Thursday 25 April 2019

Handbuilt tableware set, Part 2 of 3

So far I have three large plates and two small ones. It will be a service for four when I am finished. The fourth large plate is already made and glazepainted, but there was no room for it in the kiln.

Once I had decided that it was the terracotta over the low-fire white, I began my tulip drawings. As I have previously mentioned, yellow tulips are my favourite flower and I have oodles of sketches, so it was a simple matter of looking at my sketches and enlarging them (by eye) on the plates. I used a regular pencil knowing that the lines would burn off in the kiln. I started with the main yellow glaze.

I also used a second, deeper yellow in some areas and some purple and green for the stamens. I glaze-painted with the intention that the glazes would not touch, leaving terracotta lines between areas of colour.

The leaves and the stems shared a speckly-green glaze, and then I added a layer of a lighter green over the stems, which would be apparent after the plates were fired.

There is a lovely speckle turquoise glaze that I used as a background.

Here it is apparent how much space the plates take up in the kiln.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Handbuilt tableware set, Part 1 of 3

Early in the new year I had the idea that I wanted to create a set of dishes in the ceramics workshop that I attend every Thursday afternoon at Signal Arts Centre, here in Bray. I planned to make these dishes with handbbuilding techniques rather than on the wheel and my plan was to paint them with tulip designs. Yellow tulips are probably my favourite flower and I have loads of sketches of them.

First off, I had to find two large plates with slight curves, but not too many folds, as formers. I hadn't firmly decided on terracotta clay for the set, but I used terracotta to start with.

For smaller plates I used the plastic lids from pudding bowls as formers because they had a gentle curve over which I could drape a slab. NB cling film must be placed between any former that isn't plaster in order that clay won't stick to it. I decided that the small plates would have feet, and this picture shows the necessary scoring where the feet will be placed.

Instead of one solid foot, I decided to make a design with two arcs for the feet. This picture shows the scoring of the foot (it is on a cloth) before placing, after applying the slip bond, onto the corresponding scoring on the plate.

Here are the two small plates with their feet attached and my initials and date within the circumferences of the feet.

I had also made some small low-fired white plates without feet, as I hadn't made a final decision on whether or not I would make a set in white clay or terracotta. Here are several plates after the bisque firing. At this point I knew for sure that my set of dishes would be made from terracotta and not white. The small white plates will be for a different purpose

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Writing and reading

I have been reading quite a lot over the past few years, the picture below shows a sample of books I have been enjoying lately: political philosophy, poetry, biography, creative non-fiction and essays. A lot of my reading material is suggested to me by Brainpickings (link in "Inspirations" sidebar) which is put together by the brilliant Bulgarian ex-pat in NYC, Maria Popova. I have been subscribing to Popova's weekly compendium of essays and reviews for a number of years now, and I think she is probably one of the most erudite thinkers and writers currently around! Popova is the mover behind the annual Universe in Verse event in NYC, a fundraiser for the environment that brings together poetry and science. If you don't happen to live in NYC, you can catch up on the 2017 and 2018 events here. The 2019 event takes place at the end of this month and will also be live-streamed. I expect that it, as with the previous years, will be made available later in full. 

April is poetry month, and as in previous years, I have been doing the poem-a-day challenge. I follow the website for Na/GloPoWriMo (National/Global Poetry Writing Month), which gives daily prompts and links to poetry based resources. It is fun, challenging, and useful to my own writing practice. The poem-a-day helps me focus and I often write things I probably wouldn't write otherwise. I have the months following April to go back to these poems and revise, but for now, I just need to get them written! One of the poems I initially wrote for Na/GloPoWriMo, Thingvellir at Night, has recently been published online in Scarlet Leaf Review, along with several others.

I have not yet figured out what the difference is between essay, memoir, and creative non-fiction, but regardless, I was delighted that my work, Holding It Together - bookbinding as memorial - was published online last week in Abstract: Contemporary Expressions.

Although poetry and art criticism (and letter writing!) have always been my main modes of writing, in the past few years, I have expanded to include other forms - fiction, memoir, non-fiction. I was especially delighted when my short story, Prayers for My Children, was published online in Issue 7: Continuity by Tales from the Forest; poems have also been published in Issue 6: How it Begins and Issue 9: Limits. For further links to my writing, please see my webpage and follow the links through the "writing" section.

Back in January of this year, there was a call for poets to read one of their poems for Poetry Sound Map. I decided to make a recording of one of my older poems Portrait, which was published in either 1989 or 1990 in New Irish Writing, a feature of The Sunday Tribune at the time (now it is a feature of The Irish Times). I am very happy to be included on the world map of recordings from poets alive and dead - I am in great company!

Wednesday 3 April 2019


One glorious day last week (18C!) I was down the town doing some errands, and really feeling like summer, never mind spring, was here. Magnolia and blossom trees were flowering beautifully. I expect there'll be petal pollution soon.

That same day, while waiting for a bus, I was simply delighted by the blue sky. Though the trees were still bare, they were noticeably budding and will be leafy very, very soon.

A huge part of spring, is the cleaning part. Actually, this attic work has been ongoing for a few months -- as I have been trying to reorganise my studio space for guests coming soon in a few weeks, and for me to get back to work in it following their departure.

These pictures of a disaster-area space are in stark contrast with the way it looks now! Many items have been recycled, thrown out, or homes have been found for them. It is very satisfying to go up to the attic studio and NOT see this anymore.

Another sign of spring is Mothering Sunday, i..e., Mother's Day here in Ireland (always in March, not in May like North America). I am a mother and this is my bouquet of spring flowers.