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Saturday, 31 March 2012

Maggie Hambling and a little tour of Canterbury

Hello everyone! Weather returned to normal in Canterbury; grey sky, a bit of rain and a chilly wind. Despite the weather, we walked to the High street this afternoon to visit Sidney Cooper gallery to see 'The Thinking Line: Defining Drawing'. This morning, I happened to find that the drawing of Maggie Hambling is included in it and she is alumni of Christ Church University where Mike and I do ceramics. I liked her oil painting at Jerwood gallery at Hastings last week. So I wanted to see more of her works. 

Sidney Cooper Gallery on the High street
It is a small gallery, but most convenient for us to visit as we could walk, and it is free. I spotted her work as soon as I saw it. It was black and indigo acrylic drawing, but it reminds me of Japanese ink drawings. Her energy and dynamism was vibrating from it. It was titled 'Bird and dog fighting.'

I have noticed that lots of you are from abroad. So I think this is a good opportunity to show some parts of our famous historic city. After the gallery, we walked a bit more and did some shopping, and had espresso and chocolate cakes at Champagne bar at ABode. I will show you a part of the city as we walked back to home from there

The View of The library from the window of Champagne bar at ABode
It has been closed for several years for repair and extension. But it is near to completions now.

The history of Canterbury goes back to the Roman time, or beyond; there was a Celtic settlement before the Romans came in the 1st century A.D. 

The Westgate from inside the City wall
There are lots of tourists from all over the world, all year around. It is the destination of European school trips as well. You could hear French, Dutch, German and Italian quite often. It is a very international place.

Westgtae from the outside of the city wall

The city was walled by the Romans in the third century. This Westgate was medieval replacement of the Roman gate,  rebuilt around 1376 from Kentish ragstone, and the last survivor of seven medieval gates. Last weekend, the city changed its traffic system, and the Westgate area became one way system, except for buses and taxis. But there are still some confusions among residents. Double decker buses go through the gate. When I was a student, I used to sit on the upper floor of the bus to get a little thrill. I have seen large vehicles got stuck in the gate several times.  

Westgate Garden
 This is Westgate Garden. A shame about the grey sky, but it is more often like this! You can go on a boat trip over the River Stour. It is lovely place and lots of locals come to do picnic during warmer months.

St Dunstan

This is our nearest church, St Dunstan, found in late 11th century. There is the head of St Thomas More in the vault of Roper Family in it. More's daughter married to a member of Roper family who has lived nearby.

This evening we went to Beverley Craven's' little gig, Mike's old favourite, at the Gulbenkian theatre in the University of Kent. 3 minutes from our house by car. It was a fun. Although I didn't know any of her songs, I totally enjoyed it. She is talented.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Saggar fired pots in Japanese way

We had another sunny day. After work, I showered our parrots. The wetter they got, the wilder they became. They love shower, unlike our dogs.

I have never shown any of my works fired in saggars before. I had kept them as if they were my secret treasures until this week, but something happened inside me, and I decided to put two works for sale on eBay. I think it was my 'let them go' moment. I felt unless I let my past (works) go, I wouldn't be able to create new things. 

I made a couple of saggars from crank clay, and used them to fire small items in a traditional Japanese way. I made three Sakazuki, which are used to drink sake in formal occasions, whereas Guinomi are used in casual occasions.

1 This is a very attractive piece. Except for a part of the outside all parts are matt. Pale olive green is a natural glaze that comes from leaves. The black parts were from stalks. Stalks got burned on the surface, so I had to grind them afterwards. Japanese sake connoisseurs wouldn't mind these firing marks as most wood fired pottery has marks. The atmosphere of the saggar became partly reduced; it turned grey clay body into a beautiful orange colour. Although it is matt, it is watertight. I wish I could make something similar to this again, but it is up to a chance. It is for sale on eBay.  
Partly reduced

Pale green part is natural ash glaze

2 This pot was fired in fully reduced atmosphere in the saggar. Hence, my pine ash glaze turned to green. It is natural celadon glaze. 

Making pine ash was a real pain. I burnt pine branches, washed the ash so many times, sieved it, and ground it by hand. It took me some months to make it. But when I saw the result, I felt it was worth the effort. I can see steel blue, dark brown, pale brown and green on it. Although it is intended for sake, it could look good to serve a small amount of fine hors-d'Ĺ“uvre. Listied  also on eBay.
Full reduction
Natural celadon glaze from pine ash
3 This one also has same pine ash glaze, but the sagger remained oxidation atmosphere. As you can see, the atmosphere in the saggars makes such big difference to the pots. Each time when I was about to open a sagger, I became very excited with expectation. When the result was good, I did a little jig. I would love to do sagger firing again. It was such a fun!
Pine ash, oxidation

Yesterday, I suddenly remembered I made another successful firing with a saggar. Ta-da! My little Moomin! My childhood favourite TV hero. If you like to see more photos of him, you can see them on Etsy.  

Moomin fired in a saggar

During a walk, Pearl and I met Holly and John. We had a good time together. Here is Holly, Pearl's new friend.

Holly, Pearl's new friend.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Chameleon, rabbit and faces; New items I have listed today.

Hello everyone! It has been a glorious day again here in Canterbury. I saw a young mother in a sundress with straps with flip flops during a dog walk. We still have three days left in March. We are having a great time in this very unusual warm weather.

I have listed new things on eBay and Etsy today after work. He is on eBay now. I was not going to sell him online initially, because I thought that his long ears and feet would be damaged in transit. But I got confidence in packing, this morning.

I am the second biggest rabbit Midori ever made, Uhm, and the cutest.
 Reason? It's this. This morning, I packed a delicate rabbit girl to be posted. I found a box which came with its own foam fitted in. On top of this, another black foam sits. So, I thought I could make a padded box like this by myself for this rabbit.

I took our loyal Topaz to the post office again, to post this packet.

I also listed a brooch and a pendant.

Lovers who came in from the cold
  On Etsy, my chameleon is back! It is a little one this time. He will sit in the palm of your hand. Small and Perfect!
Small and perfect!
I was not taken to a post office, again.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

My new pots from a kiln

Hello from sunny Canterbury! It is not very often to be able to say the words 'sunny' and 'Canterbury' in a sentence. But this year, we have just had loads of sunshine. We have been lucky!

We have collected our freshly fired ceramics from the kiln yesterday evening. As I wrote yesterday, I felt a great relief to see my busts were successfully fired. These two go to two competitions, so I will not be able to show them here yet.

The rabbit mug I showed you two weeks ago was fired. I decorated it with our own white glaze. Rabbit looks cute, and it is already on Etsy.

The figure I smashed when I got up from a swivel chair in my studio was rescued from a rubbish bin! She had stayed in a bin for five days, then I changed my mind, and decided to repair her. I had sent her to bisque firing again, and she looks OK.  Although I can't enter her into a competition which was my initial intention, I will finish her to the end. 
Before  smashing

Half decorated and half fired.

My semi-porcelain rabbit bowl looks cute, but some bits have fallen into it during firing. So I have to send it fpr re-firing. When we have no control over firing, and we use kilns in an art school, sadly this does happen. We are considering buying a small kiln, and powering it with our solar panels. This is still at an early stage, but we both are keen on it.

A bit fat? Can he jump?
Over the weekend I made friends via Etsy and Twitter. I found twitter fun especially because I work alone, so it is relaxing to look at other people's photos and read info at coffee breaks. I am naturally chatty so this might help, too!

Our dogs are having a great time under the Sun, too.
Topaz found a spot to rub against!
Whilst waiting for Topaz rubbing, Pearl looks for small animals!


Monday, 26 March 2012

Day trip to Hastings, part 4: Battle

Hello, everyone! I have a good news. Two busts those went to final firing are successful. Yeah! I can enter them to competitions. I am very excited. I am also recommended to apply for MA in ceramics. This is also exciting news to me.

So, now back to the Hastings. This is the final part.

Climbing down the hill was, of course, easier than climbing up. But not that much. Look at this! These steep steps were waiting for us!

Terrifyingly steep.
 After that, until we reached Hasting Museum and Art gallery, no photo was taken because we got lost, and found ourselevs climbing another hill; we were too exhausted to take photos. I am usually determined, but I wanted to give up when my calves started aching on the last hill. Afterwards, we found out that this museum was as high as the castle. 
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

Handsome building
 Inside, there are a collection of almost everything, in a typical Victorian fashion. Durbar Hall was a breath-taking wooden panelled room with lots of carvings.

Stained glass on the window of the staircase
They also had a small art gallery where they exhibit old maps, and selling modern art works inspired by maps.

When we started walking back, we found this building in the new part of the town. I liked it very much. These panels are glass, and they look good.
The under building path leading to another street.

 Then I found a small nice bag shop! One for me, and one for him. We got these! Both were same price, but mine was a half price, his was 1/3 off.

Mine and his new bags
 When we finally returned to our car, we knew we should move quickly if we wanted to see Battle in daylight. Battle is the name of small town where the battle of Hastings actually took place. We knew we wouldn't be able to enter The Abbey and the battlefield, because they were not open weekdays before April.  But I wanted to have a glimpse of the battlefield.
The Abbey at Battle
  We drove about 30 minutes to Battle, and this is it. Inside the gate there is a boarding school, so cars were going in and out. It is a beautiful typical medieval building. The Abbey was built to sooth the spirits of those men who died in the battle.

Peek from the gate
 The night before, I researched the battle and configuration of both armies. I gathered this was the place, at least near the place, where about 1/3 of Anglo Saxon men in the battle were killed by the Normans. I took a photo by holding up my arm over the fence.  I wanted to walk around it, but it was getting late and dark, we gave up.  

We had a such wonderful day, and made unforgettable memory. We truly enjoyed ourselves in Hastings. people were very friendly and kind, too. We will come back again and visit where we couldn't see this time.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Day trip to Hastings, part 3: Hasting Castle

As we were told at Town Hall museum, we found Church Passage leading to the castle on the top of the hill.

The stone church itself is handsome. In a tiny courtyard, local people were having a break in warm sunshine.

The church.

Door on the side


Mike is ready for climb!
The climb started gently, but it became steeper. We went under someone's house! There was a local gentleman coming down who told us 'There are loads more steps!' with a naughty smile.
Narrower and steeper

Almost there

In fact, we were close to the top.
Italian girl jumping with a joy to be here!

Phew! We made it!  But it was not really the top, there was still more to climb to the castle! We sat down to rest our legs at a bench, and enjoyed the remains of the bucket of cookies from Cafe. As soon as I held the cookie, a pair of herring seagulls approached. But we finished them all. 

Hungry herring gulls

Steeper side of the hill.

We knew that the castle site was closed today. They only open weekends before April. But I insisted that we would go to the gate and look inside, Mike said,' Why? Are you going to rattle the gate?' I said 'You stay here, and I will go by myself.' Of course, he followed me. 

We had another small climb. and suddenly about 3 meters of down. We were there in front of a metal gate. I slipped my hand holding a camera through a space, and took a photo, anyway.
This is my glimps from the gate.
Then, we looked at the map how to go down and see another museum, 20 minutes walk away from town centre. I suggested we would go down from the back side of the hill to town centre although I couldn't see the proper route. Mike suggested we go down to seaside again, and climb again.

What happened next was unbelievable! A young man appeared from the inside, opened the gate, and told us that we could come in and see the castle. He was expecting a school trip, so we could well come and see as well! ! ! We thanked him, and I told him 'Today was our wedding anniversary, but most of places are closed. You made our day!'. I wanted to hug him and planted kisses on his cheek, but restrained myself to show my way of gratitude.

It was wonderful. There were two elderly couples already looking the site. Tranquil and peaceful. Sun was shining.
Looking down on the chapel

The remains of a suriving tower

This castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 just after The Battle of Hastings. In 1287, some months of storms collapsed a large part of the castle into the sea and it was abandoned.
The chapel

There were dotted plaques and explanation boards. One caught my eye was this.
The stone came from the castle in the town where William the Conqueror was born.
Even though longer than 1000 years have passed since The battle of Hastings; 46,000 men fought in the battle, the largest in the medieval time; the place still connect England and France. In 14th century, during the Hundred Years War, Hastings was again attacked by French and severely damaged. many houses were burnt down to the ground. Until I came here, I was not aware of the history of Hastings in detail. It was worth coming here to learn it.

This is the photo of a part of Bayeux Tapestry, in which the chapel once stood here on this castle ground was, some expert believe, stitched on.  

When the young man brought a school trip, Mike thanked him with a big thumb up from a distance, and we let ourselves out from the gate now open. 

We congratulated our good luck. We decided to climb down to seaside.