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Sunday 30 September 2012

A living wall and a red goblin

Hello everyone. Daytime noticeably became shorter. It's chilly in evenings and early mornings. I could hear the footsteps of winter coming. Mike saw a small flock of swallows flying in a circle over our house and drifting to the south this evening.  We wish them a luck on their journey to Africa.

This morning was kiln opening morning. As soon as I woke up, I got dressed and went to the garage. Mike who was eating his breakfast in the kitchen followed me. All pieces were for re-firing this time. The main pieces, which are on commission, went well. I am so glad! Others are mixed results. Some may go on eBay as seconds. We will see.

Talking of eBay, those ceramics we have listed on eBay are not showing on category search, except for one. They are on the eBay system.  I must investigate this later.

This morning we took our dogs to the University, where we both graduated from. (Not the one I am a student of). Mike kept telling me that I should go to see a living wall of one of new buildings. Exciting! Dogs caught scents of squirrels and rabbits, and they became uncooperative, but I managed to take some photos.

A living wall
A living wall,  close-up
It was definitely impressive. I  like the idea. There are ferns, primulas, rosemary, hellebore, grass, sasa etc. I am not sure if all would survive winter. Irrigation comes from a drainpipe on the left (see first photo).    

I checked my 'Narnian woods' on campus. It is a tiny woods of sliver birches. Mike and I agree that they will overgrow the allotted space. All trees were planted too close to each other. Still they take me to Narnia where fauns dance for a short time.  
My Narnian woods
When we came home with disappointed dogs (they wanted to search for rabbits and squirrels, rather than looking at a living wall, and taking photos of it!), I noticed that our flower pot is still very pretty. Mike has watered it frequently. They are miniature petunias. They will look great until the first frost comes.

Our flower pot by the front door

What I saw this morning when opened the front door was this.

I thought I saw a goblin at one moment. Then I felt I know something similar to this person (a young girl, in fact). It's my monster, who lives in woods. He can change himself to a mushroom or red berry. I wondered if she would change herself to something, too. (I thought she seemed to be able to do so). She disappeared by the time when we came home.
My little monster, Etsy

Friday 28 September 2012

Pearl's new pyjamas and almond croissants.

Hello everyone. It has been a tiring week only because I have suffered from flu. My body aches and I don't feel very perky. I will get rid of it this weekend!

Yesterday, Pearl's pyjamas arrived. We are delighted! She is a whining dog. Reasons vary (cold, hungry, Topaz bullying, etc) but the most frequent calls are for her blanket not over her. Being a whippet, she has no undies (undercoat) so she is very prone to cold, just like me (note: I wear undies). We usually have to cover a blanket over her about 10 times a day. So we hope the pyjamas cut the numbers of her miserable whining calls! and increase my productivity ( I have to run down from my office on the first floor to attend her blanket call downstairs . She looks cute, doesn't she? I have never been 'pink' or 'heart person'. But I buy pink for Pearl. She looks best in pink.

My new pyjamas.

Lots of hearts

Mum thinks this angle looks best. 
Last Wednesday Mike had a fantastic a half day training at Potterycrafts at Stoke-on-Trent. He has learnt a lot, so before he forgets all, I took a note. He, of course, brought back three organic almond croissants and one praline Danish from Le Pain Quotidien. Mike and I had one almond croissant each with strong coffee soon after he came home about in the evening. Although I had my supper earlier, I fancied more, so I had the Danish while Mike ate sandwiches. I hate soggy pastry, but theirs are really crispy and buttery. Oh, heaven!

If you wonder what happened to the last almond croissant, I had it at breakfast. Mike warmed it up in the oven for me next morning just before I woke up. He is so nice! I would love to have one every morning! It's my dream.
Mine was right. : )


Tuesday 25 September 2012

Gold double headed ceremonial staff

Hello everyone. How are you today? I didn't feel well enough to work today, so I decided to take a rest. I think I may have got flu. When I woke up, all parts ached including my head. But our beloved parrots were shouting for the second course of breakfast from a next room, so I had no choice but to get up and give them parrot bread baked loving by Mike. Scooter, Timneh Grey, shouts like 'Are you ok? It's dark! Are you ok?' and on and on. Beaper, another Timneh Grey, whistles a tune or two. They were loud and insistent. Once I got up, I felt as if I were an old tin man! All parts need drops of oil!

After a while, I felt better, so I was able to use my PC for pleasure; browsing Etsy and reading other people's blogs. Such fun! I used to spend many hours looking at photos of art blogs I randomly found. It is a bit like discovering a hidden boutique on a narrow street.  

Yesterday I went to the post office, the bank and my duty dog walks in light rain despite having a slight fever. This was the last straw, I guess. I have rested very well today. So I hope I will go back to work tomorrow. I start at 8:30. Also, I have all responsibility on my shoulders tomorrow. Mike is going to a training course for the kiln. He won the training at a pottery supply company whom we got a kiln from. The travel expense is also being paid for. It is a long trip, three hours by train. He is excited! So am I. This is the first time he has won something since we met. I hope he will learn lots and enjoy the day tomorrow.

Today I will share you with ceremonial staff I made. Between dark clouds with heavy rain there were sunny patches. I took some photos of my ceramics. One day I had desire to make the ceremonial staff kings and queens hold on their thrones. My desire was so intense that I couldn't resist, otherwise I thought I would be mad.  I have already showed you one of them, and this is the other one.  I used yellow glaze, and on top of it decorated with gold enamel. It has very good effects. The gold colour looks rich and gorgeous as I wanted. In an ideal world, I wanted to mount little gem stones in each dents I made on the swirl. But I had to compromise with red (ruby), blue (sapphire) and green (emerald) enamels. Painting them was very difficult because the enamel tried to run down before it had hardened. Three coats were needed to make them relatively flat surfaces. This really took lots of my time and effort, but I feel it was all worth it. There is nothing like this in the whole world, and I like to hold it    

Lion side has a red cabochon.

Side view
Sheep side

I have listed this work on Etsy today. Don't miss your chance to hold it in your hand in a royal manner!

Monday 24 September 2012

A story of a cat with a past

Hello everyone. I caught a cold. Already? Yes. I disappointed myself, too. I have had robust health since I caught a terrible (probably swine) flu in Christmas 2010. My immune system had been boosted after that. I have had no cold or flu until today. It seems I returned to a mere mortal.

Saturday morning we started the kiln for glaze-firing. I was a bit nervous because this firing had commissioned works which I was re-firing and also their replacements in case original ones wouldn't improve. We opened the kiln first Sunday morning. The top shelf where I placed commissioned works had some under-firing. Shiny green transparent Oribe glaze on new pieces became semi-matt. Ah---gh!  There was more unexpected sight. Clear glaze was too thick, it became white to obscure my decoration on cups and little rabbit objects. Our crests were fallen. Although this was meant to be the last firing of the year at home, apparently we need to re-fire lots of them.

Talking about failed glaze firing, once I smoke fired two pieces, a cat and a mouse, which didn't come right after glaze firing. The results of smoke firing were good. I made this cat probably too thin so it didn't absorb enough  glaze. Although I reapplied the glaze and refired it, it didn't make any difference. So, I decided to smoke fire them. I put a lots of leaves, stalks and all other plant materials with the cat and the mouse in a metal bin and put fire on them. After while, I placed a lid on it so that it would make (terrible!) smoke. It did. After that, I washed them and wiped them clean. The cat has rich yellow glaze underneath, so it became as if old Japanese lacquer. I like it. The baby mouse had intricate greyish brown colour. After smoking, it became even more complex surface. It went to a lovely elderly lady's home. Her husband bought him for her on their wedding anniversary.  So this story had a happy ending.
Old Japanese lacquer feel
She decided to stick the tongue out.

Last Saturday I went to registration for my course in Canterbury Christ Church University. It went smoothly. After that I was given a bag and a lollipop. : ) I put a lollipop in my pocket and felt much younger!

I was given a lollipop. 

Everyone was carrying this bag around there.


Friday 21 September 2012

The Faun and a shield bug

Hello everyone. Radiators came on, I put on a cashmere jumper and alpaca socks in the morning, Pearl, the whippet, recovered her lost appetite (she needs fattening for winter) , and I am searching for her pyjamas on ebay. Autumn is here. Last two days, I have decorated and glazed bisque in the garage, our glazing room. Yesterday I had spent six hours there and finished at 9 at night. Today was much better, I have been there for 5 hours, till seven in the evening. I wore four layers for top, and three layers for bottom, It is cold working in the garage. I think this is our last firing this year. As you already knew, we try to power the kiln by solar energy. There will be still odd sunny days in autumn, but we can't plan ahead. Planning is everything in firing. I will use the kilns in the art school, where I take a course, from now on. Their glazing room is warm and bright. It would be huge improvement from our cold dark garage.

One of recent customers on eBay, kindly sent me a private message after he received my sculpture. He said '....the real one looks much better than in the photos. ....' I was of course delighted to read it. But I was also reminded of my poor skill of photography. I haven't improved yet. I can only use several out of about 100. Mike used to count photography as one of his hobbies when we met. But I can't rely on him. His images are very very crisp, but from wrong angles!  None of the subjects are looking into the lens!  So there are several of my sculpture I have never shown or put for sale, only because I can't take good photos of them. One of them is this faun.
This is taken a couple of weeks ago. It is probably the best one I have taken. He had a rough start to his life. His glazing didn't go well; he became almost charcoal black! I wanted him to be the subtle and delicate glaze like Kinkajou. So I glazed him again and refired him. Although the colour and texture is not what I aimed at, I am happy with how he looks now. I call him Perin, named after one of our friends. (Oh, Perin is much more handsome, : )  but the faun has boyish twinkle in his eyes, just like our friend.)

Today, I heard a ping when I was coming into the house from the garden. I looked around, and found this. 
Tiny feet support a large body

Huh? What is it? I went out again to see who it was. It's a shield bug! It has beautiful lime green!  I was amused by it. Did you know that it has lots of tiny dots on the surface? I didn't notice until I enlarged the photo. He was already gone next time I came to the door.

'Your dirty window is easy to cling to. '


Tuesday 18 September 2012

A pack of whippets - ceramic kind

Hello everyone. I feel I have spent every minute of the day usefully today! Nicely tired and contented. This evening, I was going to watch Downton Abbey (recorded). But after dinner I somehow decided to make a pair of whippet knife rests, instead.  I made my first whippet knife rest a month ago. In fact, the smallest one was made as a Japanese brush holder, then I thought it could be a beautiful knife rest. Then, I got carried away making larger ones, which are too big for knife rests, but very nice objects.
The little one is my brush holder. 
After the white one (second from right, picture above) went to a lovely home, I felt the need to replace the gap. So I made two white whippets (the first and second from left, picture below). I made them as sculpture; they have lots of curves.
New white pair
I was very happy to see them in a pack. So I haven't even listed them for sale. ( I will later, after I get enough joy from looking at them! )

But tonight, from the beginning, I designed them as knife rests. Probably, I had enough satisfaction of making more realistic whippets when I made the last pair. A bit complicated, isn't it? But actually I have a much worse habit. After I have created something, I need time with them. I have a kind of dialogue, or a some kind of a weaning process. Sometimes it takes a long time to draw a line between them and myself. I feel they are part of me. So I seldom list my creations for sale immediately after they are fired. I just keep them in a cabinet for weeks or months! Having said that I disciplined myself to shorten the time this year. I am trying to be a grown-up!   

This evening's new creation - whippet knife rests

Monday 17 September 2012

Mugs with rabbit handles

Hello everyone. I hope you had a good Monday! : )  Mike and I have done lots of clay works lately. We are going to bisque firing this Wednesday, and it would be our last bisque firing of the year with our kiln. We aim to use solar power to fire the kiln. As we live in England, we can't expect sunny days too often from now on. Of course, we will glaze fire after that. That would be the last firing of the year at home.

Last Saturday I had spent about 12 hours making chameleons, one big one and two little ones, on two commissions. As you might remember, my last firing for the little ones didn't go well, so I altered design and made sure that glaze can't pool in the middle of the pieces. They are so intricate, detailed and fragile. One of the three was broken as soon as I finished it. That would have been my insurance.

The deadline for the large one is November. I have also failed on this one once. There is no way I could repair him because sadly one of the legs fell and got smashed! Then a crack appeared between the body and tail during glaze firing. So he is going to be our table mascot. I imagine he would be a good conversation piece!

On Sunday, I put on an apron and cleaned kitchen, cooked meals and did tidy up most of the day. Mike aptly called me 'a part-time domestic goddess'! Hahaha, I like that. When Mike came to the kitchen, I was making disc shaped croquette. I said to him I could make whippet shaped ones, if he wanted. He didn't request it.

Mike made a couple of mugs on a potter's wheel, and I also made a mug and a jug. So this afternoon, I turned their bottoms and attached handles. Mike also did same after work. They are going to be decorated with my Japanese styled rabbits.

I also have made different rabbit mugs last month. (You could tell by now how much I like rabbits.) As usual, My mugs are not gigantic ones, but they will hold about 300 ml, which is 1 1/4 cups. They are kind to ladies'  smaller hands, as they are lightweight. You can make your cuppa a bit more special with these rabbit mugs!

Rabbit mug 1

Rabbit mug 2

Finally here are my croquette. I shaped them as discs for shallow frying. Because I don't cook often, whenever I do, Mike appreciates my effort so much! Here is the secret of successful marriage for you. : )

Pumpkin's egg had rich yellow yoke, so they became yellow too.

Thursday 13 September 2012

New start in autumn

Hello everyone. I returned to my day 'job' today. My brain is still in 'whole day ceramics' mode. So, I have struggled to concentrate on work. How do I persuade the brain?  I think the brain is similar to a muscle. I can train it. I force it to use the logical part, and then it will start working properly again after some days. I have heard a pianist saying if she take a day off from practicing, she would need three days to catch up. My brain is just like that.

During the summer vacation, I have listed lots of my ceramics on Etsy and eBay, read and learned from good advice on Etsy, made my business cards (I haven't showed you yet, have I?), bought boxes for shipping, taken commissioned orders and made thank you cards. It was fun!

Today, I received a letter from Canterbury Christ Church University where I am going to start a part-time postgraduate course in Fine Art and Applied Art in October. I have waited for this letter. It says that the MA  course will be on and I need to go to registration next week. Hooray! Now I am going to apply for a professional and career development loan. I have just requested paper bank statements from my bank. As soon as they arrive, I will send an application form to the bank. If it is accepted, this should help me funding the course fee. Once the course finishes in two years time, I will repay the loan. I am hoping that I can raise the most of the fees from my sales.

So, from now on, I will start adjusting our furred and feathered family for my part-time student life. I will be busier than now, and I am already busy. I know our guys (parrots, dogs, finch and chicken) will be able to adjust although they may not like the change at first.

I have muttered about myself too much. Now I will show you our recent collaborated pieces. Mike throws them on the wheel, and I drew the rabbits. They are a Japanese rabbit motif.  We both like them a lot. We also made three bowls with rabbits and some plants, but the clear glaze became lumpy inside. It was bitterly disappointing. We hope we can add some flux to make it smoother and then refire them again
Mug for strong strong coffee like cappuccino

Tea cup size
That's it today. I have injured my finger tips while I was husking hazel nuts today. So I can't do clay work tonight. I will take shower and go to sleep ( and have a nice dream, I hope ). Good night, everyone! See you soon! 

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Looking with fresh eyes

Hello everyone. Yesterday morning we opened the kiln. The commissioned work I have been working on for weeks didn't have a good firing. I was so disappointed. First, the glaze was too thick, and second the glaze pooled in the middle of the piece; hence it hides all the details I painstakingly carved. It is similar to the feeling you have when you realise that your cake didn't rise. You have so much expectation and no result. What is worse than failed cakes is that it was some weeks' work. All air came out of me ( I could almost hear the sound), and I shriveled. I contacted the client. She is incredibly supportive and patient. I am very lucky.

This morning, I looked at them in bright sunshine. I saw how I could alter design to solve, at least partially, the problem. I feel upbeat again. Whatever I do, I seldom give up. Whatever I do, I don't compromise. I enjoy solving problems.

So, I started my day positive. I cooked lunch, which is very rare, for us. I finished turning three pots. I also threw a mug and a bowl on a wheel. I recycled clay and made lots of mess on my clothes in the process.
Three pots were turned. 
I also listed a new item on Etsy, this evening.

What is it? It is a sceptre. It might be also called a ceremonial staff. Have you ever seen in a film kings and queens hold them on their thrones? That's the one. This is inspired by Celtic art. After reading an art history book on Celtic art and a following visit to British Museum to see some of the items in the book in person, I made this and another sceptre, which I will show you later.

Is there any use? I held it in my hand whilst watching one of Narnia films. I was imagining I was one of the queens in Narnia. : ) I wished I had a medieval robe and a crown as well! So I can assure you that it fits very well in your palm. It is made to be held, but it can be buried in the garden for others to discover as an ancient object, if you like!

Poor Mike tweaked his back at work. He screams now and then when he moves. I am doing my very best to help him. I know it is excruciating. I have done it twice. So I will be extra busy looking after all animal family alone until Mike recovers. Get well soon, Mike!          

Sunday 9 September 2012

My largest rabbit in a bunny suit

Hello everyone. Summer is still with us. We had glorious days this weekend. Yesterday I had spent about seven hours decorating and glazing my bisque in the windowless garage, aka our glazing room. It doesn't sound nice, but I was not that bothered. I was more focused on works to be done. The kiln started this morning. It contains commissioned works, which has taken me longer than three weeks. So all our fingers are crossed! I will be nervous tomorrow morning when we open the kiln. Even now, I feel worried if I think about it. (So, I don't.)

So that was yesterday. Today I chilled and enjoyed throwing several pots for fun. I selected only three among them to be turned. One yunomi, one bowl with rim and one without. I don't throw often, but I enjoy doing it once a while. Only drawback is I have to recycle clay. It is a long messy job. At college a machine does it, but at home it is all done by hands.

Today's picture is the largest of  my recent 'Rabbit in a bunny suit' series. I have already showed you other two, the other day. He looks calm and wise. He looks a bit like a boy. All faces I have made are different.  I let clay guide me. This is only way they will have individuality and energy. That's what I want, and I know that's people want, too.

Rabbit in a bunny suit 

Friday 7 September 2012

The Beany reopened in Canterbury plus Pumpkin's antics

Hello everyone. We had a glorious summer day here in Canterbury. Mike took a day off work, and I took a half day off, and we went to 'town', which means the old city centre (about 13 minutes' walk from our home). The main purpose was a visit to The Beany House of Art and Knowledge, previously known as Beany Institute and library. It had been repaired and refurbished for several years at a cost of £14 million. It was reopened two days ago, and tomorrow will be the official opening day. So before it gets crowded, we decided to go to take a peek.

We had grocery to do, so we parked our car at a super and walked along the river. Tourists were on a boat.

Guided tour over the River Stour
What else could make you feel more peaceful than watching a boat?  Summer is still with us. I found beautiful berries on the river side. They look like some kind of currants to me.  There is also a large fig tree growing as well, although I have never see fruits on it.

Pretty orange berries along the river
There is an old disused synagogue, and once you turn it to the left, you can see the top of the Cathedral over the old disused church. Canterbury has lots of old buildings decorated with flints stones, just like this church, which was founded in the Middle Age.  
St Alphege Church
We walked Palace street. Locals and tourists were chilling out.

Palace street
 It was such a nice day to wander around the city. Look at the blue sly. Just looking at it made us happier!

Cypriot baklava cafe had refurbishment. Four cyclists were looking at the menu for lunch. 
We finally reached to the High Street. Here is The Beany House of Art and Knowledge, formerly known as The Beany Institute and library. They had a small Henry Moore exhibition. Moore used to live in Kent before the WW2.


1st floor windows 
We had looked at every room, and had coffee in the 'Kitchen', a brand new cafe.  There are various collection of paintings, ceramics, taxonomy, a small Egyptian cat mummy, as well as some archaeological objects including a Roman gold jewelry and 17th century salt glazed tankards; both were found during construction of an extension to the Beany. If you dig anywhere in Canterbury, you are most likely to find old objects. It could be as old as Roman, or just Victorian. This is amazing to me!

Whilst looking at paintings, I found one of them was a scene of a rose nursery. Lots of beautiful pink, orange, coral red roses are painted. There is the Cathedral behind woods. The rose nursery used to be close to where we live. I have heard it a long time ago from an old man who used to work there as a casual hand when he was child. I don't remember clearly now, but the oil painting was painted about a century ago. Now I found how beautiful this area used to look in early summer.  
Mid afternoon. More people were sun bathing in the ancient orchard, now park. 
We wanted to go to another gallery, but it was closed. So we headed back to the supermarket. It is very unusual for me to do grocery (Mike's job), so when I accompany Mike, we ended up buying much more that usual. As usual, I added my types of food (salty kind) into the trolley.   

Back home, we took our dogs out. After that, I played with our greatest chicken, Pumpkin. Well, actually I was picking some beans, and she insisted that she would help. So I gave her overgrown beans. Then she noticed that I was holding some tender ones in my hand, So she jumped up and ate some of humans' one. She was very quick!  Do you know we never scold chickens? Nobody can scold chickens, especially Pumpkin. I sighed, and held the remains of humans' beans higher.    

Mike is feeding Pumpkin, our greatest chicken. 
She is our greatest chicken. We have only one, but she knows she is a special one. She rules the roost and lays eggs for us, so that Mike can make delicious lemon pies for me before I wake up. Heavenly!

She can find bugs and crawlies by her self, but loves to be fed. Then she makes irresistible cute prrrrr sound.  We humans are conditioned to feed her by hand to hear prrrr sound!

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Do you know Kinkajou?

Hi Everyone! We had a sunny day today, but the air was that of autumn. The forecast is that we would have several days of warm weather. Lovely!

I was woken up just before seven by Topaz's mad barking. The reason was this chap. He comes to our hazel tree to steal nuts about 20 times a day. Anytime either of our dogs sees it running with a nut in the mouth, all hell breaks out. Flower pots on the windowsills get knocked off. The garden door was scratched.  They bark like mad dogs! And they look like mad dogs!
Nut stealing squirrel.
Late morning I took Topaz to the post office. The injuries on her feet got better and she was very happy to be taken. I wrote 'to be taken' but she actually lead me to the post office. She is clever enough to remember the route after several trips. Our route has a pelican crossing. I obligatory push the button because she won't cross it until the beeping sound for the blind starts. I taught her this since she was a puppy because I thought this might save her life one day.

Beautiful crackles on her cream coloured body.

Attractive matte cream glaze breaks to dark pink spots, beige and a bit of shiny parts.
This evening I was listing my ceramics in my Etsy shop. After I listed two whippets (above), Etsy site went down. I was ready to list my Kinkajou wall mask next. Do you know Kinkajou? They are nocturnal animal living in central and south America. They are omnivorous; parts of their diet is nectar and honey, hence they are also called  'Honey bear', although they are not related to bear family. One day I saw this animal on BBC wild life program. I like it at once, so I made a small wall mask. I did a glaze test on it. The test became so good that I kept him. Irony was that despite the test result, when I applied same layers of glazes on the one I had test for, it failed completely. The failure was probably caused by the thickness of the first glaze. Glazing is the most difficult thing in ceramics in my experience.  
Kinkajou wall mask
As Etsy is still down, I will retire early. I will list more of my ceramics, probably all September. So don't forget to check them out once a while. Good night, everyone!

From National Geographic

Monday 3 September 2012

Mimi, the consultant and who is in a bunny suit?

Hello everyone. We had a summer day here in Canterbury. During my quick dog walks, those neighbours pottering around kept telling me how warm it is today. Lovely! Another half-sleeve day before autumn. This morning, I had been busy packing and shipping our ceramics. I had the first Japanese customer living in UK. How wonderful! I haven't used polite Japanese expression for a long time, so I might have sounded a bit too square. Do you know Japanese language has very complicated polite expressions, like a maze. There were four methods to express politeness. They say this is the most difficult thing for the students of Japanese language to master. I am not surprised.

Recently, I started making my own thank you cards. They go with my ceramics in the packages. I found making cards so enjoyable that I started designing a different one for each ceramics! I have already made six. It's a bit like a hobby. I told this and sent a photo of one of the first designs to my old trusty friend, Mimi. She suggested that I should develop them to products and offer them at my Etsy shop, and she thinks they would sell well! Wow, I felt every single artist needs a friend like Mimi. I filed her suggestion into my 'Be creative!' file. Just like everything I make, the problem I face is that they are handmade and can't make in numbers. But I will definitely consider her ideas. She was a full of confidence. I finally found my business consultant!

Rabbit in a bunny suit

One of my 'Rabbit in a bunny suit' was sold this weekend, so I replaced it with 'Baby in a bunny suit' on my Etsy. This is my sweetest and roundest one I have ever made. I don't know what possessed me, but it might be the effect of the full moon!

A Baby in a bunny suit on Etsy