Creative Sparks piece “500g / 400ml” ready – just add water….

My piece for the Creative Sparks event on the 5th June is ready – at last. It just needs the addition of 450ml of water to each bowl…. and then for the water to work it’s magic over the 5 hours….

The first bowl is sun dried clay (1/3 earthenware / 2/3 stoneware mix), the second bowl is a bonfire fired, the third biscuit fired in an electric kiln (1000 degrees), the fourth is glazed with a clay slip from Newton Park Campus – the site of the exhibition / event (1290 degrees) and the last is glazed with a copper glaze (1290 again). They are all held on a copper tray made from an old copper boiler…..

Work with St Barnabas CE Primary School:

Over the week of the 6-9th May, I worked with St Barnabas CE Primary School in Worcester around global themes exploring sustainability, our shared future and the school’s commitment to this approach. They have just been awarded their fifth Eco Schools Green Flag Award!

As part of the week, which involved song-writing, developing a collaborative arts piece (currently on show at Worcester Cathedral for the county’s Voices and Visions exhibition) and cooperative games, I worked with the schools Eco Committee to make a small tiled frieze that will capture some of their sense of awe and wonder and fascination they feel towards the natural world. The tiles have just come out of the kiln.

Reduction glaze firing:

Last Tuesday I fired up the small gas kiln at Bath-Spa Sion Hill Campus, with very mixed results. It is a tricky kiln to fire, with the single gas burner positioned right beneath the thermocouple on the right wall of the kiln and a rather temperamental gas knob. The firing results were fairly bizarre, in that the top shelf reached cone 9-10, but the bottom barely reached cone 7, with only cone 06 fully down.

However, I made some useful observations. First of all, the Tenmoku glaze Rich Winfield introduced me to, fired very well across all shelves, and after a discussion with Rich, it may well be that the high iron content helped flux the glaze even at low temperatures in reduction (see the rows of mugs below). The beach clay Tenmoku, which has so far been a real success, came out almost metallic, and there was some crawling – similar to some of the pots I fired in my electric kiln over the weekend. I have an idea as to why the crawling takes place. The crawling seems to only occur where the glaze dips join, for example on the rim and where there is no real overlap. There seems to be an issue with discontinuity with this glaze – and it seems to work best when the glaze is applied either all at once, or when the glaze poured in / out on the inside, is then immediately followed with a dip for the outside (i.e. – when the glaze is still damp – which may help the glaze join?). There may also be an issue where this glaze is too heavy / thick.

Glaze updates:

The beach clay glaze from west Wales has yielded some really great results in oxidation and reduction (cones 9-10). The beach the clay comes from took a hammering from several very heavy storms over the winter and the clay can be collected in buckets by hand with no invasive use of spade / trowel etc. – which is important in fitting with my low impact commitments to sourcing natural materials. A friend actually shared her dismay at hearing I had taken clay from the beach, but I have no worry in collecting something that will only be washed away in the next storm and where I make no visual impact. Indeed the cliff from which the clay comes is perhaps now quite unstable and it seems likely that more will fall soon. Finally of course, the quantities that I am taking are minute – a bucket or two every 2-3 months.

I have been adding the blue glaze and a copper glaze to see what the results might offer in oxidation. Some lovely, encouraging results – see below.

I have also been experimenting with a white zirconium glaze (from Stephen Murfitt’s  The Glaze Book, with under and over glaze. My best results are when the glaze is used thinly and with strong blue / blue black glazes or oxides. The problems come when the glaze is applied too thickly and then when it runs, it picks up the under / overglaze and the colour washes downwards.



Creative Sparks project:

The Creative Sparks project involves making a piece that will engage people over an evening that coincides with the opening of the new Commons building. Our theme is water – and specifically, the relationship between water and clay…. and utility…. and life, expressed rather clumsily here as three haiku pieces. Earth and water merge Particles and molecules Soft and malleable   Fire drives them apart Forever ceramic now Platelets, melted…fused   Water no longer Within but without, only Held when whole – unbroken. I wanted to check who long a raw clay vessel would take to break down as part of this piece……!