had a fine time driving down, staying in several B & B's along the way, and duly arrived at the potter's home.

He showed me how to use the machine. It looked wonderfully like the solution I was looking for. I got excited. A price was agreed upon. He also wanted to sell an old old slab roller and all the molds to go with the Jigger. I got even more excited. A further, enhanced, price was agreed upon.

The men were sure the machines and molds would fit in the back of my pickup. We didn't discuss the weight! The Jigger, as I found out later, weighs about 500 lbs, and the slab roller not much less. Each mold, and there were over 80 of them, weighed at least 2 lbs. So you can imagine how I felt when the potter, who was well over 70, and my husband, a totally non-athletic absent-minded professor type, lifted first the Jigger and then the slab roller, into the truck. They said they used Zen!

We drove home slo-o-wly. The truck wasn't rated for that much weight but with care we got home. It took two hired movers men to get the gear off the truck, which, when you think about it, was downhill. Robert and the potter moved them uphill!
Here's the Jigger, nicely covered with slip to show it really is a working machine:



Basically, you place the mold of your choice in the 'cup' - which you can see to the right inside the grey rubber splash pan. Then you place a clay slab on it, bring down the arm, and 'cut' the plate.


I don't know the brand, or the age. I suspect Ratcliffe, and old. There is no info plate anywhere on it, and the innards are most mysterious. I just know to oil it certain places, and keep my fingers crossed.





Here's the sequence:

Of course, I do have other plate making tricks in the bag. There's a company called Pure & Simple that makes a system where a base fits onto a regular wheel on the batt pins, and then you makes plaster molds in the shape they supply that fits onto that base. Then you poeceed more or less as above. Here is mine in action:
Plates made like that do warp a bit. It's best for 'wonky' plates, which can be quite nice! Also, you can vary the foot rings, even make quite large ones to make plates or platters with pedestal bases.

Of course, you can make your own molds, and just sit them on a wheel. Here's a big one I made when I was trying to make round platters with foot rings:

The plaster mold is just sitting on top of the wheelhead. It works pretty well, but again, the platters do tend to warp a bit.

And the plates? Well, here are some:


My truck was OK, by the way. It went on to ferry myself and many plates for another 14 years.




Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Whole New Year!

With no mistakes in it yet! *

One of things I love doing in January is planning my pottery year: what workshops to offer, if any, what shows to do, sales... workshops to take, projects, challenges to take on... ah, dreamtime.

One workshop I definitely will do again this year is the one I called  'Making Marks on Pottery'. We did it last year and it was a great success. The creativity shown by the people who came was awesome. On the first day we decorated (made marks) on pottery place settings. I provided the bisque ware pieces (three plates, a cereal bowl and a mug in most cases) and demonstrated some ways of decorating pottery, then the students went ahead and blew right past anything I'd ever have thought of in their wonderful original designs. Later I dipped everyone's pieces in a clear glaze and fired them. A few weeks after that we had a pot-luck lunch which we ate from our new dishes. I called that 'The Artful Meal'. Seeing all the place settings on the table was totally exciting!

So I'm offering 'The Artful Meal' again this year. On Feb. 17 you'll choose your place setting, learn about some pottery decorating materials and techniques, and then decorate your pieces. Mostly we'll be painting on the bisque ware so it would help to have some basic painting skills. It'll be a full day, starting at 10am, breaking for a soup & a bun lunch, and continuing until about 4pm. We'll decide on a date for our meal before everyone goes home. Including lunch, your place setting and all materials, there will be a cost of $50 per person. Since my studio isn't very large and I want to be able to give everyone enough attention, this workshop will be limited to 8 people.

Another definite on the agenda is Clay Days. This is for total beginners, or people who haven't done  pottery for a while. The first day of the workshop, March 10,  will be devoted to learning a bit about clay and the pottery process, and making some pieces such as small bowls, pendants, tiles or other such projects. I'll be concentrating on hand-building techniques, but if someone is keen to try the wheel we can probably manage that as well. Someone with some prior experience would be free to go ahead with their own projects. Then the pieces have to dry and be fired, so the second day, when we will decorate our work, will be the Saturday after. The cost per person will be $25 (2 days of playing with clay, lunch both days, and all materials included) and the class will be limited to 8 people.

If you are interested in signing up for one of these workshops, just hit the 'contact me' button.

March will be a busy month as I'll be at the Carp Farmers' Market Easter Market on March 31. The fun part is deciding what to have for sale that day, let's see, bunnies, bunnies... bunnies... ok, I'm sure I'll think of something more than bunnies well before then!

Right after the Easter Market will be the Maple Run Studio Tour. Have to have stuff with Maple leaves on it for sure, and maybe some bunnies... the Tour is April 7 and 8 this year. I don't know which stop I'll be at yet, but I'll post the info in the side bar once I know. This tour has some very fine craftspeople and artists on it and I feel honoured to be on it. It's a lovely area, too, and Fulton's Pancake House always has lots going on at the same time.

After that it will soon be Market opening and the busy summer will have begun. Until then:


* With a grateful nod to Anne of Green Gables'  whose lovely line, 'Just think, a whole day with no mistakes in it yet' expresses exactly how I feel about 2018!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

'Tis the Season...

And all through the Studio,
Not a creature is stirring, least of all the potter.

All the orders are done. All the shows are over. The fall Studio Tour is over, my half-price sale is done.

Now it's time to relax, mix some of my famous eggnog, read a novel, bake a Yule Log, and wish all of you, readers, customers, friends, pets, acquaintances and ships that have passed mine in the dark,


Monday, October 23, 2017

Busy Time

I was a bit shocked the other day to see how many small orders I had waiting to be done. I'd just kind of hummed along the last couple of months thinking there weren't too many orders outstanding. Checked my notebook and it turns out I was wrong.

So I made a list and now I'm working at it. Somehow, orders are never fun. When I am making something just because I want to, I have only myself to please but with orders I have someone else to please. So I get the odd feeling that I'm not working for myself, I'm working for someone else, and of course I can't always be sure just what they have in mind. So many little questions arise that I didn't think to ask... for example, I know that so-and-so wants a blue pansy ring, but I forget to ask her what sort of blue. Dark blue, light blue, purply-blue, greeny-blue??? So do I make about 6 of them and do one in each colour and hope somebody will buy the others? Or call her (which would mean admitting I forgot to ask) or just guess or use the dark blue because that glaze is easy?

Another problem I have with orders is what I call Lis' rule of pottery making: "one will get shmucked." If you need 25 of something, better make 26 because one will get shmucked. Broken or cracked in the bisque or fumbled in the glaze or stuck to the kiln shelf or something, but shmucked. Unfortunately, this also means that if you only need 1, you'd better make 2 and thus all orders are automatically doubled. Sometimes I try to fool this rule by making the piece so early on that I'll have time to do it again if it fails the first time, but then the real insidiousness of the rule becomes apparent because it applies every time. Make one, it gets shmucked, make it another time and it gets... and so on. So you have to make at least 2 right off the bat.

The only time the rule fails is when you make 2 and both turn out OK. Then you're left with one that hangs around the studio for months until you finally unload it as a second. Or if you're really unlucky, the customer doesn't like either one and you end up with 2 you need to unload.

Of course, I'm exaggerating, it isn't always that bad. Practically all customers are just fine, they ask for what they want, in detail, and are quite reasonable when they see what I've made. Most of the time they are quite pleased, sometimes even delighted! That happened with some Toad Houses just now. I made 6 (she asked for 3) and they all turned out and she had a hard time choosing. She liked them all!

Well, I better get back to the shop. I need 1 butter dish with a twisty handle (eh?), a smaller than usual teapot, 3 mugs with leaves on them... unfortunately, the list goes on. It's beautiful out today, sunny and 15C so if I'm really good and work hard I'll allow myself to take Rosie for a long walk in the woods as a reward.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

How's It Going With The Puppy?

She asked. Well, I said, let me tell you.

I've said 'No, Rosie', 798 times. In the last 3 days.

A kind friend is giving me a new duvet. I'm passing the stuffing from the  old one on to someone who makes dolls and uses a lot of stuffing. The damage was beyond stitching together and even patching looked dicey. All because Cat was on the bed, hissing.

She thinks her name is 'Rosie, bad dog'.

She's learned how to play fetch, that is, she's taught me to throw and she fetches. Then she won't let go and we have to tug-of-war. Have you ever played tug-of-war with a squeaky dog toy covered in slimy dog slobber?

The tennis ball, which flew through the air much better than a stuffed toy, is currently lost somewhere in the garden. It was very popular for a while, but then she ran off with it and I haven't seen it since. Only place I haven't checked for it is the pond...

Many plants have been successfully re-planted and will recover. There are holes ready for many more. It's my own fault for confidently telling someone, 'Oh, no, Border Collies don't dig.'

She obeys simple commands like 'sit' and 'go to bed' and 'out' very nicely, if you have a milk bone in your pocket. I learned this right after confidently telling the vet that Border Collies aren't food oriented and respond better to praise.

She much prefers cat food to dog food. The cat does not appreciate this. Speaking of food, she's learned to jump up and see what is on the counter. This explains what happened to my sandwich while I was at the sink getting a glass of water.

She's learned to throw her toys up in the air and catch them on the way down. Unless, of course, they land in the frying pan while I'm making dinner.

Border Collies aren't big swimmers, either. Which must be why I've had to fish her out of the pond about 6 times so far. She can leap in, but she can't climb out because the water is lower than the rocks that edge the pond. I'm planning on installing a ladder. Like a fish ladder, but for dogs.

Never get in the way of a puppy who is racing around and around the work table in the Studio with a stick in her mouth. Especially not if it is a large stick.

I didn't like those red garden clogs anyway.

Rosie inspecting a cactus... carefully. Good Girl!
So, how is it going? Well, I haven't laughed this much in years!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Life with a Puppy

Life with a new puppy can be very educational. I've taught my Owner quite a few things in the last couple of weeks.

For example, we now have a much better idea of how many small pieces of lumber and other sticks were tucked away under the counters in the Studio. Quite a few. This is something we were wondering about.

When done properly, a spot of digging can make dirt fly into the Studio, covering the entrance, the shelf of old pots beside the door, the buckets waiting to be washed, even the foot pedals on the wheels. The 600-lb rock step at the door might not get dislodged, but you can make a new and exciting gap between it and the threshold.

A bag of Styrofoam cups, when chewed and shaken by an expert, can cover a large territory. Half the driveway in front of the house, in fact. It will take Her 15 minutes of bending and scrabbling in the mud (it's been raining for 39 days so far...) to pick up most of the bits. The rest can wait. If it rains another day, it may not matter.

Bees are tasty. If you chomp them fast, they don't sting. But you may throw up later.

If you see a lovely small sponge you want, and She drops it into a slip bucket and it sinks, you can dive in after it. She might yell, but you've got the sponge.

Mosquitoes aren't much bothered by being barked at.

Turtles, on the other hand, don't care for it and tend to turn into small round things a lot like rocks, very hard to pick up and carry in your mouth. And they pee on you. Yuck.

Speaking of water, dropping large sticks into the dog water bowl is pretty cool. It makes a big splash and then you can lick the water off the wall. And you can get wet and then play in the mud from the hole you're working on as a surprise for your Owner, making it a double surprise.

Clay boxes are really fun to chew and rip. Newspapers are even better but they don't get soggy nearly as well. But if you chew on the corners of boxes with stuff in them, she makes with that 'No, Rosie, Bad Girl' routine. Does this make sense to you?

Don't chew on pin tools, ballpoint pens, or $90 red-handled secateurs. This makes her shriek.

But you can grab them and run. And leave them under various rose bushes... oh, gardening is so much fun.

Being  a puppy is fun!




Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New Puppy!!!

Drum roll, please!

Introducing: the world's cutest, smartest and most lovable puppy, Elphin Rosie.

Here she is sitting and considering her new world:


It's a strange one, and a wet one, as you can see! But after a bit of thought, she sets out to explore. Clearly, she's a true Border Collie, she already has 'the stare' down pat, all she needs is some sheep.

 Or a juniper that smells interesting:


Today the sun came out and we worked in the garden for a while. Rosie helped by dragging the trowel about 100' down the driveway, then making off with my phone (No, Rosie, bad girl....). After all that, a rest is in order!

So far, Rosie has managed to make Pepper the cat decide that she (Pepper) is never going into the kitchen again, has adopted an old oven mitt as her favourite toy, has raced a dangerous tea towel all around the Studio, and has taken on re-modeling one of the kitchen chairs. Yesterday in the Studio she did something I have never seen a dog do before. She found an old masking tape core in a box of empty clay bags and grabbed it for some serious and vigorous playing. It rolled, it bounced... she raced it around the tables. She growled at it, pawed at it, and raced it around some more. Then she walked over to the box, and dropped the tape back in.

Welcome home, Rosie!