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Friday 30 August 2013

A whiff of autumn air brings a greedy squirrel.

Hello everyone. I have started two kilns this afternoon. And a third one was loaded for firing tomorrow. So, there will be eight firings from Tuesday to Saturday. It's a record for me. Fran, the secretary popped into the studio. Having seen me looking slightly insane and intense to finish all my works, she asked if we would have our own MA show next year. Yes. So, these sculptures I am making are not going to be marked. No. She rolled her eyes. But that's not the point. I just have to do my very best on something I enjoy doing.

When she appeared I was applying underglaze on one of my small works at the table. If she had seen me in kneeling in front of the kiln a bit earlier, she would have thought I would have gone mad. Even at my standard, this is a bit too gone! So I took a photo to share with you! (I was doing a very delicate work on a sculpture, not praying, by the way.)

I used a towel for my poor knees. 

After dinner, we collected hazel nuts. As soon as there is a whiff of autumn air, a local grey squirrel comes to collect our nuts (and buries them all over the neighbourhood!). He carries some in both cheeks, and holds about three with his front leg, and runs on three feet on a garden wall and fence about 20-30 times a day. It's literally him or us. So we pick nuts whilst still green.

Our garden wall is 2.4 m high, about 8 feet

Once Mike starts picking nuts, he won't stop. He goes further and further inside.

Pumpkin and I had played on the ground. 
 It was getting dark. Camera needed flash. Now I could see only his legs!

Mike was swallowed by the tree
It got so dark and cool, Pumpkin and I went in. Pumpkin to her house, I to our house.  ; )

After a while, Mike came back with a bag half full of nuts. Sorting is my job. They need drying. As soon as I got the nuts out, our nuthound awoke from sacred deep sleep. Pearl loves all nuts!

Good harvest this year!

Dogs and parrots were given one each. But parrots were suspicious. They don't touch them. Nuthound cleared them all.    

Mike took a beautiful photo of the sunset after collecting nuts. I hope it will be dry tomorrow.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Pressure is on.

Hello everyone. I have been working hard and long on final works for the coming up MA show, Prism. I had planned four firings between Tuesday and Friday this week. I have started the fourth firing this afternoon. I imagine tomorrow I will need yet another firing. Kiln will not be able to be opened by Saturday when hanging will start. But the show commences on the 6th September, so I could still bring my works in next week. Even so, pressure is on me although I am not a main exhibitor; we, part time first year students, are fillers. Do you like pressure? I do. I thrive on it. I like it so much that I even started a new work this week despite already having enough works for the show. I guess I am pushing harder and getting a thrill from it. A bad habit.

What is it? I could almost hear your murmur. This is a cloud. I call it perfect cloud. Have you ever seen old traditional Japanese paintings or ink drawings with this type of cloud? That's my inspiration.

Perfect cloud

Initially, this was to be a mount for a face and a wing of Angel of death, but as I carved it, I started liking it more and more as a stand alone work. Either way it might be not ready for the show!

This new chicken head is fired and still in the kiln started yesterday. When I left the studio this afternoon, it was still about 400 C. I will be able to open it tomorrow. There are several works in it. If any of them still need more glazing, I will re-glaze them, and will re-fire them tomorrow.

New chicken head

Do you remember my #DrawingAugust chicken? She is glazed (and she went back to the kiln for the third firing today! I couldn't help playing with her. 

My #drawing August chicken!
 Pumpkin eats corns with her.

I eat corns, you eat peas. 

 I hope the kiln deity smiles on me! I will be battle ready for tomorrow!

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Ceramic bonanza - bank holiday weekend

Hello everyone. We had a nice bank holiday weekend. I was busy making ceramics for the MA show coming up, and Mike looked after our animal family and the house. MA show private view is from 6 to 8 pm on the 6th September at Sidney Cooper gallery on the High street, Canterbury. If you are around, do pop in, and say hi to me!  I am the only Japanese there, and I usually look cheerful. Mike says that I always get up from the right side of the bed!

Last Friday, the studio was so hot that I couldn't concentrate, so I brought clay back home, and finished masks in the garden. Mike was playing with his new toy after work. This mask is called 'Syria'.


'Wasted talent', 'Syria' and 'Gandhara' 

I have done numerous firing recently. I fire two kilns at the same time; bisque and glaze.

The severed body in front of a new head behind

Glaze firing with several glaze tests
On Sunday, between making ceramic sculptures, we took dogs to the campus for a walk. It was a nice break.

Are we there yet?
We haven't started yet, Pearl!

Faster, faster!

Who's that? 
Look at her shiny eyes and white teeth! Topaz is back! 

I feel younger!

Bank holiday Monday, I spent about six hours to try to create a mix media sculpture, and failed. Ugh. Never mind, There is such a day. Mike took me out for a lunch. Beer was for me. Water was for him!

I had the last steak for a while. I will be off beef until badger cull stops. 
Mike bought John Rocha shirt on sale + Blue cross! We also got this. It was an alcoholic type. That's exactly I had needed after wasting my day!

Whisky is the best. : )

Saturday 24 August 2013

St Martin's Church, the oldest church in England

Hello everyone. It rained today. I realised how much I enjoy listening to the sound of rain while I glazed in the studio this afternoon. The studio is a glorified garage and the roof is made by some cheep sheets, which make quite loud sound when rain falls on them. I like the rhythm of rainfall. In Japan where I was brought up,very heavy rain comes every afternoon during the long hot summer. It is probably the memory of that, which made me feel happy. Canterbury is too north and too cool to have real storms so often. The violent sound and shock of thunder storms became a distant memory to me, but I guess it is still in me.

Today, I am going to show you the photos we took when we visited St Martin's Church, the oldest church in England, after we left St Augustine's Abbey on Wednesday. I hope you like gravestones because there are lots of Celtic crosses there.

The wooden gate
The church stands near the top of the hill. From the St Augustine's Abbey, it is only about 3 or 4 minutes' walk, but felt longer because of the climb.

The notice board tells the history.

It was built by King Ethelbert of Kent in 580 or sometime near that time. 
The church yard had smell of death. The old decaying smell.

Narnian lamp post

 The church was closed, but we were allowed to take Pearl into the yard.

Beautiful Celtic crosses

Grave yard is on the slope.

Elaborate Celtic cross

Some of them were leaning. 

Others lay.
 From the top of the yard, you can see the Cathedral.

A view of the Church from one of the benches on top of the yard. 

I wonder what inside is like. 
On the high ground, the smell of decay is gone. The sun is shining.

On the way back, I noticed the beautiful coffin. It is so dark that the camera didn't focus well. There was carving. It reminded me of an elegant key to a glass cabinet. It was at the foot of Narnian lamp post. My imagination was aroused.

Who lies there?

After leaving the church, the first thing I wanted to do was having lunch in the city centre. But Mike said it could be near two o'clock (neither of us had watches or mobiles) so that we should head back and ring the vet to check about Topaz, and Pearl looked tired so she should go home and sleep. So we trudged on, but when we came two third of the way, my feet stopped. I got sore feet and blisters. So we rested on a bench in medieval orchard park. After about 15 minutes, we got up again, and walked back. When we came home, it was near 2:30.  Mike soon rang the vet. We were told she was fine and to collect her after 4: 30.

We are two third on the way back!

I was so tired that I couldn't eat. I just wanted to lie down after drinking a glass of water. It was all my stupid suggestion that we could walk. We ended up a marathon walk about four hours without lunch or drinks except for strong coffee and slice of cake we had at 11. (Pearl had fresh water all of the time!)

Next time, we will drive.

P.S. Topaz came home safely, but she was very drowsy. I don't think she recognised me when she came home. We waited until 10 at night, but she didn't drink or eat. So I spoon-fed a tiny piece of Italian ham (that's only we had in the fridge on that night). Then she perked up. I opened a tin of Royal Canin, chicken and rice, sensitive, and spoon-fed it to her. She licked the spoon. We knew that as soon as she starts eating, she should start recovering.

She regained a full control of her tongue and feet by Friday morning. I have heard these skinny dogs get hit by general anaesthetic. It's true. Only her shaved leg is left as a sign of her ordeal now. Love your dogs and clean their teeth!  

Thursday 22 August 2013

St Augustine's Abbey - The world heritage site

Hello everyone. Yesterday Mike, I and Pearl visited St Augustine Abbey and St Martin Church in Canterbury; both are the world heritage sites. I stupidly suggested that we could walk. It is about 30-minute-walk each way. In the end, we had walked four hours, from 10:30 to 2:30, without lunch! Ehm, we had a cake and coffee on the way. Mike wanted his birthday cake (it's today, actually), so we detoured a bit, and had what English called Elevenses. 

By now, you might be wondering where Topaz was. She went to a vet to get a dental job done. Mike dropped her at the vet before nine, and we were told to ring them between two and three to check if she is ok. We were worried because she has never had general anaesthetic. Skinny dogs like her sometimes have trouble with GA. The last time, some years ago, when Scooter, our parrot, had an operation, we were worried so much that we had paced for several hours until we could phone in. So this time, we decided to get out, and spend time more positively. It was also one day before Mike's birthday. So we wanted to do something interesting. Besides, we can't leave Pearl alone at home as she has never been alone. So, we chose these sites where dogs are allowed, to visit.

When we arrived at The St Augustine's abbey, it was about 11:30.  It was a gorgeous day. It was a larger place than I had ever imagined.

Taken from a mound. Canterbury cathedral is in background. 
This is interior wall. The original Anglo-Saxon building was founded by St Augustine, who was sent from Rome by Gregory the Great to bring Christianity to the Saxon kingdom of Kent, late 6th century (about 597 AD). It was demolished by the Normans in 11th century because they thought it was not good enough for the saints to be buried in. They built The Abbey which was as large as the current Canterbury cathedral. That's huge!

The yellow stone part was built by the Normans, and the red bricks above were added after Dissolution by Henry VIII, as he used it as a palace for Anne of Cleves. Elizabeth I and Charles I also used it as a palace. Charles I hired the famous John Tradescant the elder as gardener. He made a formal garden here for the king.    

I like reading all boards!
    There was a beautiful stone pillar with iron on the surface in the ground.

Magical looking stone

On the ground, there are lots of signs. 

Here was St Augustine's grave site. There are ancient Anglo-Saxon kings and queens were also buried in the site. 

Under the roof, there were ancient archbishops' graves.

I am looking at the archibishops graves.  From the Nave

Nave - Mike and Pearl

In the Nave
In the dome, there are some floor tiles. They collected from other places and put all here for display.  

Can you spot the lion in the circle in the wall? Original wall decoration. 

Our little lioness was happy in the shade. 

'I am not lioness, I am girl trapped in a dog's body!'
There was a cloister here. 

At the farthest end, there is St Pancras church. This was separated from the abbey, it, therefore survived The Normans' destruction. They were original Anglo Saxon remains. Red bricks came from Rome. I touched them. They were warm in the sun. I felt the time, about 1400 years' human history.  

Original building from the 6th century. 
It was a narrow church. 

St Pancras Church

Arch is intact. Amazing!
As we returned the visitor centre. This tree caught our attention. It used to be a giant, I imagined. 

We spent an amazing time. if you like history, this is a must. the £5 admission is cheap. I recommend you carry your drinks with you. If weather permits, you can enjoy picnic on the ground, too.  We were lucky to visit there on such a beautiful day. It doesn't look Kent, does it?  I could almost fool people that these photos were taken in Italy!  

As we were close to St Martin's Church, the oldest church in UK, we went there despite being already tired. But that's next time.

'They ate praline cakes. I was given biscuits!  : ) '

St Augustine's Abbey - English Heritage site

St Augustine's Abbey- Unesco World heritage site