Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Ceramics workshop

It was very exciting to get back to the ceramics workshop last week and find that a number of items I had made in the last few classes of 2017 were bisque fired and now ready to glaze. I was busy with a new project though, and didn't have time to glaze these things last week, but hope to do so this week.

When working with clay, whether hand-building or working on the wheel, it is important to wedge the clay heartily; i.e. knead it to remove air bubbles (so finished pieces do not explode when fired!).

This is a plain draped slab pot: after wedging and rolling out some grey (stoneware) clay, I trimmed the sides and draped the slab over a paper-covered block of wood. I created two small rectangular feet to raise the platter form.

This is a more free-form draped slab pot. It was created in the same manner as the platter above, but I wedged some terracotta clay with the grey clay in order to produce a marbling effect. This will be glazed with a transparent glaze in order that the marbling remains visible.

This design of tree branches was created by the sgraffito method. After wedging, rolling out, and trimming a slab of grey clay, I painted the slab entirely with a terracotta slip. At the leather-hard stage. I scratched out the drawing with a sharp tool.

This tile of tree branches was also created using sgraffito.

The stone designs of the following three tiles were created using the mishima technique. After wedging, rolling and trimming the slabs, a design is incised in the leather-hard clay.

At this stage the clay is still moist enough to accept a layer of slip painted over its surface. I used a terracotta slip.

When the tile is nearly dry,  the slip is scraped away from the surface uniformly such that slip that had filled the incised design, remains to show the drawing. I plan to tint a clear glaze so that the designs remain visible after their final firing.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Mustard fruit

A number of years ago, my husband was watching a cooking show on xmas eve, where the chef talked about a super easy recipe to make as an accompaniment to the xmas ham. This recipe, with origins in Italy, is so easy to make that he set about immediately to make it in order that we could eat it the next day! Mustard fruit is so delicious though, it should not be hidden away to have only once a year. This accompaniment to the xmas ham also makes a fabulous chutney to have with cheeses and the other usual party snacks year round. Here goes!

Use any and all of your dried fruit that happens to be in your cupboard or fridge but make sure you have a varied mix. Your chutney may actually have a slightly different flavour every time you make it, depending on what's available for your mix. This year we had raisins, dried apricots, maraschino cherries, dates, dried figs, and candied peel.

The recipe is: 1 cup chopped dried fruit, half cup brown sugar, half cup vinegar, at least 1 tblsp dried mustard (add more if you wish!).

Mix all ingredients in a pot and bring to a hard boil; simmer for 5-10 mins stirring regularly so as not to stick to the bottom of the pot.

As it cools, the mixture becomes fairly thick. Spoon generously over your ham. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Happy New Year 2018!

In my family we wait till after dinner on new year's day to set the xmas pudding alight and make our wishes before eating the dessert with warm home made custard. The fiery pudding is always a spectacular sight, as the lights are out and the flames light the room. The blurry picture can show only a fraction of the real thing.

Happy New Year 2018! 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Xmas and butter tarts!

The month of December is about birthdays and xmas in my house - and cooking! We did the annual gingerbread cookies earlier in the month (I posted the recipe last December), made birthday cake for my husband shortly after and decorated the tree last weekend. My last ceramics workshop of the year took place last Thursday, and my husband & I were gifted with this beautiful wreath by a fellow workshopper who has also been taking a flower arranging course! 

I have plans to make my annual butter tarts in the next few days. The filling recipe is courtesy of my Newfie sister-in-law, and I only started making the tarts when she moved back to Canada about ten years ago. [Prior to that, the butter tarts were her annual "Canadian" xmas treat!]

Use your favourite pastry recipe for a dozen tarts. I use an easy one from DK's The Ultimate Cooking Book by Jane Bull: 1) Rub 125g/4 oz butter into 250g/8 oz plain flour 2) Add 4-8 tsp water to flour-butter mix 3) Squeeze into a dough ball, roll out, and cut with a pastry cutter or the floured top of a glass (that's what I use!).

For the filling: 1) Cream together 50g/2 oz softened butter and 120g/4.5 oz brown sugar 2) Beat in 1 egg, 1/2 tblsp lemon juice and 40g/1.5 oz  currants or raisins. 3) Add mix to pastry shells (in greased tart tin) and 4) Bake at 190C in preheated oven for about 15 mins (edges of pastry are delicately browned).

Yum! Happy Christmas and a safe, healthy and wondrous 2018!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

William Crozier: The Edge of the Landscape

I was really glad that I went to see the painting exhibition William Crozier: The Edge of the Landscape at IMMA (The Irish Museum of Modern Art). I had only recently heard of Crozier (1930-2011) because of advertising for this exhibition and another exhibition of his work in Cork.

From black and white ads, however, I have to admit I wasn't hugely interested, so it was a great surprise to see large, vibrant paintings when I found myself at the show!

Because of the layout of the exhibition space, I  was coming at the show from more recent work and moving backward through time.

This was fine as I encountered the really colourful, oft-times politically engaged work that he created after moving first to Spain in the 1960s and then to the west of Ireland in the 1970s.

I was attracted to the wild colouring of his paintings

and also to the drawing aspects within the paintings.

When I got to the final rooms (actually the historical start of the exhibition)

I was intrigued by the starkness of the images

but again there was the beautiful painterly drawing! I even thought it quite beautiful the way Crozier incised his signature, rather than painting it (something that oil painting allows easily).

These are works painted in Britain in the 1960s, expressing a bleakness and sorrow for the post-war world. Crozier was a young teen at the end of the war and horrified by post war images that came out of Germany and he later associated with the philosophy of Existentialism.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Stones - a stick book!

My original idea was that the book Stones would be a created as a stick book, companion piece to Sticks. I talk about the two books in a previous blog, along with showing simplified templates for both. In order to put Stones together I worked methodically: I scored the Khadi paper prior to printing and scored the Fabriano endpapers. The covers were made of a heavy duty, acid free blotting paper; only the front cover needed to be scored to facilitate folding when opening the finished book. 

Stones is a book of five intaglio prints based on pebbles at the seaside. The intaglio is done on 800 micron acetate plates and I printed the plates using my pasta press. I have given extensive details on how to convert a pasta machine into a miniature flatbed printer here.

After all prints were created, I decided on the page order. This is the first printed page.

Page 2.

Page 3.

Page 4.

Page 5.

Page six is an information page (signature, title, edition number, date). The pages were sandwiched between the endpapers and then wrapped with the blotting paper cover. I used a page of white paper, some corrugated cardboard and a lion clip to hold everything in place while binding holes were created using a drill press.

Stick binding is a variation of Japanese stab binding (instructions here). The stick, however, allows the binding thread to pass through the same hole consecutively, without unravelling. Although I originally planned to use real sticks, I was hit by a bolt of lightening and decided to create my own sticks in the ceramic workshop I am taking weekly. I simply rolled out some coils, hand-formed end bits, and used a real twig to press in some texture. Because of the colour of my prints (various mixes of Permanent Green, Payne's Grey, and Cobalt Blue) I chose a slate blue glaze for the sticks. I matched this colour to the six strand cotton embroidery thread I used for binding.

I started binding at the top, back to front and around the top of the stick then down to the next hole, and so on. This process was repeated going back up the book, tying several knots at the top back and trimming to the desired length. This is the back of the book.

Here are several of the bound books, showing the slight variation in the ceramic sticks.

I was very pleased with the finished books. Stones is in an edition of ten books.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Visit to London - part 3

My last day in London was spent at the magnificent British Museum. Well, actually, it wasn't a full day, so a lot of things I didn't have time to revisit (like the section that has a crazy amount of Egyptian sarcophagi). It was just as well that a royal visit was expected in another area that was closed off, as I didn't have time for it anyway!

My favourite parts of the museum include the rooms that have the Celtic, Norse, and Anglo Saxon treasures (especially the items from the Sutton Hoo find). Other favourites are the Assyrian statues and the rooms of relief carvings.

Though the royal lion hunt looks barbaric, the carvings are amazing.

The Assyrians were incredibly adept at portraying lions in agony.

It is interesting that the figures look so emotionally cold while the animals are so lifelike and detailed in their wounded demeanor.

A view of another mural, that had a large amount of cuneiform writing. Perhaps I just missed it, but I was surprised that there was no translation of all the writing (even if just a synopsis of the story).

The "man bags" were an item of curiosity! Apparently they are part of rituals of purification  and/or fertility as magical objects.

Again, it is the detailed lifelike forms of the animals which intrigue me the most.

I also spent a fair bit of time in the money room, which contained a whole history of barter, historical coins, etc. As a long time Dr Who fan, I was drawn to the fake ten pound note that was created for a specific episode; the display also contained a looped video of the relevant scene of that episode/