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Wednesday 26 February 2014

Pink bag in Tunbridge Wells and a ceramic specialist shop

Hello everyone. We have had a busy day today. Mike took a day off. Just after breakfast, we walked our dogs to the post office to post a little sweet rabbit to a lovely lady in Devon. After we came home, Mike and I headed to Royal Tunbridge Wells. It is close to Paddock Wood where Mascalls gallery is. We were going to take down the exhibition, so we decided to look around the area as well as shopping in Clay cellar, a ceramic specialist shop near Paddock Wood. 

Our artist friend, Marianne, used to live in Tunbridge Wells, and she gave me local knowledge of what to see. She told us to head to The Pantiles, the historic place where old arcades still remain. 

Royal Tunbridge Wells
Wednesday late morning, it was very quiet. I observed there were mainly women and elderly couples. Then I remember the suburbia of Tokyo where I had grown up was like that during daytime on weekdays. Canterbury has so many tourists from all over the world as well as university students, so it is busy all year around, pretty much seven days a week. Apparently Canterbury is not a norm.

Old sign

Metal work
Old shop sign

Another thing I have noticed was that there were lots of independent shops in Tunbridge Wells. How delightful!

One of the shops caught my eyes was this. Dog specialist shop. I was staring at the red whippet coat in the window when Mike said I should bring Pearl and Topaz to check the fitting! Oh well, I was a kind of convinced, but not 100%!

Every whippet needs a red coat! 
Just before that, we came across an adorable French bulldog. How sweet he was! I patted him. He was so excited that he almost rolled over to be patted more!

There are lots of interior shops, and shops sells idyllic outdoor items. I had to walk pass quickly because I am a basket-hollic and Mike has banned me to buy any more baskets! 

After lunch, we bought a box of chocolates from Leonidas, where I used to buy chocolates while I had stayed in Belgium. This branch was mainly a cafe, but still had a chocolate counter. I specially asked for dark, nutty and boozy. My request sent a wave of giggles to shopkeepers and an elderly couple who sat in front of the chocolate counter. 

As we told the Mascalls gallery that we would be there about three, we started walking back to the parking after that. Then I was somehow attracted to a small back road. Look what I found! This small pink suede bag was staring at me from the window. I suddenly remembered it was my birthday (no, it wasn't, but Mike agreed on that!).  It was such a bargain! I bought two, pink and mink coloured ones.   

My new bags and a box of dark, nutty and boozy chocolates! 
We collected my work from the gallery; the staff there were so lovely! Then we went to our quest to find Clay cellar. It is in the middle of nowhere, and we drove a partly flooded road, and took one wrong turn and a couple of turns. Then we were suddenly there!

Typically I bought more than I intended. Two small glaze buckets, a couple of oxides, A bag of sand, tools, kiln furniture, wire, stain and a bead rack. They are quite costly, as specialist tools often are. But they will, I hope, improve my productivity.

What I bought from Clay cellar

On the way back from Clay cellar, we had to drive backwards for some ten meters on a narrow road as there were two large trucks that had got stuck. Then we a kind of smelt the way back, and finally returned to the main road. Phew!

Once we were back home, there was a toddler peeking at our front window through the hedge. He was observing Pearl! I saw Pearl's face between two blinds. How long they have been observing each other, I don't know. But judging from the bored look of his grandparents, it could have been quite long.

Topaz and Pearl greeted us as if they had not seen us for days. Is there anything better you can expect when you come home? Then when Pearl realised that I was going to upstairs, she sneakingly went to Topaz's dish and stole a mouthful of her breakfast; Topaz is a finicky eater. Topaz ran back to reclaim her food, but it was too late. Pearl carried the mouthful to a corner and ate all. : D


I have listed a few of the latest rabbits on my shop. Three have already hopped to new homes. I will list more before the weekend. : )

New owls are going to roost in my shop, too. Here is a photo of them!

A parliament of owls


Thursday 20 February 2014

New critters from the kiln!

Hello everyone. The extreme weather seems to have stopped for now. Spring flowers have started in our garden. They cheer me up so much!

Lately, I kept seeing referrals from My Owl Barn site to my shop. So I investigated it. Look what I found!
My Owl Barn

How wonderful! My owls are featured there! This site is for owl lovers. There are loads of owl goods, art and everything owly. There are also other animals shown together. If you are looking for a gift for owl lovers, this is the place, you should browse!

I have been busy working until late this week. In mornings after desk work, I packed and posted work with Topaz. In afternoons, more desk work and then studio work until nine at night. Today is the first day I finished at eight! I aim to finish work before nine this year, but I haven't done well so far.

Monday morning, I opened the kiln. There are lots of rabbits and owls as well as other things.

New rabbits from the kiln.
I use same white glaze for all rabbits at each firing. But each time it looks different. This time, it looks like Japanese traditional white glaze. Last time it was very white like milk. Intriguing.

Owls, rabbits, baby otter and farm animals!

 Thankfully, both heads and the large owl have survived, too.

After firing

Most go to firing again. As this owl mysteriously appeared on that night Mike was away, I had no plan how to glaze him. He will go to the second firing like this. I am carefully listening to what he says, and going very slowly.

Crying owl

In the garden spring has come albeit very wet.



Pumpkin was going to attack flowers!
 She soon scratched flowers with her big foot, so I had to run to stop her! She doesn't appreciate flowers.


And our first daffodils this year! 

Spring has come!

Monday 17 February 2014

Floods in Canterbury

Hello everyone. Yesterday it was a lovely sunny day. In the afternoon, Mike and I took Pearl and Topaz to River Stour to see the flooding in Canterbury. We have had one or two typhoon-like storms a week for the last two months. The level of ground water is high and there have been lots of floods in Southern England including Kent. Luckily flooded area in Canterbury is limited to parking and parks.

River Stour  after diverge
Water level is high and current is strong. 

Water was hitting the point the river diverges hard, 
Westgate Gardens was closed due to flooding. So we headed for Sainsbury's where Mike saw flood in its car park earlier that day.

Riverside path
 Path is under water.

'Mum, we can't go farther!
 The reflection of the trees was beautiful. It is a bit strangely magical despite dotted rubbish bins!

Path is under water
The ray of sunshine was pointing at the bench.

Pearl and Topaz were not impressed.

'We can't walk. There aren't any squirrels. Boring.'

We went to the other side of the river. Trees were uprooted here and there.  
A big tree fell.behind swimming centre

Despite everything, crocus started flowering in our garden and everywhere. I love them. They are the herald of spring.

In the raised flowerbed at the river side

Sunday 16 February 2014

Rainy Valentine day in London

Hello everyone. Mike woke me up with a box of Champagne truffles on Valentine day. He said there was not card this year because all cards weren't good. I believed him. We were going to visit Tate modern to see Paul Klee exhibition. I have seen some of his paintings here and there in Europe as well as New York in my twenties, but have never seen them in solo exhibitions. When I saw several of his paintings from this exhibition on Twitter, I felt this was a 'must see'.
A gentleman plays a piano whilst waiting for his train at St Pancras.

As rain all day and storm in evening were forecast, we drove to the station. Train came on time, and we arrived at London on time. Tate modern is not near from any tube stations; that's why I seldom visit there unless there are good exhibitions. As we didn't want to walk for long in the rain, we took a bus. When England is grey, it is really grey. There is nothing pretty! Still I took several photos from the bus window, as it was a route I had never taken.

Art deco style

Beautiful bridge

London has mixtures of old and new
When we got off the bus at the south bank of the Thames, we walked to Blackfriars station. Invicta is the motto of the county of Kent in Latin. Here was an old railway line to Dover that opened in 1864.

At the bank of the Thames.
In the rain and cold, we walked to the Tate Modern. They were setting up a Topshop show inside. It is a disused power station, and interior looks just like that.

Topshop is coming. 

From a balcony at cafe inside, London was grey and wet. St Pauls cathedral is opposite and the Millennium bridge below. 

A view from Tate modern.
The ceiling is industrial. So are the signs.
At cafe. 
As the exhibition has been on for weeks now, we didn't book tickets. We were able to see it immediately after buying tickets. It was worth the visit and every penny. I underestimated the exhibition, but there are loads of paintings in 17 rooms. I enjoyed it so much that I am going to buy a book on his work. 

I was colour coordinated with the colour theme of the exhibition. 

Whereas Mike was in the usual shades of grey!

After seeing other exhibitions on different floors, we headed for the Cecilia Coleman gallery to collect my unsold work from their animal exhibition. Luckily there were only two left. All whippets and little rabbits were sold out.

New part of London
As the storm was approaching, we headed for home. In the train, I doodled Klee influenced fish. I showed them to Mike, who laughed at them. I think the octopus is a cracker! :D

Yes, this is the bag of  Le Pain Quotidien. We, of course, bought organic almond croissants and organic Danish pastries!   
As soon as we were back we watched Men's figure skating, and witnessed Japanese 19 year-old Hanyu win the gold medal. What a lovely day we had!

The box of Valentine chocs is now empty. : )

Sunday 9 February 2014

Soul in the clay

Hello everyone. I had a productive weekend. I started one sculpture about 10 days ago, and finally finished it this morning. It is different from my other work. That excites me. When something unexpected comes out of clay, it takes me to another world.

 Here is the face that I made about ten days ago.

Friday, I started extending it.

I coiled it. 
By Saturday morning, it became like this. It was a bit like an insect. 

I made wings, tails and face pattern. It became an owl last night.

'I am flying.'

Side view

Top view
 I cleaned it a bit, and made a mount for it this morning.

Bottom view

So here is my latest owl! I kept making owls recently. I keep thinking about Mochaccino, our late owl finch. I think that' the reason, but I am not sure. Nothing is sure. I am very happy with this one and I can't wait to see how it will be finished.

After the owl was finished, I sandpapered all bisque-fired sculpture. It was a very dusty and unexciting job. But I kept an eye on the Olympics; this made the job more tolerable. My favourite events are snowboard, figure skate, ski jump and speed skate. It was strange that while I watched high adrenaline sports, my adrenaline goes high, too, in front of the TV. It is the modern equivalent of watching gladiators or hunting, I guess. There are four hours time difference between Sochi and UK, so I might adjust my working time. I could see my favourite events. One of the good parts of working from home alone.

Friday 7 February 2014

Black and beyond

Hello everyone. I made this sculpture over three nights earlier this week. I was going to make a boy's body. But my hands moved unexpectedly. I kept seeing something else. I continued making and the first face appeared on it. Then second, and third. I made about 10 faces on it. I might call it 'Committee'. It was fun to make it. It is always exciting when something unexpected comes out of the clay.

This is the first face I made. 

I kept adding more faces.
Some are happy, some are not. I was wondering whether to fire it. When I showed it on twitter, several people liked it. So I decided to fire it. I haven't thought about how to glaze it yet. As I used gritty clay, the surface is rough. So much better for this piece,, I guess.

My imagination is running wild recently. Ah, the joy of creation! I can't make things quickly enough to follow up all of the visions appearing in my head!


Today I would like to tell you the saga about my espresso pot. Our espresso machine was broken about two years ago. It was out second machine by Krups. We ordered a Dualit one from John Lewis, but water leaked, and we had to ask them to swap it three times. But all were faulty. It must be a bad design. Then we got completely fed up and gave up. Since then we have made filter coffee with a Pyrex jug! It was supposed to be temporary until we found a new machine, but more and more components of machines became plastic, and Mike thought that was the cause of leak, we stopped looking and got used to our quaint method.

This Christmas, Mike suddenly told me there was a really good machine on sale at £585. Swiss-made, and it also grinds beans. It costs usually over £600. It must be made of stainless steel with that price. As I was thinking to find a Christmas present for him, I said we would get it for him to play with. Then I started thinking about it. How many espresso we would drink in a week?  How much would it cost to make it if this machine also lasted for just three years like others? Isn't it cheaper to go to a cafe and have espresso instead? I told him that we didn't need it. Strangely enough, Mike agreed. He had come to the same conclusion.

What did we buy instead? We bought an ordinary filter coffee maker and a stainless steel espresso pot by Bialetti. Together they cost less than £100 on sale! Both work perfectly and make the lovely coffee that we wanted. We are feeling so much better because we bought something which makes just what we wanted, and also because we didn't spend too much on something we didn't need.

My favourite beans, Black and Beyond!

I felt we have learnt something. We found happiness inside us. We like function, good design and good value. So that's what I wanted to share this story with you today.

P.S. I am not a saint though! I might have spent same amount or a bit more on my lovely Chanel bag!  :D